The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Frosh Professors Give Advice and Expectations for Term

By Karen Seto

A month has passed since freshmen first arrived on campus for Residence and Orientation Week. Freshmen now have a pretty solid idea of what their courseload is like, whether or not they enjoy a class, and which classes are the hardest, the most demanding, and the most time-consuming. However, to present a more well-rounded view of the required freshman core courses, the professors gave their opinions, advice, and expectations.


Introduction to Solid Chemistry (3.091) concentrates on the properties and behavior of solids. "One of the goals for this course is for the student to understand the basis of the properties of solids that surround us," said Professor of Materials Science and Engineering August F. Witt, who is teaching the course this semester.

The course consists of three lectures and two recitations a week, and requires about seven to 10 hours of outside studying and working on problem sets for the student to perform adequately, Witt said. During the last five to 10 minutes of each lecture, Witt relates the course material to the real world.

There are few experiments in this course, Witt said. Although they are not submitted for a grade, problem sets, which can be worked on individually or as a team, are issued weekly. Still, students are kept accountable by the quizzes because quiz problems correlate with those on the problem sets. The quizzes count for 20 percent of the final grade.

Witt emphasizes that teaching assistants are important in the course because they are the ones who have "direct contact with the students."

In addition, "3.091 depends on the students' use of [the] Athena [Computing Environment]," Witt said. Problem sets and a summary of each lecture is in the course locker on Athena.


Principles of Chemical Science (5.11) teaches students basic principles of molecular chemistry. Professor of Chemistry Robert W. Field teaches the course during the first half of the semester, and Professor of Chemistry Alan Davison teaches the second half.

One problem set is issued each week, each taking about three to four hours. There are three one-hour exams which "have the reputation of being long," Field said. "We expect people to construct their answer rather than merely memorizing equations."

At least one demonstration a week is scheduled, which "is very important because chemistry is an experimental science." There are no laboratory assignments in this course because the resources for 1,100 students are not available, he said.

A unique feature of 5.11 is Teamworks. Teamworks is optional, but it enables groups of three to five students to study and work on 5.11 together as a team. Being a part of a Teamworks group can only help one's grade because at the end of the term, the student receives the higher of either his own grade or a combination of his and the team's grade, Field said. A designated team coordinator is responsible for getting the team on schedule, as well as acting as a regular liaison with the recitation instructor.

"The recitations and teaching assistants play the key role in my course. Lecture sets the stage, but real learning is accomplished with the assistance of the TAs. In other words, I create the anxiety and the TAs fix it," Field said.

Field's advice to freshmen is: "Don't get behind, but have fun!"


Introductory Biology (7.012) is taught by professors Eric Lander and Harvey F. Lodish.

"The big picture of biology is so unified and so exciting that I advise my students to see the broad picture and not to get hung up with little minute details," Lander said. "I love to teach and to convey my enthusiasm in the class."

The class consists of three exams and a final. Ten problem sets are given out during the semester, of which all but one are graded, according to Technical Instructor Brian T. White '85.

As with other courses, recitations are essential to the students' learning in 7.012. TAs review lecture material and work on problems on problem sets with the students.

White's advice to freshmen is to do the problem sets and go to recitation sessions, as well as lectures.


Physics I (8.01) is taught this year by Professor Wit Busza. If the student is weak in math and has no background in physics at all, then 8.01 can be a "killer course," Witt warned.

All students are required to take or pass out of two semesters of physics. Busza gives three reasons for this: To teach students the scientific method, to teach them how to solve problems, and to prepare them for most engineering and science courses, which require knowledge of Newtonian mechanics.

The class consists of three one-hour small classes taught by faculty, one one-hour demonstration lecture, and an optional Thursday night review session. The course is geared so that students learn to teach themselves. A detailed study guide equipped with problems, hints, and solutions is used in the course. There is no graded homework because "homework is not a testing tool, but a learning tool," Busza said. However, a quiz every Friday and exams which haveanalogous problems to the study guide are administered.

"Students should not be fooled into thinking that because homework is not graded that they can get away with not doing it. This is no longer high school. They will fall flat on their face," Busza said.

This year 8.01 is completely restructured from last year. Unlike most MIT classes, 8.01 is not graded on a curve. The pass mark is 55 percent, so the entire class may pass, or the entire class may fail, he said.


Professor David S. Jerison teaches Calculus I (18.01). A new textbook that focuses on "real world problems is used this year," he said. Goals for the course include enabling students to think of applying calculus to every day life and seeing it in the world, and preparing them for Calculus II (18.02), Jerison said.

"Expect a lot of homework," Jerison said. The average number of hours studying and working on problem sets each week is 12 hours. There are four one-hour tests and a final. Tutored exams, a special feature of 18.01, give students who fail an exam another chance to pass. The student may be tutored and then, take a second exam, in which the maximum grade given is the passing grade of the class for that exam.

18.01 may be difficult for students who have never taken calculus before, but these students "tend to work harder and may even do better than those who have had calculus. Those who have had calculus tend to be more relaxed, not work as consistently, and may get caught in the second or third unit when their high school calculus knowledge runs out," Jerison said. "A good background in precalculus is essential, perhaps more than calculus."

Jerison's advice to freshmen? "Get a good night's sleep," he said.