Student Feedback

Princeton University FRS135/124: State of the Earth: Shifts & Cycles

These comments have not been edited (not even for spelling), although only a selection appears.

F2017

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?".

The class was extremely informational and helpful. The professors constantly gave feedback and were extremely open.
Very engaging lectures, small class size reduced participation stress

There was a lot of participation and the topics were always engaging.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Seminars are taught by a variety of methods. In your opinion, was the presentation of the material appropriate to the subject matter of the seminar?"

Adam and Frederik did a good job at teaching MATLAB through both giving examples and helping those who are behind.
Lectures were all engaging and incredibly well­delivered. The MATLAB lab section of each class helped immensely with developing the programming skills necessary for the course.
Yes­­I learned a lot from the lectures. I liked the idea of the Cody coursework, but sometimes it got frustrating trying to figure out how to make the program accept my answer. The in­class MATLAB work was very helpful.
Each seminar covered a different topic about geosciences the scope of this freshman seminar was incredibly broad but Adam and Frederik taught it well.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Was the amount of reading assigned each week about right, and were the selections appropriate?"

Each week's normal reading load was very manageable: generally never more than 50 pages. Material from selections appeared frequently during lectures. Additional background reading was required for the writing assignments and field project, but was also manageable.
It varied­­usually there was a reasonable selection, although occasionally there was either nothing or a bit too much. I thought most of the readings were interesting and relevant.
The readings were always pertinent to the subject material and doable before their deadlines.
Reading assignments were appropriate as was amount. Occasionally unclear about what was assigned and when. Maybe some guided questions to mull over after each reading and before class would be helpful in generating discussion.
Yes the reading was a good amount and always relevant to our discussions.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments. Did you receive helpful criticism? Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills?"

The criticism was helpful. The writing assignments were harshly graded which is a good thing. I feel that I have become a better scientific writer, but I have a long ways to go before becoming a great one. The fact that Frederik and Adam were willing to constantly listen to your ideas is also a great thing.
The writing feedback from Adam and Frederik is one of the most valuable aspects of this course. Criticism was constructive, easy­to­follow, and never demanded anything unreasonable. This seminar has definitely made me a more conscious writer and reader.
Definitely, pacing was very fast and sometimes overly stressful but in hindsight valuable
I suppose the amount of writing was good I might have liked more time for the first assignment. The writing assignments were very difficult, less because of the writing and more because of the research component. The criticism could be harsh, sometimes a bit too much so, but was usually helpful. I do think the course improved my science writing skills.
The amount of writing was very extensive and the assignments were extremely fast­paced and often overwhelming. The criticism I received, while helpful, was also almost exclusively negative. I think that the seminar improved my scientific writing skills, which will be useful in the years to come.
Though the assignments and labs are paced extremely rapidly, all criticism and comments received were incredibly useful in improving my writing skills.
Amount of writing made sense for the class. Criticism was always helpful, but sometimes snarky. Professor's high expectations helped improving writing skills but with high levels of stress attached. I do think my writing skills have improved.
There were a lot of assignments and it was overwhelming at times. I received a lot of helpful criticism.
At first the writing seemed fast paced, but after Latex and Matlab became easier to use, I began to feel like I had more time to complete them and focus on the quality of my actual writing rather than working on the programming part of the assignment.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar."

The field trip was a great chance to experience geoscience fieldwork. Also, the labs and presentation were usually interesting assignments and did a great job at allowing us to use many of the skills we learned in class.
Labs were important for building up MATLAB skills. The two writing assignments and final presentation were the most important assignments in the course, and valuable for learning how to write/use MATLAB/research a topic. The trip to France/Spain was simply incredible. It is an indispensable part of the course.
Every assignment had a clear purpose and improved our writing/coding skills, no time was wasted on the trip and we really did learn things that you can't communicate the same way through a textbook
I really enjoyed the fall break trip, which was definitely the highlight of the course. I both learned a lot and had a lot of fun in Europe, and I thought the trip was an awesome opportunity. I enjoyed my fieldwork project, and it was cool to analyze the data and see my own original results.
The trip to France and Spain was crucial to the class, as my major research talk was based on data collected in Grottes de Betharram in France. These data were also incorporated into my final paper. The lab work we did was largely based on hand­on activities performed around campus. Because the labs and papers comprised the majority of grades for the class, these hands­on assignments and the trips were important for both the class and learning what it was like to be a field geologist.
The writing assignments, labs, and team projects (revolving around group research done in France/Spain) came with a steep learning curve but were imperative in teaching research writing. Adam and Frederik teach in an incredibly thought­ provoking way getting to know them better throughout this course was one of its biggest assets.
Out­of­class labs were interesting and important to what we discussed in class. Nothing compares to the field trip, which changed my perspective about the class in general. This seminar wouldn't make sense without the field work it was indelible to the curriculum and structure of the class. All assignments helped increase my personal understanding of the scientific process in a rewarding way.
The trip was very fun and made the class a lot more engaging.
There were never any in­class assignments. Out­of­class assignments were very time consuming, more so than any of my other classes. The trip to France and Spain was integral to the class assignments after fall break.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please use this space to tell us anything you want to about the seminar."

