January 15, 2011

Olsen, Paul
Dinosaurs and the History of Life

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

Professor Olsen is an amazing lecturer. He should be studied as a model for powerpoint presentations--lots of pictures, little text, and lots of talking. I somewhat agree with one of the reviews below that the class was immensely fascinating at first then got a bit dry with all the names and cladistics and anatomy. It would start to seem difficult and you would feel like giving up on reading. And I did. When I was "cramming" a whole semester of materials during the finals week, I realized, however, it was my fault. Had I kept up with the pace of the class, the materials were actually really really fascinating just like the relative easier lectures int he beginning. To study for the final I basically used the lecture notes on the course website (enter through the department page). And it was indeed a lot of memorization that was completely thrown into the trash the second after the exam. I wish, however, I had been more conscientious and took more time studying the materials during the semester--it would have been a lot more rewarding.

The class, overall, was painfully easy. I don't even think they expect much out of us. As long as you study (it's going to take some effort), the final will be a piece of cake. If anyone has written papers for science research in the past, he or she would know that the term paper is just like that except a lot easier. For the non-science students, Professor Olsen is right in saying that this will be a great opportunity for them to know how scientific writing is done.

The lab portion of the course was terribly boring and annoying. Fortunately the TAs didn't expect much out of us either. It was basically "you'll-be-fine-as-long-as-you-try-for-the-duration-of-the-lab." I think that was pretty reasonable considering the ridiculous amount of tedious work some labs required you to do.

Conclusion? I loved it and although it killed a part of me inside during the final reviews week I still have no regrets.


a 10 page term paper on basically anything you want to write about dinosaurs (easy)
two show-up-and-you-get-an-A pop quizzes
One final that's easy beyond belief if you spend A LOT of time studying like I did and insanely hard if you don't take it seriously--then you might as well PDF the class.