January 06, 2010

Firestein, Stuart
[BIOL W3004] Neurobiology I: Cellular & Molecular

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Neurobiology with Prof. Firestein was a wonderful experience, notwithstanding the first couple of weeks. I had some experience with Prof. Firestein before entering the class, as he taught a couple of Frontiers lectures as well as three Intro Bio II lectures. Knowing that the former is a required class and the latter a prerequisite for Neurobio, I wondered why he would continue to begin his lectures with the same quotes - "the brain is the thing we think we think with" and "the brain is my second-most favorite organ". I guess I still chuckled after hearing them the third time around. That was pretty much the theme of the first lectures: we discussed the same old principles of action potentials and neuronal anatomy that I had learned four times before in Mind Brain and Behavior, Science of Psych, Frontiers, and Intro Bio. Although I know Prof. Firestein just wanted to make sure that we had a solid foundation in the basic principles of Neurobiology, I don't think it was completely necessary to devoting entire lectures on material previously covered in prerequisite classes. Isn't that the purpose of having prereqs? That being said, once we cleared the first exam, the class became much more enjoyable and informative. Prof. Firestein uses his sterling sense of humor to keep the class flowing. I think the majority of the students came to lecture, were focused and not bored by the class. Although it was at times frustrating, I think the most valuable aspect of the class was the way it incorporated scientific papers into its structure. Although I came into the class with experience researching papers on pubmed and had read plenty of papers before, I had never had to delve into the methods and structure of experiments the way Prof. Firestein's tests made me. Although it was a little frustrating that the final involved only papers, I ultimately emerged from the class with a greater understanding of how to work with the primary literature that I will surely carry with me long after I have forgotten what exactly a Pacinian corpuscle does.

Workload:

Three exams (drop one), Final (answer questions on 2/3 sets of two papers), recitation participation and short 5-question lecture quizzes are each worth 5%