Ratings for Saykally, R J
Based on 191 ratings for this instructor.
Comment: The labs themselves were not extremely difficult, but the post-labs were graded based on accuracy (that is, how close a student's experimental results were to the actual value), so one might reasonably understand the underlying concept behind the experiment but still get, say, 14/20 or 12/20 on the post-lab due to experimental error that led to a calculated result still within 10% of the actual value. This grading policy was very frustrating at times. As for the final exam, the material on which we were tested was not really emphasized during lecture, and the average seemed quite low for Chem 1AL (around 59%). The head GSI did do a review before the final that was helpful though. The GSIs were extremely helpful during office hours as well. I did learn something during lecture, including some Berkeley culture, with which Saykally usually started his lectures (along with loud music), but overall, the grading seemed too harsh, and I didn't find this a very enjoyable class.
Submitted Aug. 17th, 2016
Comment: Prof. Saykally restructured the class when I took it after having screwed over last spring's class. He was always super enthusiastic about teaching and was not dreadful at all. He also posted lecture slides ahead of time so that we could print it out and follow along. Assigned readings which I followed strictly at first but towards the middle to end of semester, I merely skimmed the book and was ok. What I will advise for those taking Chem 1A with Saykally is to study his lectures and the blackboard examples! He also posted previous midterms/exams prior to our actual exams and they were 80% similar to previous ones he posted. So study these too! Overall, he was not as bad as people have said about him in the past.
Submitted June 24th, 2015
Comment: Very enthusiastic professor who was passionate about teaching. He made the class more about mathematics and didn't really lecture much about concepts, which may have given trouble to students in the class with weaker chemistry backgrounds. The exams were straightforward and just like the practice exams, but beware of the C+ curve. Overall a good experience, but really work hard if you know you do not have a solid chemistry background.
Submitted May 19th, 2015
Comment: Saykally is really enthusiastic, but I hated his lecturing. The exams were fairly difficult, but still doable and his assignments were easy but helpful. However, I really didn't like his nonchalance in some respects.
Submitted May 10th, 2015
Comment: Saykally is enthusiastic and entertaining but not excellent at teaching. SLC study group is a must to pass his class. Exams were really difficult, but the online homework is helpful and easy points.
Submitted Dec. 9th, 2014
Comment: I was told spring chem 1a would be easy. And it was. Until of course after the pnp deadline. I was about half a standard deviation above average by the end and got a B- so watch out for that. Brilliant man. His shirts are always interesting. I kinda wish I actually put more effort into this class since I like chem. But nonetheless, I enjoyed the few lectures that I actually attended. Note all other negative ratings of him were because the people are butt hurt that they didn't study hard enough and got a bad grade on the semi tough exams (which granted I didn't either, but I acknowledge that). And yes he is normally a 4a professor, but even if he weren't you shouldn't slack off in any class at Cal.
Submitted Aug. 29th, 2014
Comment: DO NOT take Chem 1A with Saykally, who usually teaches 4A. AVOID him if at all possible. I took this class in Spring 2014 as a freshman, having heard that Chem 1A in the spring is easier. The previous spring professor, Nietsche, used to curve so that the average grade was a around a B, and fall professors would make it around a B-. Saykally, however, decided to screw everyone over and made the average grade a C+, which even in a pre-med weeder class, was probably one of the most ridiculous things I've heard. I haven't heard of any other weeder class with an average that low. On the first midterm, the average was a 70%, not too bad. Third midterm: around a 68%, still not too bad. But the second midterm? The average was a 92/200, i.e. a 46%! And the final was really intense. Given the fact that he wanted the average to be around a 70% on all exams ideally, he did not curve the class in a fair way. He should've lowered the grade cutoffs by 100 points at least, but he only lowered them by around 70. This meant that 35% of the class got D's and F's and only 15% got A's. He didn't write or grade any of the exams (he had the head GSI do it), and every lecture consisted of a couple explosive demonstrations, enthusiastic tangents, and a couple of hurried example problems. I basically had to teach myself everything from the book, and with 3 other classes on my plate, Saykally's Chem 1A class killed me. I got a 73% on the first midterm, a 70% on the second (way above the average of 46%), and 69% on the third, so all my midterms were slightly to very above average. On the final, I got just below a 60% which, granted, was low, but I should have at least gotten a B-. Instead, I still ended up with a C+ in the class because of his terrible grading scale. In summary, Saykally was bad at teaching and awful at grading, and he made the material (which wasn't terribly difficult to understand if you put in the requisite hard work) unnecessarily difficult, as if this was 4A instead of 1A. Again, AVOID Saykally! Hope this helps anyone looking to take Chem 1A in the spring.
Submitted May 23rd, 2014
Comment: Saykally was an decent, yet enthusiastic instructor. His demos were cool, but they sometimes took away time from him actually teaching us. The assignments and exams were manageable as long as you pay great attention to his lectures and learn from the SLC tutors. He almost always threw in some questions from his lectures into his tests even if they were only talked about for a few minutes,which annoyed me. Overall, I think he's OKAY. I think chem 1a in fall 2013 was better than in spring 2014 with Saykally, despite rumors saying how spring is easier.
Submitted May 22nd, 2014
Comment: This class was ridiculously easy. Went to no lectures, didn't touch the textbook, and got an A+. If you are enthusiastic about learning however, take 4A, not 1A... 4A forces you to actually learn more than 1A does... On every test, he threw 1-2 curveball questions that pretty much required intelligent guessing.
Submitted May 22nd, 2014