Kay Chen will be setting her alarm for 5 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday during the fall 2011 semester at Stony Brook University. She isn’t the only one; She and roughly 540 of her classmates will have to wake up early to make sure they get to their 6:50 a.m. physics class on time.
Physics 121, or Physics for the Life Sciences I, will be offered at this new time slot come this fall. The class is primarily for pre-med students. Some of the topics being covered will be Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Theory of Light. There is a lab that goes along with this lecture, though students will receive only one grade for the work they do in lecture and lab.
According to Richard Gatteau, director of the academic and pre-professional advising center, review sessions have been held this early, but never an actual class.
“Prior to this upcoming term, Physics 131 was the earliest scheduled class at 7:25 a.m., which will stay at that time slot,” Gatteau said. “It was an issue of space. Javits 100 is the largest lecture hall, and we try to maximize the use of it.”
Students were not so happy when they realized what time their class was being held. “My first thought when I saw the time slot was ‘Why am I pre-med?’” said Hafsa Nomani, a sophomore biology major.
Gatteau said the university made the right choice scheduling the class at that time though he knows students may not like it. “The early morning classes are not preferred by most students,” Gatteau said. “If we were to move a class to 6:50 in the morning it would have to be a class that was required in order to generate enrollment.”
Dmitri Tsybychev and John Hobbs are two people who are not complaining about the time the class is offered. They also happen to be two of the three professors teaching it. Roderich Engelmann, the third professor for this class, was not available for an interview.
“It’s fine, you teach in the morning and then you’re free all day,” Tsybychev said.
Hobbs also didn’t complain about the time. “It might be a little bit of an inconvenience but it’s not major,” he said.
Hobbs said that in general, there is no attendance policy for this class. “The class does use clickers and we will continue to do that,” Hobbs said. “We ask the first clicker question about five to 10 minutes into the class and we do drop a certain number of clicker questions in a semester.”
The tests will not be given at that time in the morning, though. “The course has always had centrally scheduled midterms in the evening,” Hobbs said.
Even though students may not like the time slot, they are choosing to take this class as opposed to another physics class later in the day.
Ying Tang, a sophomore biology major, said he likes physics but does not like to work hard. “This is the easiest physics class,” Tang said. “I was thinking about taking Physics 141 at 8:20 a.m., but I’m too lazy.”
Professors Tsybychev and Hobbs agreed that Physics 121 was an easier class.
“We don’t use rigorous mathematics concepts,” Tsybychev said. “In physics, it’s not all about solving the problem. It’s about finding the root of it and simplifying, not solving exactly.”
Hobbs concurred. “The main thing is the absence of calculus,” he said. “That’s probably why students think it’s easier.”
Gatteau wanted to point out that if students could not take the class that early, they have the option of taking it during the summer session. In the summer the course is offered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Chen was interested in taking it over the summer as an alternative. “I don’t know how they can expect us to be up and attentive at that time in the morning. I would’ve taken it over the summer, but I already bought plane tickets to China before I found out about the time.”