All Ratings and Reviews for Heather Tienson


Overall 3.1
Easiness of class 2.3
Workload 2.3
Not Clear
Clarity of professor 3.3
Not Helpful
Helpfulness of professor 3.2
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CHEM 153A, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 22, 2018 Grade Received: A

~Quick Grade Breakdown / Stats from Fall 2018~

Clicker Points: 20/20 (reduced from 25; fewer days than expected)
Homework: 30/30 (2 extra credit points were possible here)
Quizzes: 100/100 (Doing the pre-assessment gives 10 free points ONLY in quiz grade )
Midterm 1: 85/100
Midterm 2: 91.5/100 (1 extra credit point was possible here)
Final: 175/200 (or 87.5%)
Extra Credit: 10/10 I think (EXCLUDING extra credit mentioned above)
[3 surveys, 2 points each
This Quarter in Biochemistry, up to 3 points (would have been 5 if your response was selected to be presented, but we didn't have time for any)
Course eval, 1 point]

MY TOTAL: 511.5/550 or 93.00%

AVERAGE MIDTERM 1: 69/100 before regrades and before Dr. Tienson-Tseng changed the grading of a question
AVERAGE MIDTERM 2: 73/100 before regrades
AVERAGE FINAL: 135/200 or 67.50%

NOTE: as mentioned above, our grading scale was adjusted down from 555 to 550 because she didn't believe we had enough clicker days. Therefore, she adjusted the grade cutoffs by 5 points.

Dr. Tienson-Tseng did not adjust the scale to be more lenient this quarter, so the bare minimum to get an A- this quarter was roughly ~82.7%, or 455/550. She determines plus or minus grades only after the quarter has finished, I think. An LA mentioned to me that from her understanding, basically, the top 75% of those in the A range (455-550) will get As or A+s, and the bottom 25% will get an A-. I believe a safe estimate for any future quarters would be roughly 87% for a solid A... This was also confirmed to be a good estimate by an LA.


So anyway. Wow. Biochem was DEFINITELY a ride! As others have mentioned before, Dr. Tienson has some rather odd pacing. In retrospect, I partly recognize the purpose, but it was still very stressful to go through at the time. The first week will seem to drag on forever - we took THREE days for general chemistry review, primarily thermodynamics. You DO need a very solid foundation of this though, particularly thermo, to be able to give what she calls "biochemically sound" reasoning. Whether that's for protein folding, metabolic pathways, etc. The second half of the quarter does pick up a lot, and post-midterm 2 felt like a MESS.

Our midterm 1 was Waeek 3 Friday and I was chilling all of Week 1 and part of Week 2. I tried to get my ass into gear on the weekend of Week 2, but still felt blindsided when we were given new lecture material literally the lecture before the midterm. The worst part was having the pyMOL assignment due RIGHT before the midterm too. So if you are reading this, PLEASE, for your own sanity, since she seems to love the pymol assignment - keep this in mind when prepping for Midterm 1.

Also note that for pyMOL, the first part where you're just giving data about the protein is more chill, and she's generous when you're measuring distance between side chains of proteins also. However, be detailed in your explanations for the parts that ask for one. I unfortunately lost 2 points for being more concise in one part, though I did get the 2 points of extra credit.

In terms of studying for this class... as everyone else has already said, the study questions are important. Rewatching parts of lecture can be helpful also, because Heather will be randomly slow at parts and fast at parts of the lecture. I will say though, be really careful when reading questions on the exam! Sometimes over-studying the study questions can actually be harmful if you assume she's asking the same thing she did in the study questions, when the question may actually be asking something slightly different.

Also, YES, she is EXTREMELY particular in her key words. This is no joke. Learn how to break this down super mechanically/systematically though! I know I would panic whenever starting a question because all I could think about was how many details I was missing or freak out about how I would fit all the knowledge I had into the word limit. This hurt me a little for Midterm 1, but realize that in her study questions that she's also extremely wordy. Try to cut out the fat, so to speak, yourself. For example, with protein folding, you should be thinking of the entropy and enthalpy for both the water/protein respectively as well as the overall favorability... Realize that she may not bring some of these things up in the study questions because the questions specifically focus on entropy or enthalpy. You need to be able to think critically about what it is she's truly asking, rather than just mindlessly rewriting the answers (no shade intended here!).

