All Ratings and Reviews for Neil K Garg
One of the best professors to have ever taught at UCLA.
His passion for teaching is unparalleled.
He'll know your name, even though there are 400 of you.
He's always there and willing to help in person after class, during office hours, or even on the forum in CCLE.
And make sure you do the extra credit music video.
Last quarter I had the pleasure of taking Chemistry 14D, also known as Organic Chemistry II, with Neil Garg. I was at first a little nervous (and by no means excited) to begin the class simply because of all the horror stories I had heard about orgo II, such as having to memorize countless reaction mechanisms and complete synthesis problems all the while battling other UCLA students on the curve. I will preface this review by emphasizing that 14D was still a difficult and rigorous course. However, Neil encouraged us to think of organic chemistry not as some ominous beast that must be conquered alone, but rather as a vital and indeed collaborative course for pre-health students that is both highly relevant to everyday life and at times, even fun.
Neil's online BACON assignments, for example, tie in numerous references from pop culture into high yield topics in the course (my favorite one featured a clip from Seinfeld in which Jerry and George conspire to give Jerry's girlfriend tryptophan-rich food so they could play with her closely guarded toy collection while she fell asleep). Neil's clicker quizzes also served to drill testable topics and to encourage frequent practice while including much appreciated comic relief along the way. Above all however, his lectures, problem sets, and practice tests taught me how to think in different ways and greatly improved my analytical skills - truly a bestowed gift that will keep on giving as I pursue a career in medicine.
As far as Neil goes, I can confidently say that he is by far the most passionate, kind-hearted, and genuinely concerned (not to mention brilliant) professor I have ever encountered at UCLA. We are truly lucky to have him here, especially because I've heard that numerous prestigious private universities have tried to poach him (and probably offered him a much higher salary) but he declined and decided to remain at UCLA. If anything attests to his dedication to his students, it's the virtual office hours that he holds at literally all hours of the day, answering every and any question regarding the course within an impressively short amount time. I am very grateful to have had Neil as a professor and give my utmost recommendation.
Neil was the absolute best professor I've ever had at UCLA. I had a pretty low interest in ochem before this class started, and had heard horror stories of how hard it was, but Neil made it manageable and extremely enjoyable. He truly cared about each and every student and it showed in the way he taught and interacted with the class. He gave us plenty of practice problems and all of the past exams, but it was never too much to handle. He reinforced concepts throughout lecture and problem sets, so we knew what to expect on the exams. He answered all of our questions online (through VOH) within hours of posting, which I thought was amazing, given the quantity of questions asked.
Aside from the way he taught ochem that made it manageable and not as intimidating as I had previously thought, he was the nicest, most caring professor I have ever met. He encouraged students to come to the many office hours he provided, regularly stayed later than he had planned, had review sessions before each midterm/final, and even made individual appointments with any student who wanted one! He never talked down to anyone, never treated any question as a "dumb" one, and gave us inspirational talks so often you could tell he really believed in and cared about all of our success. He also attempted to learn everyones name, and called me by name every time I talked to him.
Don't get me wrong, this class was NOT easy at all - I had to put in a lot of studying and time to get an A - but it was totally doable, and Neil offered lots of extra credit throughout the quarter. I learned so much and actually really enjoy ochem now!
I really can't stress enough how amazing it is to find a professor like Neil, especially at a large research university like UCLA. If every professor was like him, students would absolutely love coming to class!
He got breakfast with us each week and the only assignment for the class was a 20 minute powerpoint. The final was at his faculty apartment in Gardenia, where we watched the final episode of Breaking Bad. Garg is love, Garg is life.
To be fair, this class is way too gimicky. It's your ordinary O-chem class with lots of memorization. He just has a lot of gimicks to make the memorizations much more bearable. Take Hardinger- he's much better in terms of long-term memory. He's awesome. Garg is awesome as a person though.
