Biochemical Methods I
Summer 2019 - Phenomenal guy. I absolutely adore Professor Gober with every fiber of my being and he is hands down among my favorite professors at UCLA. I came into this class burnt out from spring quarter and hoping that Gober would lift me up since I had him for Chem 153C and I knew that he would be very fair and helpful, but truly, Chem 153L is genuinely a useful class REGARDLESS of who you take it with. With that said, Professor Gober is the one who has put in the legwork for designing this class from scratch however many years ago it has been now and wrote the lab manual which you can get for $9 at Ackerman. Essentially, Chem 153L is everything LS 23L should have been but FAR better - although I admit I say this coming from the perspective of someone who had more trouble wrapping my head around biology and appreciate the greater detail and consideration taken to explain lab techniques in Chem 153L. Nevertheless, Chem 153L actually forces you and teaches you how to write lab reports and process data in a way that isn't complete BS (like CPR for LS 23L). And unlike LS23L, Chem 153L is far more focused. It's centered around one topic and project: biofuels production. Over a series of labs, you are asked to systematically purify and characterize YqhD, an alcohol dehydrogenase - the practical purpose of this being that it produces a higher order alcohol (isobutanol) that could be a preferable replacement to ethanol, which we put in our gasoline. But ethanol is more hygroscopic, thus absorbing more water, so the amount of ethanol we can put in our gas is limited since water is horrible for combustion and would be bad for our cars. So the set-up is doing protein over-expression using a plasmid, determining optimal time for expression, normalizing before running SDS-PAGE and Western Blot, doing affinity chromatography to purify, and running enzyme assays to measure the kinetics and comparing to the literature. That's like the bulk of this course. Like yes I'm clearly a huge nerd from this review but it's fascinating how it comes together and makes sense. If lab classes never fully made sense to you and you're considering CHEM 153L for med school or as an upper div elective and you're already in a lab and want a more guided experience in understanding the flow of lab (both the practical aspect and writing a professional lab report) then take this class either with Gober or Hong, so long as you're willing to take the time to learn and if you don't absolutely hate chem of course! Would not recommend taking another heavy STEM course though since the lab reports are time-consuming and require going to office hours for clarification (at least for most people unless you're just naturally great at these things). ANYWAY, on to Gober. HILARIOUS guy. Going to class was never a chore. He's extremely interactive and loves telling stories and making jokes. He doesn't play either with midterms and finals and will give you a general guide for what's on the midterm and tell you more explicitly what's on the final, question by question. However, never assume you know what the questions are after they're given you except for the ones where he literally spells out to you what the question is, as he enjoys throwing curveballs to see that you truly are thinking and processing the material. And if he ever randomly throws out an experimental technique a couple times, even if it seems bizarre and you only went over it very briefly, don't brush it off for the final. He's giving you hints. For us, it was "2D gels," which was hard for me to pay attention to during lecture since we didn't do this in the practical part of lab. I didn't study it because given the layout of how he explained one of the questions, I assumed it would be more open-ended and I would be able to describe an experimental set-up without using this technique but I was wrong and I had to miraculously pull it out of the back of my mind during the final. But yeah, my advice is to always put in your due time during lectures as he throws hints left and right for the exams and tries to pass them off as jokes. A lot of people hate recording and reviewing lectures later, but for Gober it is worth it, especially as he can stutter through his words. But don't be afraid to clarify then, if so. The one cautionary piece of advice I would say with Gober is that his class is heavily weighted on exams, whereas Hong's class is extremely structured (thus more work but thus more buffer points). The breakdown is: 100 point midterm 200 point final 2 x 40 = 80 points lab reports 4 x 20 = 80 points lab worksheets 460 points total He makes the average something like a B and he will almost never really fail people I think since he's a good guy (which I believe is consistent with his Bruinwalk grades previously). He normalizes the grades between sections as he understands TAs grade differently. And he has said multiple times that he believes there's nothing wrong with giving out 50-60% A's and A-'s. But yeah, this class was a blast and I frequently refer back to the notes I took in this class in my current lab. I love this guy and would have taken a worse grade for him TBH.
