Unlike in high school, labs and lecture (or regular classes) are two very different things. At least here at the University of Michigan, they are. The Chem 130 and Chem 125 courses are meant to run simultaneously, so taking them both at the same time might facilitate your understanding of the material that’s discussed in both. If not, here’s what you should expect from the Chem. 125 lab.
1. Who your GSI is matters
Since so many students take the class, GSIs (graduate student instructors) administer and are in charge of the labs. Every section has around 26 students and one GSI. Who your GSI is matters more than what it should. Why? Because some are tough and others are easy, some are hard graders and others skim your manuscripts and worksheets. End up with a fairly lenient instructor and the course will pass by smoothly; have one that’s strict, and the two credit course will feel heavier than it actually is.
2. The workload can be challenging
The only preparation students have before going to labs are what’s (briefly) described in a prior 50-minute lecture and the procedures (which can be found in the Lab Protocols). Because of that, writing the manuscript and figuring out how to solve the problems in the worksheets can be very challenging. That means long hours spent working with trials and errors, in the office hours for the course, and googling solutions for the questions and definitions of the terminology.
3. Office hours fill up
Because of what was explained above, office hours are filled with clueless students. To prepare, try to get there early and write down your questions and/or doubts beforehand. The key is to get in, ask quickly, and get out.
4. Lectures don’t always explain the material
The professor in charge of the course (at least for this year), Dr. Poniatowski, is a great guy. He really is. But he has a nasal voice, he’s a bit monotone, and he doesn’t emphasize what the important details (the crucial parts of the lab – what you have to take note of) are. Students space off during the lectures and go to their respective labs with (sometimes – ’cause he really, really tries to make the lectures interesting) little to no understanding of the experiment about to take place.
5. The exam isn’t hard
It really isn’t. The practice problems that the professor posts on Canvas is much harder than the actual exam. Just make sure you study (with more than a day in advance) and that you understand that the concepts.
All in all, Chem 125 can either be a cup of tea or a real pain and the only factor that determines which one of the two is going to be for you is who your GSI ends up being.