June 13, 2015

Wiggins, Chris
[APMA E4901] Seminar: Problems in Applied Mathematics and [APMA E4903] Seminar: Problems in Applied Mathematics

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

The review from January 27, 2012 is spot on about Wiggins as a person. I would even go a step further and say that his behavior around students is completely unprofessional and often insulting. Furthermore, I found his seminar to be a pathetic excuse for a course and I think requiring it is a complete waste.

The entire “course” is centered around presentations, most of which are given by the seniors in the course. Each senior is responsible for one 75-minute presentation of a topic of their choice, and that’s basically the entire course. When you are not presenting you are expected to show up and watch the other presentations (or play around on Facebook) and perhaps ask a few brown-nosing questions to the presenter if you are in that kind of mood.

He also invites in several of his own presenters, and this seems like mostly self-promotion on his part. They all seem to go out of their way to mention what a mentor Wiggins was to them when they were students at Columbia, or something absurd along those lines. Most of the presentations were very boring, and I can honestly say I have never been in a classroom with so many students on Facebook during class.

Wiggins spends the entirety of most lectures sitting in the back of the room and typing emails on his phone. He will often look up and attack the presenter with questions in a rather adversarial manner. He seems to go out of his way to nitpick and tear you apart for not following his (often unwritten) rules, and he does not do this in a constructive way at all.

I really don’t know how I was supposed to benefit from this class in any way. It honesty seems like this is Wiggins’ way of dealing with his teaching requirement without having to prepare any lesson plans.


As a senior you’re expected to show up twice a week and give one 75-minute presentation. As a junior you are expected to show up once a week, write 5 short feedback tweets for presenters (140 characters each), and one 500 word essay on what you learned from the class.