Fall 2020 - To be honest this class was not it. Professor Hong is a wonderful lady and a great lecturer but the grading system in this class literally sucks ass. Let me start by saying that this class is not curved. I went into this course thinking that this was somehow a good thing and would make make it easier. WRONG, if anything it made the class much harder. I spent countless hours writing my lab reports and was docked down for literally the dumbest shit. A person can follow the exact prompt that was given to them to the T but it really doesn’t make a difference. They look for very specific things in the reports and you basically have to just figure out what that is, if not you will get marked down significantly. There were two test that were administered this quarter, the first one was quite easy but the second was largely focused on information that was barely mentioned in class. Let me just say, that I’m all for professors assigning people tough lab reports, and giving out challenging exams that force you to think critically, but as a professor you should make the class curved then if you’re going to make the class this hard. The point system in this class made it a million times more stressful than it had to be and I do not feel like the grade I received was at all a reflection of the knowledge that I extracted from the course. DO NOT BELIEVE THE GRADE DISTRIBUTIONS IN THIS CLASS, the majority of people do NOT gets As. Bottom line if you want an A take a different Professor. And if you must take this class do so with a very light course load and treat every point like it’s gold. The TAs in this class are basically given god like authority over a persons grade and if they are anything like the one I had, they will dock you for the most minuscule shit. I went into this class thinking that it was the type of class I could get an A in if I worked hard but this was sadly not the case. Even in the midst of this pandemic, the grading was extremely subjective and punitive.
Please excuse any grammatical errors in this post. I put this little rant together in a rush after becoming quite disturbed by the previous summer 2013 post below. It is obvious that the person who posted below (8/10/13) has some serious anger issues and is most likely really really closed minded. Although, I myself at times felt the exact same way, it was not until I took an objective approach on my answers that I realized the true essence of Dr. Kim's teaching or art form. There are about three major things people hate about Dr. Kim's class before even stepping foot in lab. With this in mind, I will try to explain these "MISCONCEPTIONS" most students have when beginning his class in hopes of shinning some light on these topics. The most common word on the street is , "I am going to wait until my last quarter of college to take 153L." What is all the hype about? However, after just finishing this class over the summer I can relate. I myself transferred from a community college and after finishing 153L I have to admit the communist prison approach in community college actually paid off. The reason I think people postpone this class is because you have to do annoying things that reminded of community very much of community college. For instance a protocol, lab report, quiz, and exam was always due the next day. Non-transfer UCLA kids hate this kind of thing. In the prison back at community college no one would have read your answers yet alone be even smart enough to interpret it. You might be lucky if you received a pretty dated stamp on your protocol or lab report you spent countless hours working on only in hopes that your Professor (TA's do not exist) would read, which never usually happened. 153l is survival of the fitness. Every little answer you scribble on a test/quiz, type in a lab report, and calculate on excel will be put under a large microscope. So do not hate the player hate the game. If you were to use UCLA in describing “fair,” 153L would be in the heading. So where does the hard aspect rumor fit in? First, let me make it clear this class is not hard! Dr. Kim and the TA's literally provide every calculation and concept in a timely matter before you need to use it. This is not a "closed sourced" information class, everything is free knowledge and Dr. Kim does not keep any tricks for himself and neither do the TA's. The only few answers the TA's are not aloud to give are the grading rubric to the lab reports. But if you really wanted to know what answers the TA's are looking for in the lab report you can go to office hours. Who would of thought of such a strange thing? Lastly and most importantly, people do badly in this class because they "cheat" or as Dr. Kim calls it, "stealing another persons hard work, thoughts, and ideas of organization." Lets just say there was a good amount of kids so far that have not received a grade yet this summer. Dr. Kim practically centers his whole class on people trying to regurgitate last quarter’s exams, quizzes, and lab reports in order to avoid other people having and advantage over others. I am not sure what kind of research or obligations Dr. Kim has but his major job is teaching and boy does he do a good job at it. For example, the 153A professor and Dr. Kim both focus on teaching but the difference between him is that he literally never recycles an old answers. Just when you thought the question could only be presented in one way he finds another way and never fails to disappoint. He challenges even the smartest student in the room while at the same time awarding points to even the simplest effort of reasonable thought processing if relevant to the answer at hand. His class is in a perpetual state of entropy and if your wasting your time studying last quarter’s exams he will find a way to throw you off in order to prove you really do not know your biochem. I mean the guy practically went to law school in his spare time while doing his PhD; if you don’t believe me then google it. He is one of those overachiever types but has been humbled over the years while teaching young students, which has only made him a better person he is today. All in all, you cannot regurgitate answers on his exams from listing to the podcast over and over like you did in 153A. With this approach, you leave your exam feeling great, however, only to be disappointed. Later you soon realize that all that wonderful scientific diarrhea you expressed earned only a single point on a 16 point question. Actually, I had to learn the hard way in this class that it is not what you say but how you say it and not how much you write but how clear you can present it. The major takeaway is that Dr. Kim will ask a new question every quarter with a new answer in mind. You see it or you do not see it. The pencil will do on of two things: exploded with a verbal jargon of diarrhea or you will quickly jot down a simple, clear, and precise answer consisting of one or two sentences. Dr. Kim is constantly pushing you to new limits so if you have a problem then UCLA is not for you. Go Bruins!