What I think is very anxiety-inducing is that although there is a good amount of predictability with the exams, it can be hard to tell what exactly she's looking for. Like, depending on how you vibe with the exam, you could do 5-10 points better or worse - and that was definitely a terrible feeling. Especially when reviewing, and the answers actually don't seem so difficult to attain. So seriously, try your best to keep a cool head!

As a whole though, I would say that all the exams were fair, but studying for this class constantly feels like a mind game with just how much content and NUANCES TO THE CONTENT that there is to go through. Keep the fundamentals close to heart though, always, and try to find comfort in that because it really should carry you most of the way.

NOTE: everyone freaks out about the final, but I SWEAR, even though the questions do force you to """think outside of the box""" I really DO think they are graded more leniently than the midterms because I literally have no idea how I would have gotten 175/200 otherwise. Like yes, I busted my ass for this class and 85% of time spent for ALL my classes was actually directed toward biochem... and I would have expected as much for any regular class, but this final does have a well-earned reputation. If this final were graded like the midterms I would have expected myself to get ~150, max 160 TBH. All my friends did leave feeling scared though, as did I.

TIP: go to LA review sessions, because I do think the intent was for students who took advantage of these opportunities to do better than the average student. I can pretty clearly see how she tried to prepare us for the Final with similar questions in the LA review.

ALSO, be aware that when she says 50% of post-midterm 2 content is on the final, don't assume that this means a ton of electron transport chain stuff, which is taught at the VERY end. Glycolysis and TCA cycle may not seem totally new by the time you get around to the final, but the REGULATION of metabolic pathways technically is, and literally everyone I knew left that final feeling really surprised the questions weren't awfully specific on ETC details. This may vary depending on whether you finish early though, and we were scrambling to finish.

By the way, shoutout to Agape for subbing for Heather after her father passed away. I absolutely ADORED Agape, and although the grading scheme will be EXTREMELY similar and they share many study questions/resources (as Agape was formerly Tienson's TA)... I do believe Agape was more clear and had more consistent pacing.

EDIT: I just wanted to come back and affirm that even though I didn't end up hating the class and I even changed my major to biochemistry... that EVERYTHING that the person who wrote the review on December 28 is true. There is not one single thing in that review that I can say isn't fair criticism - though I would be slightly less harsh.

I would clarify that Tienson/Awad seemed to collaborate on some final exam questions because I checked in with a friend who took Awad and there were definitely questions that were EXACTLY the same between our classes - but we also did have differences between our questions on electron transport chain near the end of the quarter and it would be frustrating to hear in Awad's office hours that we would be tested on this topic in more detail than her class.

CHEM 153A, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 30, 2018 Grade Received: C

Tiensons class is a joke. Basically, she'll use slides to lecture, and post them online as well. Slides are very little detailed. She has study questions for every week and answers to those. Those are similar to the midterms and final. However, they are a level 4 while the midterms and final are like a level 10. Also, she uses gradescope to grade everything and doesn't give the points on a question if the answer isn't the same as what she wants. She doesn't do partial credit on the exam. It is either like her answer or no points. That is one thing that made me lose so many points on exams because it didn't have the same words she was looking for.

CHEM 189, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 28, 2018 Grade Received: A+

If you're in need of honors credit, Dr. Tienson-Tseng's seminar for Chem 153A is sincerely a great opportunity! It does add on some extra work on top of Chem 153A, and there were times this adjunct course would stress me out given the intensity of Chem 153A itself.
That's definitely relatable, but the workload for this course as well as the grading scheme is EXTREMELY generous!! And for the effort I put in (which was, once again, very reasonable), I do believe I gained a lot out of this seminar - a better understanding of Wikipedia and the opportunity to discuss how science is communicated.
Essentially, this seminar allows you to either pick a "stub" Wikipedia article or create a new article relating to biochemistry. The first few weeks are very laidback - simply learning the interface, logistics, and purpose of using Wikipedia. Heather really breaks down the class into steps that act as checkpoints for you in writing the draft - therefore making each sort of "checkpoint" a way to gain easy points. From this, you can tell that she's rewarding effort and really trying to make this seminar a meaningful experience rather than a stressful one.
On top of that, she gives you the opportunity to contribute to / create an article on a woman scientist instead of doing a purely biochemistry-related topic . In my opinion, this is the easiest thing to do, given that half the work is simply writing a biography instead of it being 100% biochemistry or biology. With that said, I did still dive into the biochemistry of it and I loved the article that I created, given the lack of representation of women in STEM on Wikipedia. And I also loved the kind of work the person I chose was doing.
Ultimately, I THINK the breakdown of the class was something like:
- 5 points: online training modules (very simple, just do them all in advance so you don't forget to do them, although Heather is so understanding of confusion in communication)
- 5 points: first edit (making a real edit to a Wikipedia article)
- 20 points: first draft / rough draft
- 10 points: peer reviewing 2 other students' work
- 20 points: final article including images
- 10 points: in-class presentation (~5 minutes)
- 20 points: reflective essay
- 10 points: attendance/participation
She originally had training as 10 points, reflective essay as 10 points, and doing blog entries as 5 points - but she ended up scrapping the blog, and the rubric for the reflective essay was actually out of 20 points? And I think I remember the training being reduced in points.
But yeah, either way, it was a very straightforward class. An A- was set at 85, an A at 90, and an A+ at 96. This is incredibly generous! And as you can see, almost everyone gets an A+ or A in this seminar. She didn't give us the point-by-point breakdown, but I ended with an A+ myself.

