I’ve mentioned in quite a few of my blogs how much I truly admire some of my professors – they’re all exceptionally brillant people who have made huge contributions to their fields, and their enthusiasm and dedication to their work really reflects in their teaching. I’ve never written a blog entirely devoted to professors before, so I decided to use this entry to highlight six professors in six different departments that have made a big impact on my time at Hopkins.
Deborah Mifflin, German – I came back from Spain a little depressed that I only had one more class left before I was done with my Spanish major. Knowing that my days left of having a language class in my schedule were numbered, I decided to use my elective space to start another language. I narrowed down my selection to German and Italian, and as I was about to register for Italian, my best friend Laura asked if we could take German together, and I agreed. I went into this class thinking it was going to be extremely frustrating – I didn’t like Spanish much in my middle school/ early high school years because sitting in the beginner Spanish language classes made me feel like I had no hope to ever learn the language. However, after the first week of German with Frau Mifflin, I already loved this class. Frau Mifflin is such an ideal language teacher. She’s very insistent that we speak German, which I’ve realized has helped me learn much faster than I learned Spanish in high school. She’s very patient with us and holds a lot of respect for the students that try very hard to learn the language. She also puts together a TON of resources for us to learn – we have audio recordings of the vocabulary, listening activities for homework, a workbook, journal assignments, movies to watch, a German children’s book to read, and a research project on a German-speaking city to complete by the end of the semester. This class is no joke – it’s a ton of work, and there is a ton of homework given every weekend, but I have so much respect for Frau Mifflin for putting together all of these resources for us to use. She evidently puts so much work into this class, and I think seeing that has motivated me more than anything to give this class my best effort. German Elements at Hopkins is not your high school language course – you will actually learn basic conversational German, and you’ll be taught by some great teachers.
Harry Sieber, Spanish – Second semester of freshman year, I needed to take a Spanish literature class. I was really excited to take a Latin American literature class about metaphysical fictions or magical realism, but instead, by the time freshmen were allowed to register, the only Spanish literature class that was still open was Dr. Sieber’s class about the famous 17th century Spanish novel, Don Quixote. Basically this novel is about an old guy who thinks he is a knight, it’s about 600 pages long, and it’s written in old Spanish (think Shakespeare, but in Spanish… yikes.) – needless to say I thought this book was going to be really painful to get through. The first day of class, Dr. Sieber started lecturing about the historical context of the novel – I was just so so impressed with how he knew literally everything there was to know about the history surrounding this book, and why Cervantes wrote certain parts of the book the way he did. My friend Alec and I began lovingly referring to this class as “story time with Dr. Sieber,” because he just told story after story about life in Golden Age Spain, and we both left class every week just so impressed at how much Dr. Sieber knows about this era. It was really just incredible how he could paint such a detailed picture for us of life back then – it made me so much more invested in the reading assignments and so much more eager to take more Spanish literature classes. Before taking this class I had very little interest in Spanish history or the Golden Age, but since then I’ve taken 2 more classes on 17th century Spain, 9 more Hispanic literature classes, have lived in Spain for a semester, and want nothing more than to go back.
Trina Schroer, Biology – Dr. Schroer’s cell biology class was the most difficult class I’ve ever taken at Hopkins, but this class more than any other has completely changed my work ethic and my definition of what it means to be prepared for an exam. Cell bio exams were very hard, and your grade completely depended on how well you could apply what you learned in a hypothetical setting in a laboratory. When you’re sitting down to study for a cell bio exam, it seems tedious and kind of a waste of time to memorize each drug that affects microtubule growth both positively and negatively, or the activator or inhibitor of each cyclin dependent kinase in each stage of the cell cycle, but in cell bio, you had to know it all because if you worked in a lab, this could be useful knowledge that could give you a much better understanding of your experiment. Being prepared for a cell bio exam meant not only knowing what you wrote in your notes, or knowing the answers to the review questions in the back of the book, or knowing what the professor wrote on the blackboard every day; it mean knowing everything. Every enzyme, or every protein for that matter, has its relevance. Anything is up for grabs, and being prepared means not only knowing why each component is relevant. Students have a lot of respect for Dr. Schroer – she’s extremely smart, and she’s a fantastic lecturer and is extremely well spoken – but she does receive some criticism for her difficult tests. Finally, now that I see how taking cell bio has affected the way I study for other classes as well, I’m actually glad that the cell bio tests were as hard as they were, and I’m definitely a better student for having taken this class.
