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GEO/CEE/ENV 370 SEDIMENTOLOGY (previously GEO 450)

Professor: Adam C. Maloof

This course presents a treatment of the physical processes that shape Earth's surface, such as solar radiation, deformation of the solid Earth, and the flow of water (vapor, liquid, and solid) under the influence of gravity. In particular, the generation, transport, and preservation of sediment are studied as diagnostic tools to link processes with the geologic records of Earth history and modern environmental change [T Th 1:30-2:50 pm, Guyot Hall 155]

This course will be taught again in SPRING 2016.  The location of the spring break field trip has not been decided.  Please see the student course evaluations from 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, and 2007 below.


Spring 2014 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=9) 4.44 / 5.0
Quality of written assignments (n=9) 4.56 / 5.0
Quality of readings (n=9) 2.00/ 5.0
Overall quality of the course (n=9) 4.56/ 5.0
Hours of work outside of class 5-10 (15%), 10-15 (45%), >15 (40%)
 

1. Overall Quality of the Course

The course is very well organized and extremely interesting. Its tremendously difficult, but thats part of the point.

The class is well organized and provides a wealth of material to engage with. Professor Maloof is very accessible and quite obviously puts a lot of energy into the course. If you prepare yourself, you can get a lot out of this class.

I think the problem sets and field trips are awesome, I guess my only critique is that I felt that more emphasis could have been placed on interpreting examples of things we discussed in class; ie talking about actual pictures or interpreting strat columns, etc.

Please make the exams line up with what we learned in class. We got very little practice looking at stratigraphy and knowing exactly what occured.... on the other hand the way Bernoulli effect controls regelation is something we all know, because we covered it tirelessly in lecture

The course is challenging, fast-paced, and extremely well-taught. A lot of material is covered very efficiently. I would say the only thing to change is to be careful to only test concepts really gone over in class as opposed to general geologic knowledge and intuition on the exams.

Great course. The only thing I would improve would be to tighten up the lectures. there were a lot of times that we spent too much time on examples.

One of the best classes I have ever taken.

Not really much to say here - great course, and the trip to the Bahamas was amazing. Especially Small Hope Bay Resort. I liked that. See above.

Course is well executed, delivers fascinating and important material, and dramatically improves the quality of students' work.

 


2. Why did you take this course? How would you describe your level of engagement in the course?

I took this course because Adam was teaching it and I knew it was difficult.

I took this course to challenge myself and learn more about a subject that interests me.

I wanted to explore the Department of Geosciences. I was highly engaged in the course.

Because I wanted to be challenged

I am a geoscience major and am extremely interested in the subject material. I was very engaged in the course and put a lot of time into this class.

I took this course out of interest in the subject matter and interest in taking a course taught by Prof. Maloof

Sedimentology is considered one of the capstone classes of my department and I am likewise interested in the subject matter.

departmental, knew the professor would be good, and very interested to learn properly about sedimentology. highly engaged

Unique opportunity for undergraduate rigor in study and research


3. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures?

Adam is arguably the best lecturer in GEO because he puts tremendous effort into making excellent lectures and legitimately cares if we understand the material. He presents massive quantities of information, which is great because we learn a lot, but is also somewhat misdirected because a lot of it goes straight over student's heads. It would be better (and I know this hurts Adam) to have slightly less material explained in greater depth. For example, the slide about six different end-member weathering scenarios seems unnecessary.

Lectures are overall engaging but rushed (especially towards the end). I think math should never be presented through powerpoint. I like when we are asked to think through a problem/ answer a question to keep us on track. Overall the scope is perhaps too broad, and makes the class too shallow.

Lectures were extraordinarily dense, and I found it challenging and stimulating to keep up with the pace of instruction. At time I felt like I was losing sight of the bigger picture, but studying outside of class put all of the content from lectures into perspective.

Adam is a fantastic lecturer, and he really wants you to understand everything as expertly as he does

Each lecture covered a lot of material and was extremely interesting. Adam is a clear and charismatic lecturer that managed to get captivate my attention for each lecture. He encourages questions and patiently answers them during lecture.

Overall the lectures were good. It was obvious Prof. Maloof spent a lot of time on them. One thing was they often went 10min over the allotted time.

