All Ratings and Reviews for Alexandr A Sherstov
He is fantastic. Plan your schedule accordingly because you need to take this guy. Fantastic professor and human being.
I literally signed up for bruinwalk to post this review. take sherstov. he's probably the best cs teacher i've had.
Sherstov is the best professor I've had at UCLA. He is: brilliant.
Sherstov has been one of my favorite professors at UCLA. He's super passionate about the topics that he covers and sincerely cares about his students being able to understand and learn the concepts. His exams are difficult but fair. His class is divided up into 4 sections, with each section covering a different topic (DFA's, NFA's, CFG's/ PDA's, and TM's). Each exam has 25 possible points you can earn, but it's graded out of 20. The highest score you can earn on each is 20, so you basically get 5 free points.
Hands down the best professor I have ever had and likely ever will have. Sherstov is not only incredibly smart and knowledgeable about finite automat theory, he is also super nice and very concerned about the students' success. I made a bruinwalk account just to review this amazing man. Take him if you can.
A little about the course: There are weekly homework assignments which are given 100% if you have a "good faith attempt on at least half of the problems". You really want to try on the homework though because it really is the best way to learn the material. For exams, there are 3 during the quarter, all during discussion (discussion is not mandatory except for exam days) and a final. Each exam is worth 20% of your grade and is out of 20 points. You can earn up to 25 points on each exam though (but you do not get extra credit) meaning that to get 100% in the class you just have to do the hw and get 80% correct on each exam.
Ok let me start off by saying that I hardly ever write reviews on BruinWalk - I only write for those who are exceptionally bad or exceptionally good, and I think for the very first time I've had the opportunity to take a course with someone of the latter category. Sherstov deserves this review - those extremely high ratings you see up there are accurate.
I think one thing he told me in our last office hour meeting really stuck with me (paraphrased) - "I firmly believe that research and teaching are completely disjoint skills. A lot of times students, faculty, and administration believe that those who conduct important and compelling research can naturally teach subjects well, but this really is not true. A teacher must really keep the students' best interest and understanding in mind, but in many cases professors do not necessarily care about this since their first and foremost interest is their research. Even textbooks are often written from a researcher's perspective rather than a student's perspective, and thus again the student loses."
When it comes to teaching, Sherstov really does teach with the student's perspective in mind. He explains his material VERY clearly with a good number of examples to back up every single new concept he introduces. Furthermore, every concept builds upon what has already been learned, and thus the flow of his lectures is very smooth and....I'm not quite sure if this is the right way to phrase this....but natural. He truly loves his material as well, and that passion is clearly evident in his delivery of the material. He always encourages students to ask and answer questions and always responds with "brilliant!" when a student arrives at a correct conclusion in class. I was honestly eager to go to lecture every day and learn something new - I feel that love for learning and teaching is something that really is being slowly lost among students and faculty alike. I'm glad Sherstov was able to bring it back, even if only temporarily.
The HW's for this class are graded based on effort. I do believe is a great way to encourage students to work towards actually understanding material. Above all, it is ok to make mistakes! Once the solutions are released (did I mention that the prof went out of his way to make the publishers release solutions?), I appreciated being able to correct my mistakes and improve my understanding without paying a penalty for it, which seems to be the case in A LOT of other classes I've taken at this university. Yes I'm sure people also do it at the last minute because of this, but ultimately that decision is up to you.
There are actually 4 exams for this class - each exam is for a different part of the course, and they are not cumulative. I never found myself cramming for any of the exams because I already seemed to have a decent understanding of the material from the hw's and the lectures, which I found to be very comforting. His latter exams do have slightly more difficult questions, but it never seemed overwhelming. To be honest, I actually rather liked taking some of these exams since the problems were just interesting to tackle! BE PRECISE IN YOUR ANSWERS THOUGH!! Otherwise, you'll find yourself arguing with David Felber all the time....you will get the points back eventually, but it honestly is just really annoying arguing with Felber since he follows a fairly rigid grading criteria.
If you are not happy with the way your exam and regrade requests were evaluated, you have the right to approach Sherstov directly and ask him to re-evalute it! He is the only professor I have ever seen in my entire career as a student who actually encouraged students to do so if they were dissatisfied - like I said, thinking from the students' perspective. He will hear every bit of your argument before making his decision, and in many cases it will be successful if you have a compelling argument! Again, very different than many other departments and individuals I've approached (yes Econ department, you guys are the worst of the lot).
Take Sherstov's class, and you will absolutely not regret it. You may or may not be that interested about the material coming into the class, but I guarantee that your perspective will be different when you leave. As Sherstov put it, you can call yourself a programmer simply by writing code, but you cannot call yourself a computer scientist without having a more fundamental understanding about the theoretical principles that form the core of computation. And of course, do not accept what I have written in this eval as accurate. Take the class and find out for yourself if you choose to believe these words or not.
Professor Sherstov is the best professor I have ever had at UCLA. He is very aware of his pedagogical style, which allows him to be a very effective lecturer. He demonstrates genuine enthusiasm in the course material at every turn, and does a wonderful job of linking each topic to the previous topics. He makes students feel very welcome asking questions, and when students answer the questions he asks, he is congratulatory when they are correct and encouraging when they are not. His homework is very reasonable, and in combination for the practice exams prepares you very well for the exams, of which there are four at regular intervals so as to smooth out the amount of anxiety associated with having one or two exams account for the entirety of one's grade.
Sherstov is probably one of the best professors you could have here at UCLA. His has great passion for the material and explains them clearly. The grading is based on three components only: midterm, final and a scribe note, where you typeset a chosen lecture in Latex. Took it as undergrad without much math background (it's basically a math class full of proofs!), not hard as long as you don't fall behind.
Most organized class ever! Every lecture was so well-thought out, and Sherstov is a fantastic lecturer. There's an exam pretty much every other Friday starting 4th week, which kind of sucked, but there's no cumulative final and it actually reduced the amount of stress, because you would only ever be tested on a few week's worth of material at a time. I really enjoyed this class.
You are really missing out if you don't take 181 with Sherstov!
My favorite professor at UCLA so far. He does a great job of explaining the material. Although the subject is rather dry, he makes it engaging. The class is organized very well.
I wish all CS classes were taught this well!
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