Tips for future students. 1. Be proactive about EVERYTHING in this seminar. If you have any questions about the week's reading, the direction of your writing assignment/field project, MATLAB code, don't hesitate to email Adam or Frederik. Google for fixes when you run into MATLAB errors. Use open­source MATLAB code if you need functionality that you don't think you can implement on your own. Ask your mates to read your assignments. 2. Don't get discouraged by the nature of Adam/Frederik's feedback and low grades. Sometimes the professors' feedback can seem harsh, but don't take it personally and instead appreciate how direct/truthful it is. Everybody will get destroyed a little grade­wise by this course it's the nature of the beast. Focus instead on getting something substantial out of the course. 3. Take feedback very seriously. The one major mistake I made during this course is not taking feedback seriously enough on the team project. Read the feedback and follow it to a T.
This was the most unique, difficult, and rewarding class I have ever taken.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course. What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?"

In other reviews of the course, the field trip is cited as the heart of the course. It truly is as it gives you a taste of what it is like to do fieldwork. It is also an amazing bonding experience with the other students, professors, and TAs. Also, the writing projects are a great opportunity to go into something you're interested in and refine your skills as a writer. There is ample opportunity to do this as this class has about as much (or writing) as a writing sem. Also, realize that this course will probably be the class that sucks up the most of your time unless you are taking ISC, HUM sequence, etc.
The course improved my writing ability, helped me learn MATLAB, and exposed me to how dedicated scientists approach the world/a research problem. The professors do an incredible job of trying to help their students develop self­motivation for learning and discovery. The challenges that students face in this course are what make it a uniquely valuable freshman seminar.
One of the best things was that they had very high expectations and always believed we could do better even if we didn't think so. Efficient, learned scientific writing/coding, taught to assume that there is always lots of room to improve in assignments. Sometimes seemed like work would be assigned with the assumption that this was our only class
I don't feel like I know very much about geology, except the specific topic of my project­­that I know well. However, I feel like I gained a lot of general science skills­­I learned about fieldwork, which I had never done before, and I really improved my data analysis and science writing skills. I think these skills will be useful to me as I continue to pursue science in other fields. The trip was amazing, and I'm glad I took the class because I got to go on the trip. While we were on campus, sometimes the course got very frustrating­­the assignments were very difficult, and I often felt lost about my writing projects. At least in the first part of the course, I definitely believed I was doing everything wrong because the criticism could be so harsh. But even though I struggled a lot, I am glad I chose to take this class.
This course afforded me the opportunity to travel to countries I had never been and also introduced me to programs like Matlab and Latex that I will hopefully be able to use in the future as I continue to improve my skill. My scientific writing abilities were also mildly improved after this course. [...] the criticism the instructors provided on our writings and presentation skills were helpful [...]
My writing, programming, and thinking skills greatly improved throughout this course due to the nature of the feedback. Adam and Frederik truly want their students to improve and are incredibly encouraging, but are not afraid to provide harsh (though true) feedback.
It's no secret this seminar is notorious for being intense.
I liked the course. Although it was tough, I appreciated the amount of work we got to do and the feedback we got.
Although the class was definitely not for me, the professors are very helpful with the assignments through email and with MATLAB lunch on Mondays.

S2017

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?".

Adam and Frederik are gret
The profs are very receptive to questions during lecture and during the trip.
Class time was organized extremely well and there was ample opportunity to participate in discussion and ask for clarification.
The professors loved answering questions and if anything, expected more. Participation was encouraged, and discussions really became better after the trip.
High quality, students were encouraged to comment and engage critically with other students. We often were given "puzzles" to solve in the field that would motivate our work.
One of the great things about seminar was the fact that students got the freedom to guess and discuss possible answers to geoscience questions before getting the right answer, if they got any. We were encouraged to ask questions which would benefit our and our peers' research, regardless of whether our fellow students and professors had answers to those Qs. Class discussion was invaluable and absolutely essential to the seminar.
the professors were very engaged in class and very willing to answer questions

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Seminars are taught by a variety of methods. In your opinion, was the presentation of the material appropriate to the subject matter of the seminar?"