Prof. Garg is amazing. You don't really need to read Vollhardt at all to do well on his tests. His notes, problem sets, and past exams are all what you need. AND HE GIVES ALL OF THAT TO YOU!! So basically he gives you all the study materials you'll ever need to do well. He also teaches well and makes every single lecture so fun that you actually will enjoy it. AND HE IS A GOOD MAN. He'll motivate you and inspire you every single time. I have never had so much respect for a professor but him. He's really a role model.
HOWEVER!!!!! His class is NOT EASY. To absorb all the study materials and understand the reaction mechanisms takes A HECK OF A LOT OF TIME. First of all, you have to memorize EVERYTHING. And I'M NOT KIDDING, THERE'S A TON OF REACTIONS YOU HAVE TO KNOW. You'll need to know all the solutes and solvents involved to make every product from each reactant. If I were to count, there was about 50 of them for the whole quarter, maybe even more. AND ALL HIS TESTS ARE CUMULATIVE. So make sure not to forget anything!
What makes his class the hardest is THE RETROSYNTHESIS PROBLEMS!!!! It's basically a huge puzzle. You have the pieces (which you have to memorize anyway, and like I said there's a TON) and you have to know how to put those pieces together to make the final product. Those pieces are the mini-reactions you have to know for every test in general. But you you need to know how to combine them to make a step-by-step mechanism that will lead to you to the FINAL HUGE PRODUCT that he wants you to make for the question. Now that requires alot of studying, memorizing, and most of all PRACTICE. AND FINALLY, his questions are ALL OR NOTHING. And his tests don't have alot of questions, so every question is worth LOTS OF POINTS. So you have to know it REALLY WELL to do well on the test. No "eh, I kinda got it". YOU HAVE TO KNOW IT. PERIOD. That's why it's hard to get an A in the class.
So if you hear ANYONE say that he's EASY, THEY'RE ALL WRONG. I worked my butt off for this class only to end up with a B. You need to put in lots and lots of time, maybe at least one day of all-day studying for the midterm, and three days of all-day studying for the final. That'd be the only way to do well on the test. AND DO THE EXTRA CREDIT. Find a group beforehand! All my friends were taken so I had no one to work with. The 10 points extra credit to your grade will help. That's also probably why I ended up with a B. O wellz
Despite all of that, GARG IS THE BEST. But if you're really disappointed in not getting him, don't worry. His class is pretty difficult.
I feel really sorry for you if you're unable to enroll in his class. Don't expect to have the honor of taking a class with this marvelous being unless you have Junior pass.
He's a truly great man.
This is the first time I've felt compelled to write a review on BruinWalk. I've had some good professors while at UCLA but Neil influenced me (and I think it's safe to say a lot of students) in more ways than one. He is a different kind of professor. First of all, he relates to his students. He remembers your name (in a classroom of 380), which is insane. He's very easy to talk to so just go to office hours and get to know him. He's a really nice guy and the office hours are really laid back so it's a great chance to get to know him better (and for him to get to know you better). You can tell he's a genuine guy with your best interest in mind right off the bat. Neil tells you he's not there to trick you, and he really isn't. The tests are straight forward if you have studied the notes (the whole class is based off the notes, problem sets, and practice exams) so just study those-- it's an awesomely structured class because you don't need to buy any supplementary material (he even makes the clicker optional-- you only have to shell out $15 only if you want the chance at some extra credit). As said below, Vollhardt is not necessary. Just take good notes and study them (keep up with the material consistently, make sure you don't get behind) and you'll be fine. He makes sure there's a lot of office hours during the week before exams (and even the day before/day of exams) so that you get your questions answered in case anything is unclear. There is really no excuse to complain about the setup of this class-- what you get out of it is proportional to the amount of work you put in. Neil never talks down to you or asserts any air of self-importance. Often times professors will make the rest of the class feel average while the top students are applauded but that doesn't happen