Great lectures. Prof. Maloof is the most engaging physical science lecturer I have ever had. One thing that would be helpful to students, however, may be some slightly more orienting information on what the main takeaways are. Each lecturer has an opening content slide, but there are no closing summary slides.

The lectures were exceptional. Adam had clearly spent alot of time making the lecture slides and organizing the course, and this was reflected in the lectures. They were engaging, interesting and well structured. The lecture slides also proved to be extremely useful when revising for exams.

Lectures always prepared and delivered well.


4. Papers, Problem Sets and Examinations

The problem sets of this course are extremely well made. Adam makes himself available for questions. The problem sets require a massive commitment by the student, but I think generally students know this going into the course.

Problem sets are well-designed, effective, and engaging.

Feedback was awesome, and the problem sets and presentation based on field work were also great assignments.

I mean, all of it was very difficult, but very carefully thought through.... except for the consideration that students might do things with thier lives other than sedimentology

The problem sets are hard and take a long time. If you want to have a chance of finishing them you have to start them early, work in groups, and ask a lot of questions. They do a great job of forcing you to grapple with the fundamental concepts and really further your understanding of the material. There always seems to be more you can do and more you can learn.

Problem sets were great and very useful in learning the material. I thought we were given enough guidance on them.

Amazing guidance. Not only does Prof. Maloof schedule significant time to help, he is also willing to do personal meetings/answer emails. Assignemnts were very, very hard, but much easier if help was sought. Regarding the exam…no word searches! cross-words are better.

As always, I enjoyed doing the problem sets. Of course they were lengthy, but I learnt a huge amount from each one. I particularly enjoyed how they used real data sets, and were directly applicable to real world problems. Further, I think that learning Latex and especially Matlab are critical for any scientist.

Problem sets long and tedious, but engaging and key to learning material.

5. Readings

Leeder is horrific. I legitimately tried to read the text and repeatedly failed. We recognize that Leeder is one of the only texts to quantify the material, but it is so bad that no one reads it, and not for lack of trying. It is actually incomprehensible to undergraduates. Students would be served far better with a qualitative book, especially given the intensely quantitative nature of the problem sets.

Leeder is dry, but can be a good resource. Kump is more engaging but was only a secondary text for this class.

I struggled to keep up with the readings; most of the readings from the textbook were not worth the time taken to read them, but some of the reserves were informative and interesting.

All content came from lectures/ proble sets

I didn't end up doing most of the readings as most of the material is covered in lecture. I'm sure I would have benefitted from doing more of the readings though.

Didn't do them

Ah we never do the readings. Not sure how much this hurts us. I think the only way to encourage reading would be to build it into the pset-- like ask questions about it or what-not. Reading was probably good but i doubt any student knows.

The lectures were thorough enough such that I did not feel that the readings were necessary.


Spring 2012 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=6) 4.67 / 5.0
Quality of written assignments (n=7) 3.57 / 5.0
Quality of reading (n=5) 3.20/ 5.0
Overall quality of the course (n=7) 4.14 / 5.0
Hours of work outside of class 5-10 (15%), 10-15 (45%), >15 (40%)

1. Overall Quality of the course

A very general, yet not superficial, overview of a huge amount of interesting material. Unlike many in other science courses, the professor strives hard to make everything relevant to intuitions and observations all the students have had. One place for possible improvement would be to spread out the work load into smaller, but more frequent problem sets, which would allow far more material to be covered in the assignments.

For small classes, I believe that no matter how much the professor pours himself into doing a great job teaching, the quality of the class will depend on the students and the amount they participate and are engaged. Class won't be fun if you're the only one that's genuinely interested and everyone else could care less (not that this was the case, just an example). The atmosphere has to be right. Unfortunately, given the demographics of the class, a lot of people had generals exams, undergraduate independent work, and athletic commitments, and there were some people in the class that didn't seem very interested in learning the material at all, which prevented such a collective feeling of learning for this class. All in all though, the field trips were the gems of this course. Adam does a fantastic job preparing these field trips and has a built-in encyclopedia in his brain that is able to address any question a student poses with such depth and clarity that it is mindblowing. The problems sets and lectures were also fantastic, though if the demographic of the class leans more heavily towards graduate students, they ought to be toned down a bit. Emphasis on presentation was distracting, but again is probably one of the most important lessons to take away, if anything. Overall, the class was very good and I wish I had taken it earlier!