Yes, and the methods used in this seminar are especially unique. The trip is well-organized but the research is very self- and team-directed rather than guided by the professors.
Lecturing is effective for science.
The matlab-learning parts were taught well
The keynote presentations during class were amazingly organized, and to the same standards that the professors expect of our own presentations, which was a nice touch. The part I enjoyed most were the writing conferences and learning about how to write an effective essay in the sciences. It felt like a great writing seminar, freshman seminar and field trip rolled into one.
The seminar is very computation and programming intensive, and the material is often taught through MATLAB labs. Though it may be overwhelming at first, I think this is an appropriate way of teaching and studying shifts and cycles of Earth.
Yes, the lectures went by very quickly but given the length of the class were the best way to expose us to the analysis techniques we needed for our group presentations.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments. Did you receive helpful criticism? Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills?"

The criticism in this class is harsh, precise, and everything you could ever ask for. It definitely improved my scientific writing skills. The pacing of the assignments is a little insane
The criticism in this course is one of the best things available. Adam and Frederik are genuinely concerned with helping you improve your writing. Their comments helped me to become a better scientific writer. In terms of the pacing of the assignments, I thought it was just fine.
There was a lot of work but I feel that it was paced consistenly if nothing else. The feedback I recieved was definitely helpful. I think my scientific writing skills have improved.
In terms of writing, I definitely improved in scientific writing, which is a useful skill that I'm glad I got to learn thanks to thorough feedback and being constantly challenged.
The pacing was very good, but it was very demanding. I felt like I would always put a lot of effort into these assignments and it was certainly a lot more work than any other freshman sem. We received helpful criticism in abundance, especially when both professors looked over a piece of work. The office hours were well attended and the professors were forthcoming in giving out advice.
I definitely received helpful criticism and feedback. My sense for science writing improved massively. The final paper was difficult and quickly paced, but helpful.
My LATEX and MATLAB skills definitely improved after the individual paper and group presentation; there was no way they wouldn't, given the high expectations of the course in general. In short, the assignments were overwhelming but effective at the end as they are a method to the course's madness.
The seminar was fairly writing-intensive in the second part of the semester. The course does a good job of teaching what scientific writing is and how to communicate research findings. I often found criticism both very harsh and helpful, and I believe it did improve my scientific writing skills.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar."

The trip is legendary. It's also exhausting, preparation's essential.
The spring break field trip has been the high point of my Princeton experience to-date. I learned so much after doing hands-on geology research.
The trip to France and Spain is the crux of this seminar. Though it is exhausting, it teaches you how to work effectively in a team and what gathering real data in the field is like.
The trip was amazing and hard and definitely worth it. The entire second half of the semester depended on the work we did over the trip so I'd say it was important.
The 9 day trip to France and Spain was the highlight of the trip, but not for the reasons one would expect. It was not a tourist trip, so I would advise people not to choose this course just for the travel. Instead, it was an amazing bonding time with peers and I valued the small group discussion and one-on-ones with the professors. It was like an extreme outdoor action trip. Also, I learned a lot about geological field methods, and how to collect good data and analyze it. Even after only 6 weeks of class I felt adequately prepared to undertake research. This class is the epitome of Freshman Seminars.
The spring break trip was undoubtedly the highlight of the seminar. The places we traveled to were absolutely beautiful and of great interest for geoscience students, and the trip allowed us to appreciate all the effort that goes into scientific work.
Matlab coding, Latex text editing and the spring break trip to France and Spain all made the class a unique learning experience.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please use this space to tell us anything you want to about the seminar."

This is one of those courses that you do not think you will survive during the semester, but afterwards will make you feel very glad that you took it. In short, you will learn a lot, and I am not just talking about academic material.
This was my hardest class this semester by far.
Take it to learn about how to write a good scientific essay, how to collect good data in the field, how to work with others and critique their findings, and to manage a large but rewarding workload. Don't take it just for a free trip!
That being said, it provides a freshman class that has a strong focus on science writing, something that is missing otherwise (writing seminars don't provide this experience in reality).
While it was never understated how hard the class was, I don't think most students coming in understood what kind of "hard" it really entails.
To whoever is going to take this course, be aware that this course is very fulfilling (especially when you get that MATLAB code work!), but it will require a LOT(!!!) of your time. So if you are ready to commit to it, then definitely take it.
I really enjoyed this course, but I would have appreciated a warning about how difficult it was!

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course. What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?"