in this class-- he rewards the top students and encourages the rest of the class to do well next time. He assures you that you are all intelligent people and encourages you to make a change that will catalyze your doing well in the class-- he even offered a one on one counseling session of sorts to anyone that wanted to talk with him about how to improve their scores/study habits. I don't know about you but I haven't had that kind of professor since I've arrived at UCLA, let alone in a pre-req class. He motivates you throughout the quarter to really think about your career choice and compels you to ponder whether or not you really want to do medicine. He tells you to pursue your true interests and tells you that through a personal experience. Although I do indeed want to pursue medicine I appreciated hearing that from a professor because he obviously cares about how happy you will be in the rest of your life and he obviously realizes that college is a decisive point in time of our lives/careers. There's a lot of extra credit opportunities for you to boost your grade in case you didn't do so hot on a midterm and the TA's and Neil all have a good sense of humor so just make them laugh and have fun while doing it and you'll be golden. Part of the reason I felt compelled to write this review was because of the negative posts concerning the scope of this class/his teaching. Of course each person is entitled to his or her opinion so I respect that fact but I have to disagree with the implications/tone with which the posts were written with. Saying that Neil throws reactions at you and doesn't really explain it is not true at all. He understands that we have 10 weeks to learn o-chem and understands that we are all life science majors, a huge chunk pre-med (I think ~90% answered on a clicker question that they want to go into medicine during the quarter) so some of the students are bound to be taking the class by pure technicality. Knowing this, he tries to engage your interest and give you the groundwork to o-chem so you can understand any of the MCAT/other material you may encounter in the future with some familiarity. He tells you this explicitly during the quarter. Of course he can't teach you all of o-chem in 30 lectures. And it is respectable that he wants to let his students benefit from knowing a handful of major reactions with main points (some more thoroughly than others) than having to memorize every single detail about a reaction which would probably be less effective in the end anyways. During the quarter he asked whether or not we wanted to know the mechanisms/details to some reactions and every time the students said "no" unanimously because it was already enough material as it was. So in my opinion I disagree with some of the posts below saying that Neil "taught surface o-chem" with a critical tone. Neil's very obviously a really smart dude who's passionate about his work/teaching and I hope he never loses his fervor for teaching like I have suspected is what happened to a lot of other professors (not to be rude, just to be honest). He had the choice to go through every single thing extremely thoroughly but I suspect that he didn't for the sake of us being pre-meds whose majority initial impression of o-chem was not extremely positive. That's not to say it's not a hard class-- as stated below you need to keep up with the material and there are a lot of small points to be taken off on tests that will quickly drop your score (i.e. if you don't do the synthesis problem correctly you're down to a mid B already). I struggled with the synthesis problems alone and it was what made the class tough. But I think the fact that Neil is catering to the interests of life science majors is respectable and you still need to put in a good amount of work to get used to the new material. I ended up with an A- in the class and I was very grateful for it. I struggled with the class at several points through the quarter but Neil and the TA's constant reminding that you always have a shot to redeem yourself in the class was a huge morale push and that was part of the reason I appreciated the class so much. This class was also just a lot of fun in general. Hah
TL;DR, take 14D with Professor Garg in the Spring. You definitely will not regret it! Stay positive
Wow, what can I say about this class... Let's just say that after 10 weeks with Neil, I officially love Ochem. Everyone told me that I should wait until Spring to take 14D with Professor Garg, and now I understand why... and by end of the course, you will too.