Rich Brown, Mathematics – Let me start off by saying that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a math person. In fact, part of the reason why I came to Hopkins was because there are no required classes here, and there were some subjects that I never wanted to take again after high school, math being one of them. However, freshman year fall I decided to take Calculus with Dr. Brown, and it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a math class in all of my years of schooling. First of all, Dr. Brown is the head of his department, so the fact that he wanted to teach Calculus 1 for bio majors – not even mathematics majors or engineers, but students who often go into this class without a great attitude toward math – was awesome. I felt really lucky to have him as a professor. Dr. Brown is one of the nicest, most friendly people on this campus – I constantly pass him on campus saying hi to his students. Before I took Dr. Brown’s class, I think a lot of the reason why I disliked math was because I didn’t see it’s relevance, or why it’s useful to know how to do things that I can just do on a computer or a graphing calculator. Now that I’ve taken more physics and science classes, I realize how crucial calculus skills are, but I think Dr. Brown was the first one to show me that. He made calculus a relatable subject, and he made me realize that there’s much more depth to math than just plugging numbers into a calculator.
Grace Brush, Environmental Engineering – On a whim, I decided to take a class called Geography and Ecology of Plants for one of my biology electives this semester, and it has turned out to be fantastic. I don’t know much at all about ecology – the overwhelming majority of classes in the biology department are molecular and cellularly based, and I didn’t want to graduate with a biology degree having learned a ton about animal biology and virtually nothing about plants. Dr. Brush has such an incredible wealth of knowledge when it comes to plant ecology – she’ll go off on tangents about anything from the chestnut tree population to the floodplane of the Potomac River to buttercups as an important nitrogen fixer. She takes us on walks through campus and tells about the history of the campus plant landscape as well as why it is the way it is now. The class takes field trips throughout the semester to marshes, forests, and even to the Appalachian trial. On one of the field trips to Catoctin State Park, I remember it was freezing cold and Dr. Brush was just walking along, seemingly unaware of the temperature, happy as ever to be pointing out all of the burgeoning hemlocks that we passed. If I grow up to be half as passionate about my career as Dr. Brush is about hers, I’ll be extremely happy.
David Klein, Chemistry – Dr. Klein is without a doubt one of the most popular and well-respected professors at Hopkins, and any list of greatest Hopkins professors would be incomplete without him. Dr. Klein went to Hopkins – he was, at some point, sitting in our sits, copying notes from the same chalkboards, and spending many hours in the all-too-familiar Remsen Hall. He was taught organic chemistry by Dr. Principe, who is still an organic chemistry professor here, and ever since taking that class he knew that he wanted to become a professor, hopefully at Hopkins. Since his years at Hopkins, Dr. Klein has gotten his Ph.D.; authored a textbook, which he now uses to teach his classes; and became a Hopkins organic chemistry professor. A few years ago, Dr. Klein decided to move to Israel with his family, but he still returns to Hopkins during the summers to teach organic chemisty. Every year, over one hundred undergrads choose to spend their summer taking organic chemistry to get Dr. Klein as a professor, and almost everyone who takes his class raves about his teaching style. He is truly a one-of-a-kind professor: he is such a talented teacher and is so preoccupied with ensuring that he is always presenting the material in an understandable way. Organic chemistry is a notoriously challenging course, but Dr. Klein has such a talent for breaking things down into understandable lessons and for teaching us how to integrate it all together. His enthusiasm is unsurpassed, and his class was truly a unique way to learn orgo.