Challenging, but taught me important skills in geoscience and scientific practice in general. Field trips were the most educational, practical, and enjoyable parts of the class.

It is an interesting course for both lectures and field trips. I recommend to reduce the content of the course so that the lectures can be more focused on the key topics and reduce the course burden by giving less homework.

Very good quality but very demanding.

The overall quality of the class was very good to excellent. However, I would also comment that students taking this course should be prepared to spend a much greater amount of time on this course than others. If they do, they will learn about a wide range of topics that are broadly applicable to the geosciences. One of the main reasons why I enjoyed the class so much was because there is something for everyone to learn.

This is a good course, although I didn't do well. I am glad I have picked up latex and matlab, and have a understanding of geology. Lectures need to be improved.


2. Why did you take this course? How would you describe your level of engagement in the course?

Since I am considering graduate study in planetary sciences, I saw this course as an excellent opportunity to expose myself to the field and also apply some of my theoretical physics knowledge to better understand processes that I can observe or intuit.

Sedimentology is applicable to just about any field within geosciences. I had good experiences in previous courses that were taught by Adam, which encouraged me to take another. My level of engagement was high, though kind of thwarted by independent work and extracurriculars.

This course is relevant to my research and is taken as one of my major courses in my general exam. I attended all the classes and a 9-day field trip. On average, I spent three days every week on this course.

I took this class to review some sedimentology concepts that might be useful for my research. I was highly engaged with the class trying to do my best on the assignments.

I took this class because it was suggested to me by a few professors, and because I thought it would be useful for my research. I was very engaged throughout the entire course, although there were some topics that weren't as relevant for my work.


3. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures?

While at times a little too fast-paced for comfortable note-taking, the lectures generally succeeded in presenting the material in a coherent manner, with good graphics, sufficient mathematical rigor, and references to recent research in the field. They also blended in well with the homework assignments.

Adam does a fantastic job explaining and organizing complex concepts in layman's terms. Lectures were organized in a very logical manner and aesthetically pleasing, filled with photographs of amazing glaciers, lakes, and sedimentary structures and appropriate diagrams illustrating concepts in a very intuitive sense. Oftentimes, Adam would connect concepts with recently published research to show their relevance, which was nice. However, slides were often inundated with text that muddled Adam's ability to convey key points and ideas. Tons and tons of information was conveyed in one lecture that it was often difficult to catch everything, and difficult to catch which ideas/concepts were the most important. Adam almost presented each idea with equal importance, which made it difficult to internalize. Overall, a lot of information was crammed into the course and sometimes it felt like too much to cover in 12 weeks. Although this course had large breadth, the choice of places in which we pursued concepts in depth was confusing and often times felt subsidiary. Too much information was at covered at too much of a fast pace. Maybe it would have been nice to hold review sessions every 2 weeks or so to reteach the material if cutting the material down is not possible. However, the quality of the information presented was fantastic and extremely useful, and if on a good day, you managed to catch everything, things made a lot of sense. However, things that are important need to be emphasized more, because it's not always clear.

Lectures are clear and presented in a straightforward manner. Professor Maloof makes even the most complex ideas easier to grasp.

The lectures are of good quality. I think they covered too much fields and knowledge, so it's really hard to go through everything. Adam did a good job on selecting the major topics and illustrating the important mechanisms. He's also good at invoking our interest and showing fancy graphs. I have two suggestions: first, it's better to learn new knowledge systematically, so I hope we have a conclusive lecture at the end to fit pieces in the big frame and make comparisons to distinguish different phenomena; second, it's better to make the math part correct and consistent.

Very clear and organize. In the case of using equations, I really appreciated that he took the time to go through them step by step. It was very interesting because of the quantitative approach that was kind of new for me. I know that the semester is quite short but I felt like the class was more like an introduction to sedimentology with some emphasis in very specific topics.

I thought the quality of the lectures were very good. The motivation for studying each topic was well presented and well organized. I learned a lot from the lectures, and the lecture slides and my notes will be very helpful for when I want to review the material in the future.

Positive: The lectures cover a lot of information and topics. Negative: a little unsystematic; slides would be better if there was some more information together with beautiful pictures.