CHEM 153A, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 28, 2018 Grade Received: A

Grade Breakdown from Fall 18 Syllabus:
• 20 clicker points: down from 25, because of an issue I’ll talk about later in this review
• 30 PyMol points: assignment out of 30, 2 extra credit points possible
• 100 quiz points: most of the quizzes are literally word for word memorization, even though she tells you she tries to make biochem not about memorization (ALSO THE PREASSESSMENT QUIZ IS EXTRA CREDIT, BUT SHE LATER TELLS YOU IT ONLY COUNTS TOWARDS QUIZZES, SUPER MISLEADING)
• 200 midterm points: 2 midterms, 100 points each (average for first midterm was 69% and MEDIAN for second midterm was 73% - she didn’t give us the mean for the second midterm for some reason, let’s just call it the unique Tienson logic)
• 200 final points: average was ~67%
• 8-12 points of extra credit possible: some are super easy, and some require a ton of work for the points (I’m looking at you This Quarter in Biochem)

Grade Ranges from Fall 18 Syllabus:
• A: 555-460 (~82.8% to be in the A range)
• B: 459-390
• C: 389-320
• D: 319-200
• F: 199-0
*Note that the scale was cut off by 5 points because clicker points were reduced to 20 from 25*

Where is the cutoff for an A- or a B+ or a B- etc.? She decides at the end of the quarter what points get what grade, which might be stressful to some, but that’s how the quarter system rolls, I guess. Now anyone who says she has a generous curve at the end and all that stuff, forget about that. We got these grade ranges from day 1, and they never changed. IGNORE PREVIOUS REVIEWS ABOUT CURVING AT THE END OF CLASS. Now I know that having 83% for an A- is a curve in itself, but do not rely on being curved more at the end.

The average of the class was 418 points which is in the middle of the B range

Now that I’m done with the nice portion, let’s get into the juicy review:

Everyone has probably told you how annoying 153A with Tienson is. They are not wrong. Where do I start? Does she really know her chemistry? I honestly don’t think so. Does she have her own twisted version of chemistry? Definitely. The worst part is she wants you to memorize her version of chemistry word-for-word.
As a result, SHE LITERALLY SPENDS THE FIRST MONTH DOING GENERAL CHEMISTRY REVIEW, BUT SHE TURNS IT INTO TIENSON CHEMISTRY, WHICH IS SO FRUSTRATING. You have to MEMORIZE her definition of things, or else you will lose points on the midterm. You are NOT ALLOWED to use calculators on the midterm to answer buffer questions. Or to carry out division and multiplication. You need to be good at mental math. Yeah, mental math is a hidden requirement of Chem 153A with Tienson. Get ready to have a super narrow concept of enthalpy, entropy, buffers, equilibrium, and bonding memorized. It is so frustrating.

Tienson will fall behind on the first few weeks of material, because she is so bad at explaining chemistry, and as a result gets a lot of questions, which she is bad at answering. You cannot argue with her about a concept in chemistry, because she refuses to accept any viewpoint other than hers. She managed to fall an entire week behind in class, in just 2 weeks. It’s amazing. We fell so behind for the first midterm we had to completely skip a full set of lecture slides. On top of that, she used the review day (2 days before the midterm) to cover material we were tested on. This was not even the worst part, as we had the PyMol assignment (which takes a LONG time to finish) due the same week as the midterm. Overall, Tienson managed the class so badly and it turned into a mess. By the way, did I mention she is unbelievably anal about some explanations on the assignment? For example, she will ask: what is the interaction between these two amino acid residues. If you just answer with what the interaction is, you lose points. SHE WANTS YOU TO EXPAND ON ANSWERS BUT DOESN’T SAY THAT. She has by far the worst wording of questions I have seen on this planet. The absolute worst. Probably worst in the history of UCLA.