By taking this course, I learned how to use MATLAB and LaTeX, how to ask better questions, and how to work more effectively in a team. Adam and Frederik will teach you so much but only if you reach out to them personally. As with all things, you get out what you put in.
I feel I learned a good amount of matlab and latex, and a bit about science writing. Frederik was a great and helpful teacher of matlab, very patient and understanding. Adam gave good feedback on assignments.
This really ended up being a great seminar
I became a lot more methodical because of the course. I learned to motivate every piece of work I write. It was great preparation for junior and senior independent work in that I got to direct the research for two days. It was taught extremely well, and the professors really try to bring out the best in you. It was unfortunate but necessary that the course workload was very high before the trip and tailed off a bit afterwards, but I think the amount and length of assignments was manageable, even in a 5 class semester.
The instructors taught us a massive amount of important and useful information, widely applicable beyond the geosciences.
There is no denying that both instructors were very qualified and enthusiastic. Now I cannot look at rocks the same way again, nor would I ever underestimate little details such as ripples on a sand dune. I've also gotten really memorable experiences (such as seeing real-time avalanches) and meaningful friendships and mentorships out of the trip. I don't think I'd ever go to the places we did in France and Spain even if I've earned the means to in the future, if it weren't for this course; this makes the course uniquely a geosciences freshman seminar at Princeton experience.
Frederik was really helpful in guiding our team in data collection and in bringing together the different elements of our data (tide, acceleration, photo, and weather) in order to present a single storyline during our presentation.
I learned how to write scientific papers, how to code using Matlab language, how to write documents using a professional compiler, and how to handle a heavy and difficult work load. The instructors were good at encouraging and answering questions, and were invested in making the class an amazing learnign experience

2015

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?".

Class discussion was usually a lecture, during which students asked clarifying questions. It was usually very fast paced and included a lot of information. However, the professors were very eager to answer questions, and treated us like intelligent students who could handle lots of new information.
Very in depth student participation. Class discussion was good,
Class is extremely fast paced and thorough
There was a very significant amount of student participation and discussion in this class. We had two field trips where it was crucial to interact with other students as well as with the professors and TAs. I found discussion to be very enlightening.
The discussions based on the readings were valuable and added to the class. Students participated and were engaged in the topics.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Seminars are taught by a variety of methods. In your opinion, was the presentation of the material appropriate to the subject matter of the seminar?"

The material was all scientific and numerical, and was presented as such. There was not a lot to "discuss," as there was not much up for debate. The time the professors gave us during class to work on projects with their guidance was extremely helpful, though.
During the seminar, there were many different ways we were exposed to information. At times, the amount of information felt like too much to handle at once, especially during a fast paced lecture. However, during our field trip abroad during fall break, there was a lot of hands on learning and field work. It was during this time that a lot of the material clicked and came together for me in a real way.
The lectures were incredibly interesting

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments. Did you receive helpful criticism? Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills?"

Yes, this course did as much for improving my writing as the writing seminar. I always received very helpful criticism.
The criticism was extremely harsh. It required students to have very tough skin to handle it well. The issue is that there was so much criticism and they judged us on standards that were incredibly high.
This seminar immensely improved my scientific writing skills
The amount of writing is huge, and the course moves very fast, with huge assignments every week, but I wouldn't want it any other way though, as I learnt a lot during these assignments. We received helpful criticism from our peers and from Amanda and the professors too.
This seminar had a lot of assignments that were very difficult. There was definitely a learning curve coming into the course. However, by the end of the seminar, I was able to turn in a paper that I was proud of. I learned so much about scientific writing. Further, the professors criticism, though sometimes harsh, definitely made my assignments better.
The assignments were difficult to complete and required a lot of work. I was kept very busy. However, helpful criticism was given and I believe the seminar has improved my writing skills.
A lot of criticism was given on the assignments, so I really improved my science writing skills. Extensions were given so I was never panicking to complete an assignment.
Definitely improved my writing skills, both scientific and general!!!
I learned so much from the writing assignments this semester. Looking back, I realize how much I have grown as a scientific thinker and student. Some of the criticism was harsh, and I found grading to be a bit arbitrary at times. Some criticism, however, proved to be very helpful and allowed me to grow as a writer.
We had two main writing assignments but everything we did had some element of writing to it. The comments were very helpful but maybe could have been more interspersed with positive feedback especially before the trip. After the trip I realized that you didn't hate us all but having ruthless comments at the beginning of the semester was rather stressful. I know that my writing skills were improved throughout this class.
Working on the writing assignments and getting feedback on them has greatly improved my scientific writing. Although the pacing of assignments was a little overwhelming, I learned a lot. I know how to write a scientific paper now!

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar."