4. Papers, Problem Sets and Examinations

The problem sets, in particular, the one in tides, became the reason behind many painful all nighters. Nevertheless, I feel that my proficiency in MATLAB, LaTeX, PowerPoint, Excel, and image processing software greatly improved in the process. In addition, the material in the problem sets connected well with discussion in class, with very little need for consulting the textbook. One word on exams --- crosswords!

Problem sets were incredibly well-designed and crafted such that you could tell a story about some geologic formation or structure after each one. However, they were also extremely time-consuming, which was, for the most part, unnecessary. Questions could have been more streamlined and those that required tedious (i.e. parts in which the time invested-to-knowledge gained ratio was extremely low) tasks could have been cut. The best problem set was tides because of the way it tied everything together, but it could have been less time consuming. Also, the emphasis on presentation--though probably one of the most important lessons to take away from this class--was largely unnecessary. This class is meant to instruct students on topics related to sedimentology, not how to produce an aesthetically pleasing research paper ready for peer-review. Although these auxiliary tools are extremely useful, especially for underclassmen who have not been exposed to useful tools like Photoshop and Latex, they inhibit students' ability to learn the actual subject material. When I could have been reviewing concepts from lecture and reading the textbook, I was instead making figures look pretty and worrying about the presentation of each problem set. This in itself took just as much time as figuring out the answers to the problem set questions themselves. What should be emphasized most in this course is learning the actual material, not worrying about its presentation. Bad science, even if it looks nice, is still bad science. The purpose of this class should be to teach people how to do good science by emphasizing learning of the subject material rather than presentation. On the class projects, to an upperclassmen and/or graduate student who is conducting their own research, it is hard to get engaged with these research projects, which require quite a bit of investment in time. As an underclassman, I could imagine that taking charge of a research project would be immensely helpful, but seeing as this year's class consisted of grad students and upperclassmen, save for one sophomore, the overall feeling was that these projects were less useful. Time invested-to-knowledge gained ratio was very low for those "seasoned" in research. Additionally, there were huge disparities in the contributions of different group members, which was frustrating.

Can be hard for people with little background in MatLab, LaTeX, etc. They do push you to better understand the subject, however. And the use of real data makes the challenge of the problem sets more exciting.

Overall, the written work is relevant to the lectures and we are provided with a good source of reference papers.

The exams are also well designed. For the problem sets, I think the content is good, but they are too much. It takes about 3 days to finish and it's too time-consuming. I think the problem sets can be shorter and more efficient.

The assignments were very interesting but too long. The class was very demanding because of that. The time spent was not worth considering that I was taking other classes and trying to advance my research. The field trips were very nice and very useful to apply the concepts learned in class and to perform a different types of analyses and approaches to solve the problems.

I thought that the problem sets were extremely useful, but also extremely time consuming. I enjoyed learning to use latex and becoming more familiar with Matlab and illustrator, but felt that up to 70% of my time working on a problem set was spent on presentation, rather than material. I think the problem sets could have been just as rewarding if I had spent 25% less time on presentation.

Problem sets are so difficult for me. Even if I spent a lot of time, I could not get a good grade. So, I personally think it would be better if we can get some more instructions or help on problem sets.


5. Readings

I rarely found it necessary to consult the textbook, though when I did, I found the presentation of the material quite good, though sometimes difficult to translate to the topics discussed in lecture.

Never touched the textbook. Not enough time to learn all that was presented in the lecture AND all that was included in the book.

The textbook is not so good and relevant to the course- it seems to contain too much knowledge and lacks a good system management. I like the textbooks that show a good systematic frame and be clear and precise about the knowledge. The recommended reading materials for the field trip are good.

Generally helpful, but learned more from classroom lectures and problem sets.


Spring 2010 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=10) 4.4 / 5.0
Quality of written assignments (n=10) 4.1 / 5.0
Quality of reading (n=9) 3.0 / 5.0
Overall quality of the course (n=9) 4.7 / 5.0
Hours of work outside of class 5-10 (15%), 10-15 (45%), >15 (40%)

1. Overall Quality of the course

This course is quite simply the best course I've taken at Princeton. It bridges what is sometimes a gap between the natural sciences and rigorous quantitative analysis flawlessly. Besides the way in which equations were derived in class, I wouldn't change a thing about this course, other than possibly adding that last problem set if you can make it work Adam. Especially don't get rid of the field trips, they were invaluable.