After the first midterm, she held a day called Meet your Professor, where she just answered personal questions. That’s fine and cool, but does she not realize how bad at time-management she was for the first midterm?? That ended up hurting the class as we predictably fell behind shortly after that day. Also, due to spending an eternity covering general chemistry concepts, we fell behind and started to rush through the actual difficult material.

Now something unexpected happened during our quarter. Tienson’s father passed away close to Thanksgiving break, so she missed the last 2-3 weeks of the quarter and got a substitute instead. Now keep in mind the substitute (Awad) was lecturing, but Tienson STILL wrote the final. You would expect her to be a little more lenient on the students because of this, but she had no mercy whatsoever. Awad as a lecturer was AMAZING, she was everything that Tienson wasn’t. She was funny, knowledgeable beyond what was written on slides, and she was most importantly engaging. Awad can reliably answer your questions and expand on them, while Tienson’s answer is usually: “that’s the way it is.” Unfortunately, she had a different style of lecturing than Tienson, but we still had Tienson writing our final. Anyways, due to falling behind, we covered some of the most important concepts within the last few weeks of the quarter, and we rushed through them. Our final was on Sunday, and we ended up having lecture on new material 2 days before the final, on Friday. WE NEVER HAD A REVIEW DAY WHATSOEVER FOR ANY EXAMS OR THE FINAL.

Let’s talk about her midterms. The material for the first midterm is honestly not that difficult, so you may wonder why the average was 69%? It’s because her midterms are the absolute worst midterms written on this earth. Her questions are purposely so vague, but she expects such specific answers. It’s literally malicious. Prepare to get docked points off because your graph didn’t start at (0,0) to the micron. Or because you didn’t mention the exact words she wants. Another malicious thing on her midterm is her questions build upon each other. For example, she might ask you to draw an example of an interaction that stabilizes an alpha helix in part A of the question. Then she will ask you to draw that interaction from part A on an alpha helix she gives you. Then later she will ask you to explain the basis of that interaction in part A. Now if you did not manage to get part A correct, you essentially lose like 15 points on the midterm. Perhaps the most annoying part about her midterm rubric is how specific her answer is. Her question is as vague as “justifying what an induced dipole-induced dipole interaction is” and then your answer has to include certain keywords (Tienson buzzwords) such as TRANSIENT PARTIAL dipoles that are caused by ASSYMMETRIC distribution of ELECTRON CLOUD DENSITY around the nucleus. They are also OPPOSITE partial charges, so they are ATTRACTED… some of these ideas seem too trivial to include in the answer, but you will lose points if you don’t include them. Now I can be fine with this and just answer every question in depth, right? Wrong, because she imposes a word limit or a sentence limit on the answer. And she says that run-on sentences count as double. Are we in high school? You get to a point where you have to decide how specific the answer she wants is or else you risk losing points by writing too much or losing points by not writing enough. Her exams largely test your mental math, your attention to annoyingly specific details, your ability to suck up to her and memorize her words, your skill at wording sentences concisely, and your semantics. They barely test your biochemistry knowledge.

The second midterm went a little bit better because there were no more questions about Tienson chemistry. However, there was a 6x6 table with 36 blanks to fill with either + or -. The rubric gave one point for each row and one point for each column. This is by far the worst graded question I have seen in the past few years. If you miss one full row of this table, you think that you got 30/36 answers correct so you should get a good amount of points. However, by missing one row, you lose 1 point for that row, as well as 1 point for every column because you have 1 mistake in each column, so 6 more points. As a result, if you miss 1 row, you get 5/12 points for that question. This is unbelievably stupid, and I cannot understand how she thinks that is fair. Another terrible thing about her second midterm is that we had a huge amount of calculations but were not allowed to use a calculator. Instead she gave us a table full of reciprocals, and we would have to learn to use it. In the year 2018. This is insanely backwards. I was able to use it no problem, but there was a good amount of people who struggled using it. People lost points because their mental math was not good enough. In a biochemistry class. This is not a straightforward reciprocal table, because there were quotients we had to calculate that were not on the table, but we would have to derive them from the table. In my opinion it is extremely unnecessary to waste time doing this during a 50 minute midterm, which people struggle to finish on time.

