Frosh Professors Excited About FallBy Eva Moy
Associate News Editor
In a week, freshmen will be facing their first lectures at MIT. The majority will be taking the required freshman core courses in mathematics and the sciences. Meet the some of the professors who teach these classes:
Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, 3.091, "is fundamentally a chemistry course. We stress the chemistry of the solid state," said Professor of Material Science and Engineering August F. Witt. Witt will teach the course the fall semester.
The first six or seven lectures "bring everybody to a common base," Witt said. "Students who didn't have chemistry shouldn't have to be penalized. They have to work a little bit harder, but traditionally ... the students who didn't have chemistry do, in average, at least as well, if not even better than the students who did have chemistry."
In addition to teaching the theory of topics such as atomic structures, crystal structures, and reactions of solids with the environment, Witt will also spend the last 5 to 10 minutes of each class introducing different applications of the theory.
Some topics he wants to stress include magnetic materials, superconductors, infrared systems, silicon systems, polymers, new developments in processing, and high temperature systems.
Witt said he wants to show "the relevance of the theory in daily life, in research, and in technology, to make chemistry relevant in the eyes of those who don't see it."
"One of the things I would like to do is to make better use of the Athena network. Athena can help us communicate better."
Athena will be used to help in three-dimensional visualization in crystallography, as well as with homework assignments, lecture summaries, grades, and the class schedule. They are also "in the process of putting upgraded lecture notes into Athena, so nobody has to buy a textbook," Witt said.
The recitation session should not be used as additional lectures. "These two hours should be used to know the student as an individual. There must be student-staff contact," Witt said.
The recitation instructors, 50 percent of whom are senior faculty in the department, have varying biases toward a different aspect of materials science, according to Witt. The students have the opportunity to switch recitation sections to match interests with the instructor, he added.
In 5.11, Principles of Chemical Science, students study molecular chemistry, the "shapes and properties of molecules, individually rather than in bulk," said Robert W. Field, professor of chemistry, one of the class' two instructors next term. Field will teach the first half of the semester, while Richard R. Schrock, professor of chemistry, will teach the remainder.
"I view [chemistry] not as a collection of memorized facts, but as a language or a way of predicting the wide range of chemical behavior," Field said. "I constantly try to challenge the students to think about it -- to take the concepts apart and put them back together, [and] to carry these ideas to everyday life."
There will be three review lectures on the first three Sundays of the term, according to Field. "This will be a chance to bring students who start out being intimidated by the pace of the course into the mainstream," he added.
Special topics such as polymers and organic chemistry will also be introduced at the end, Schrock added.
Both Schrock and Field will provide outline-style notes. To keep students involved in the lectures, Schrock said that he plans to give demonstrations during class and more creative problem sets.
On the other hand, teaching assistants "play the crucial role, because they're the ones that meet with the students, presenting what the students really need rather than what [Schrock] and I think they need," Field said. Schrock added that TAs are required to attend every lecture.
8.01, Physics I, is the study of Newtonian mechanics, but "we go off on lots of tangents," said Professor of Physics Walter H. G. Lewin, who, along with Professor of Physics Michael S. Feld, will teach the course this fall. "Wherever I can, I try to make them see part of their own worlds in a way that they had never looked at that world," he added.
"My goal is to get the students extremely excited, and to make them fall in love with physics, even those who think they hate physics," Lewin said.
Lewin tries to confront the students with their daily life experiences, "making the theory come to life. For example, instead of dropping a metal sphere, you can drop an apple. Now, you think that's a minor thing, but they can use that same apple at home." In another experiment, he used his own blood in demonstrating a centrifuge.
Recitations are used to answer questions and to go over homework. Four or five out of about 22 of the recitation sections will be taught by graduate students.
Though he could not give many details, Lewin said that there probably will be a contest as an assignment for the class. The contest two years ago was to use items such as rubber bands, styrofoam cups, and the students' knowledge of 8.01 to move a low-friction rotatable arm.
18.01, called Calculus, is a basic one-variable calculus course.
"I take this course very seriously," said Professor of Mathematics Sy D. Friedman, adding that 18.01 covers the most basic calculus, and students may have had a weak preparation for the class. "I kind of try to start off gently," paying attention to clarity and keeping the pace down, he added. "18.01 is not an easy course."
Friedman said he has an "organized, but casual, teaching style. One of the goals of a large lecture, besides imparting material, is maintaining interest. ... But that is an attempt to counteract the basic problem, which is that at MIT we have to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time."
The 18.01 syllabus is set up in an "effort to coordinate it with the physics," Friedman said. For example, differentiation of trigonometric functions may be covered earlier than in a strictly calculus course, he added.
A special feature of 18.01 is the tutored exam, where students who fail an exam may be tutored, after which they take a second exam, according to Friedman. If they pass the second exam, they will receive the minimum passing grade of the class for that exam. "I think it's a good system. ... It's nice to have that kind of flexibility, an escape valve, available," he added.
Students who move faster than the pace of the class may also take tutored exams early, with highest possible scores of 100 percent, he said.
Recitations are sometimes an extention of lecture, but most of the time are used to clarify the homework, according to Friedman. Recitation instructors assign grades to the freshmen, but Friedman said he prefers to make up problem sets and exams himself.
"When I'm not doing mathematics, which is most of the time, I'm an avid chamber music fanatic," Friedman grinned. In addition to playing the piano with chamber music groups, he is also a master chef.