I'm really glad I decided to take this course! Like the other gems in the GEO department I only discovered this year, 370 has been a grand adventure. What worked well: small class size, engaging lectures, interesting problem sets, great field trips, umm... everything else? What could be improved: ... keep numbering those slides? Also, some extra guidance on the field notebooks prior to going to the Bahamas would have been nice, although I might have gotten a little stressed out pre-Bahamas if I were given Christene's excellent book as a standard. Maybe space out the Kentucky trip and the Bahamas trip a little bit more.

GEO 370 is hard, and you get as much out of it as you put into it. I might have benefited from waiting a year, because some of my skills (particularly my physics knowledge) were lacking. But by the time the class was over, I think I ended up understanding "sedimentology" overall as well as anyone would have. There are obviously still gaps in my geologic knowledge, but this class has taught me a lot of specific things about interesting phenomena around the world. I guess the best judge of its quality is this: I'd be able to tell my family about the story told in the rocks if we go anywhere with sediments. That interpretive skill is valuable.

Hands down the best GEO course I've taken. Learned more in 370 than in any of my other courses and will retain a great deal of knowledge from the course. Not only that, but it's one of the courses in the department with a very clear focus and application. I know what I learned and where I can apply it and in any discussion of sedimentology I will be able to contribute based on my knowledge from this course.

Overall the course was very good, very hard, and almost exactly as I expected it to be. In my ideal version of this class, it would be almost exactly the same, except with much much much less math. (Adam, I can practically see you shaking your head in disapproving disbelief as you read this). Either way, I took this class to learn all about sedimentology, and that is what I did. My objective has been met, so I really can't complain. I know that I put a lot into this class (heck - I just spent an hour filling out a COURSE REVIEW!!) and I'm happy with what I got out of it, as it is. I just know I would have gotten more out of it if i were smarter :(


2. Why did you take this course? How would you describe your level of engagement in the course?

I took this course because I heard good things about the Professor Adam Maloof, and wanted to get another GEO departmental under my belt. I found the material extremely engaging; it truly changed how I see the world.

It's rather hard to not be thoroughly engaged in this class. Not only is it very interesting, but I've a feeling someone *cough* Adam *cough* would thwack any sleepy-eyed student who wasn't trying hard. In all seriousness, I'd say I spend just as much time on this class as I do my core lab.

I wanted to take this somewhat higher level class because Adam was also my professor for my freshman seminar. I was willing to (and ended up) putting a lot into this class, because it demands it. This class was far and away my hardest course, if only because it took up so much time. It was always "do the rest of my homework so that I can keep working on geo work", but I knew that going into it so I was ready.

Very high level of engagement and I took it because of the professor being good, the field trip sounding awesome, and it being a departmental. I took the course out of general interest in the subject matter. In addition i had really enjoyed a previous class with the professor. I was engaged throughout the semester, though on the problem sets i definitely didn't bring my A game, possibly due to their daunting length (but more likely due to general apathy on my part).

I wanted to take the course because I am genuinely interested in the subject matter - and certainly became more so over the course of the semester. But as my interest grew, my emotional investment in the course decreased as I became more and more overwhelmed by the workload until by the end, I realized I was not giving my all just because I couldn't bring myself to invest the time necessary to do well on the problem sets.

I took this course because I knew that it would teach me all sorts of things that will be very helpful in my future as a geologist. I would describe myself as very engaged (by a normal standard, that is - too many people in this class are super-human, making me look like a slacker in comparison).


3. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures?

Adam is a good lecturer, not the best I've seen at Princeton, but very good. I think his biggest handicap is the amount of material he has to present means lectures have to move at what sometimes seems a breakneck pace. I sometimes found myself swimming in a sea of equations just trying to keep up, and grasping for how they related to reality. That being said, my understanding usually came full circle by the end of lecture. I think one way to improve this might be too include the derivations in the lecture notes. This would allow Adam to spend more time putting the equations in context and explaining their derivation, which is what he's great at, and less time just writing. It would also let students focus on understanding the mathematics of the derivation and how what it means instead of furiously copying derivation, knowing that the derivation was in the available lecture notes for them to get later. Apart from this minor criticism, I loved lecture and was always psyched to show up and learn ten new things every day, and even more psyched to work them through on my problem sets, in the field, and in telling them to my friends.