Now the final was insane. Tienson said we would have to think outside the box for some of those questions. This implies we would need to understand these materials, but we literally covered material 2 days before the final. It was so unlike what we have been learning in lecture with Awad. It was so bad that the large majority of the class stayed all 3 hours. That is all I’m going to say about the final.

With everything said, I think that taking this class with Tienson is extremely time-consuming. You will have to go to discussions and LA sessions in order to grasp the way Tienson wants you to word answers. You are looking at a class that will take up the majority of your time if you want to do well. It is supposed to be a 4 unit class but it feels like a 6 or 7 unit class.

My way of studying for the class involved going over all the bruincasts again and rewriting my notes while listening to them. After that I would go over the answers of the study questions (They are LONG, and I did not have time to actually solve the questions so I just read the answers and tried to understand where she gets them from). There are questions from the practice midterms that definitely have the same exact structure as the exam, so that’s helpful.

Last thing I have to say is please avoid Tienson and take Awad instead. She is way way way better at everything, and her deadlines are WAY more manageable than Tienson. Tienson managed to successfully trim away a few years of my life expectancy because of the frustration this class caused, and that can all be avoided by taking Awad.

CHEM 153A, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 26, 2018 Grade Received: A

** For Awad only***
I took this class with Awad and it went great! I worked really hard for 10 weeks and bruin casted every day. First exam, I got a 67% but second exam I got a 92%. I don't know what I got on the final, but it was very doable! There is so much information in this class and doing past exams, all the study questions, and going to OH is the best way to get an A.

I legit thought it was over when I got a 67% on the first midterm... she's a wonderful professor. She talks fast, but that's why you should bruincast after and pause to really understand what is going on. That being said, extra credit helps, clear professor, and a good course. It's not as hard as everyone makes it seem... You are just on a time crunch! Yay for Awad!

CHEM 153A, taken Fall 2018 Submitted Dec. 21, 2018 Grade Received: A+

I came into this class thinking that it was going to be super hard. I heard people saying this class is all about memorization and you needed to study every detail that the professor says. This is partially true, but the professor (I took Awad) makes it so that she covers everything on the exam. Nothing is a big surprise.

The exams in this class are very predictable, so nothing should really come as a surprise. Doing the weekly study questions is very helpful, as they are all past 153A exam questions. I didn't really pay too much attention in lecture, and instead I focused on UNDERSTANDING everything in her study guides.

That said, I also used a bunch of old tests that she had. However, you should only do these after throughly looking through the study questions. Doing these (or just reading the answer key) helps in that you start figuring out what key words she is looking for. There are questions that repeat themselves quarter after quarter. I received an A+ in this class (Proof: from looking over her old tests before going in for her midterms and finals.

If you'd like to purchase a few tests (or my entire bank, about 4 years worth of tests), email I'll get to you ASAP.

CHEM 153A Submitted June 26, 2013 Grade Received: N/A

Tienson is not a bad teacher but at the same time she is not a good one. The class is pretty straight forward but you will need to put a good amount of studying into it on your own. This definitely will not be your favorite class but if you're like me you're taking it because its required. In other news I still have the book for 153A. It's one of those where you have to stick it into a three ring binder. Its still in the plastic and I didn't end up using it because I was using a friend's. If you are interested email me at .

CHEM 153A Submitted June 19, 2014 Grade Received: N/A

As others have pointed out, this class requires you to memorize everything you can imagine and more. If you struggle with endless memorization like I do, then avoid this class at all costs. You will be in for a lot of pain, like I was. If you are good with loads of memorization then you should be just fine. Others have called her cruel, but I disagree, this class for some, like me, is impossible.

CHEM 153A Submitted June 25, 2013 Grade Received: N/A

Tienson is one of those professors who tell you what they want on exams. If you can memorize the answer keys to her weekly study guides word for word and transcribe them onto paper, you are set! Since she is new as a lecturer, she really tries her best to maximize what her students can get (generous grading curves, recycled test questions, Bruincast). Do what you need to do and you are good. Focus on her slides and mostly her study questions. Draw out the whole metabolic pathway using colored pens! iClickers are required for points! The class curves were relatively high, so it'll probably be only a matter of time before she changes up the structure of her course, which she's retained for the 5+ quarters she's taught at UCLA.

CHEM 153A Submitted Aug. 18, 2013 Grade Received: N/A

She was an amazing professor. Her lectures are very structured. Do the study question and start doing them right away because they are a lot. They resemble the questions in the exam.

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