---CLASS & OFFICE HOURS---
GET THERE EARLY. By early, I mean AT LEAST ten minutes before. By the time his lecture starts, there won't be any seats left. Neil doesn't podcast, and his lectures are very important so make sure you go to class. He lectures very clearly and thoroughly, and what I loved about his teaching was that he constantly asked the class if they had questions. And he somehow seemed to know all the students' names... I really don't know how he does that. The clicker questions are helpful, too, and he throws silly/funny questions here and there which are always fun to answer. You will definitely be engaged throughout the entire class, I guarantee it. I learned SOOO much about organic chemistry in this class – and I say this with full certainty. Not only do I understand reactions to a new level, I have learned the necessary skills for synthesis problems, which is something beyond rote memorization. Going to office hours will always be a plus, as he reemphasizes concepts and goes over questions that you have (especially helpful for exams). Not only are they helpful, he definitely notices students who make the effort to come. You also learn more than just chemistry in this class! Neil makes you think about different graduate paths, planning your future, and simple life skills that you will appreciate learning about.
His exams are really straightforward, and getting an A on the exam shouldn’t be hard if you study. MAKE FLASHCARDS, and DO THE PROBLEM SETS he gives you. Doing these two in consistent and daily basis was the key to doing well on his exams. I went over my flashcards every day, and the content gradually increases as the quarter goes by and studying these made sure I wasn’t behind. The problem sets that Neil puts up were very helpful as well, and if you have any question he will answer them in great detail in his office hours. As for the synthesis problems, don’t think about memorizing everything – you won’t be able to. Instead, think about it step-by-step on how you would be able to make the product that’s given in front of you. Neil gives you access to his previous exams, which are very representative of what will be on his test. Make sure you go through them and know how to do them without looking at the answer key, and you should be good to go!
First, do the basic: Go to your discussion section and actively participate, do the clicker questions, and attempt the extra credit questions on the test. In addition, do the extra credit projects! Honestly, they are so fun to do – who doesn’t want to make a ringtone or a video? Choose your group wisely, as you will have to arrange your schedules and work together (I was the only girl in mine, but the boys were all my closest friends at UCLA so it wasn’t a problem). Go above and beyond, as this year’s videos were awesome! I loved filming across LA such as Bradbury Stairs, Sixth Street Viaduct, and cool places around UCLA such as CNSI and Jules Stein Eye Institute. Let’s be real here, when will you ever get another chance to sing or film a music video about organic chemistry? ; )
Overall - amazing professor, amazing class, amazing experience. You will not regret taking the class. Wait until spring to take him, and good luck in getting into the class (haha… but really)!
Garg only teaches one lecture with about 380 or so students. I know some people who couldn’t get into the class, so beware. If you get into the class, congratulations!
Garg made us all feel like superheros. He gave me a cape and key chain that is currently hanging on my wall. This is coming from someone who didn’t do stellar in 14A. But everyone walked out of that class with something- whether 14D trinkets, an otterpop, greater appreciation for o-chem, life lessons, or restored faith in life science professors. If you just google Garg you’ll see how accomplished he is. Somebody please get this man another award please!
What worked for me:
-Garg’s notes were fully sufficient, write down everything including clicker questions. Vollhardt was confusing and out of the scope of the course.
- Go through your notes after lecture, memorize mechanisms and reaction conditions. I just recopied mechanisms on scrap paper however many times it took me to memorize it. Make study guides, notecards, whatever works for you.
- All necessary study materials are posted online. I did each problem set and old midterms and finals at least a few times spaced out throughout the quarter. Once the first time using notes if necessary, again without notes, again before the midterm, again before the final. Sounds excessive but it works. Every problem is useful unlike Hardinger’s Thinkbook.
-Retrosynthesis takes practice. Everything else you just have to “memorize.” But Garg teaches basic concepts and by the time the final rolls around, they’ll come naturally.
-I didn’t do the ringtone because only 5 groups get points, but definitely do the music video. Write down random Nobel Prize winners, dates, and structures that he puts on the board. Study if you have extra time for possible extra points on exams.
-Office hours are helpful, Garg’s or any TA’s. Go if you can, even if you think you understand all of the problem set already. Someone will ask a question and you’ll realize you didn’t fully understand it.
-Work hard, have fun, you’re in good hands.
-Only regret: not taking his Honors section concurrently!
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