The assignments and trip made up the heart and soul of this class.
The best part of this class was hands down the trip. It was wonderful not only because we were able to visit two different countries, but also because it gave us all hands on experience with field work, and was an opportunity to grapple with projects and ideas around the clock with no distractions. I learned the most about any given topic during this trip than I did during the actual class.
The fall break trip and short outdoor excursions were a pivotal part of the course, as this is an STL course and fieldwork is one of its main objectives. The fall break trip was exhausting, but very important. It was the best experience of my life yet, to be honest.
During the seminar we took a one day trip to the Catskills and a week long trip to France and Spain. These trips were very rewarding. I learned a lot about geosciences, how science is conducted, and was shown a lot of new perspectives on life in general. I definitely learned the value of hard work and dedication to one's passion.
Very wonderful fall trip! Learned a lot about gathering data in the field, and got to know my professors and fellow students very well. The trip was extremely important to the seminar, and was the most enjoyable part.
Very very important: trip to France/Spain and Catskills were integral to making the class a meaningful experience where one got to do hands on work.
Field trip research projects really tie together everything you learn in the lectures and labs
The France/Spain trip was quite intense. Waking up early and working into the late night was difficult both physically and mentally; however, I learned so much from the trip and from all the hands-on activities we did. It was an amazing opportunity to have had only a few weeks into our freshman year. There were also several activities around campus that taught us a bit about the geological history of the area.
The trip made this seminar GREAT! Being able to spend time in the field and then apply the skills using matlab and latex in the evenings and after coming home from the trip made this course wonderful. The class would not have been my favorite class if there was not a trip. The trip allowed us to form relationships with the professors and other students and created a community of learning that fostered curiosity and hard work.
The trip to France and Spain was amazing in itself, and important to the freshman seminar as well. I learned a lot about the sites we visited and how to conduct field research. It was also really fun to get to know the class, and Frederik and Adam as well.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "Please use this space to tell us anything you want to about the seminar."

It was very challenging, my toughest class of the semester, but also rewarding.
I learned a lot by taking it over a wide array of different subjects, and sharpened my writing, coding, and numerical analysis skills
The duo of Adam and Frederik for this course is just perfect! I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for an adventure, and doesn't mind being pushed to the limit sometimes.
Great, great experience. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take this class.
Awesome class - extremely intense, truly a "Princeton" course
This seminar changed my outlook on science, the world, and geology. I am extremely grateful that I got to opportunity to take it.
Adam and Frederik are AMAZING professors!!! In addition to geo content, they teach incredibly useful scientific thinking/writing skills. They go above and beyond their teaching duties to form great relationships with their students.

Every paragraph below is an individual student's answer to the question: "In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course. What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?"

This is a top notch course that really made me feel like I was at Princeton (in a stereotypical way). I think it might be a good idea to have some kind of programming or statistics prerequisite to the course, otherwise it can be a bit overwhelming at the beginning.
I learned how to use Matlab and Latex.
Both instructors are incredibly interesting people that can provide an amazing experience just by having a conversation with them.
I did actual research, learnt how to write papers the way scientists write them - things that freshman don't usually do on this level in a freshman course.
When I decided to take this class, I had never written a detailed scientific paper before. I knew very little about geosciences. I had never flown on a plane or left my country. I had especially never dreamed of doing any sort of computer programming with a graphic interface. But now, at the end of the seminar, I am writing a paper about climate change, full of figures that span a century of data. I flew to France and Spain and learned to appreciate the detail and care that scientists put into their work. But most of all, I put myself through what was the most difficult academic class I've ever taken, and come out of it knowing that with enough perseverance, I truly can do whatever I set my mind to.
The instructors did very well in getting to know the students and in supporting us when we needed it. They were always reachable by email and tried to make time to meet if it was necessary.
I learned a lot: became a pro at matlab and latex, sharpened my scientific thinking and writing skills, and learned about a topic I had never considered before.
Course does extremely well in instilling necessary scientific research skills and methods of thought - Matlab, LaTeX, how to read and write research papers, field work, and of course a broad coverage of basic geoscience topics. I would recommend giving students in the first week more warning of how much time and work the course takes!
I learned so much from this course. The main thing was that I learned how to become a scientific thinker and how to ask new and innovative questions.
This course taught me more relevant skills and knowledge than all of my other classes combined this semester.
During the course, I learned incredibly useful skills, like how to use Matlab and how to do real research and fieldwork. The instructors were what made this course amazing; they were funny, inspiring, and thoughtful.
Excellent lecturing, and mentoring. The only way this course could be improved would be with more class days a week. Two or three would be far better than just one and would allow for more fascinating material.

Frederik Simons
Last modified: Fri Jun 15 00:08:31 EDT 2018