Fabulous! The subject matter is very different from that of other classes. The processes are also on a much larger scale, both spatially and temporally, than anything I've studied before. Nevertheless, it is has been cool to see the connections between sedimentology and processes I've studied in CHE classes. Even more, as someone with a keen interest in energy and thus tangentially climate change, it has been very eye-opening to think about climate change through a geological lens. PPTs are well-organized and got even better once the slides were numbered! Annotations on some of the photos would be helpful, though (especially when we are trying to see faint stratifications).

Adam is a pretty good lecturer. The best lectures are the interpretation lectures where he shows images of structures and talks about their formations. Sometimes he (and the class) can get bogged down in derivations. Maybe it would be better to put the derivations on a note sheet and give them to us, so that we can study them on our own? They didn't really add to the class, and took up a lot of time. Aside from these, the concepts were well explained.

There were a few lectures that were very derivation heavy and not particularly useful for PSETs or EXAMs. Otherwise the visuals and lecture content were superb and the Professor made the material very accessible even for non-majors.

Professor maloof is a veritable treasure trove of information on all things geoscience. It was clear that he put a good deal of work into his lectures and it definitely paid off in terms of my understanding of the material. I think that some of the more technical lectures (thermal subsidence, flexure) could have done without the rigorous mathematical derivations. For the time commited to them it didn't seem like we were gleaning any intuition into the problem... i think at several points it would have sufficed to set up the problem then wave your hands and present the final formula and explain its significance. There were also several models and formulas presented which were explained once and then essentially abandoned without application to an actual problem. One example is the "brazil nut effect." I have have no understanding of Bagnold dispersive pressure equation.

The lectures did a good job of introducing the core concepts. I definitely felt like I understood the fundamentals by the end of the course. They did not, however, prepare for the problem sets. Because Adam was trying to cram in an enormous amount of information, he never took time during lectures to step back and put concepts into context. I suspect that this was due to a combination of being pressed for time and wanting to make the bigger connections on our own, but I always felt completely lost going into the problem sets because it was never readily apparent how to apply the information I gleaned from lecture. The problem sets were challenging enough, and something like an introduction to stratigraphy would have been immensely helpful. Also, I would have liked more practice identifying bedforms. Something like starting every class with an example of a bedform that applied to the previous day's lecture and giving the class a minute to look at it and another two minutes to discuss would have made a HUGE difference in my comfort and familiarity with extracting environmental history from rocks, which, I believe, is the goal of the course.

FAST!! fast and lots and lots of information. They were generally pretty interesting, though, and the only time when I zoned out was when we were doing endless complicated math. Also (you already know this), it was a lot better for my note-taking when there were page numbers on the slides, so make sure to keep doing that. Overall, I found the material interesting, but found that I didn't get as thorough an understanding on different topics as I would have liked all the time. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to go about fixing that with the limited time we have. Also, it would probably be better if lecture was a little more interactive. I feel like there's a lot of 'blank stare' time that went on where we didn't have any specific questions, yet were still a little uneasy with the material.

He gives lectures in a way that catches my attention. The only suggestion for him is put more staff on the slides, because personally, I found it difficult to understand the materials while busy copying notes on the blackboard.

The lectures were incredibly well organized and always very interesting. I learned a lot. The mixture of powerpoint and blackboard work was great. It is clear that Prof. Maloof spends ALOT of time on this class, and that is rare.


4. Papers, Problem Sets and Examinations

Adam's problem sets are quite possibly the best teaching instrument I've ever seen (close tie with Bill Bialek's ISC lecture notes/prototextbook). They are masterpieces, walking students from basic concepts to only slightly watered down versions of some of the most amazing conclusions in Earth history. While extremely time- consuming, after the first one I was hooked, and while it was somewhat of a relief, I was also a little bit sad when we didn't have a final problem set. I cannot stress how much I learned in completing these problem sets, they are amazing. Bravo Adam. 7 stars.

Problem sets are fun, though incredibly time-consuming. It's nice to review them in class because there's always some nuance or mini-layer that I didn't discover while doing the pset. Also, LaTeX rocks. The proposal assignment was well-specified. It was just a little difficult to handle because the scope of a sedimentology question is so much broader than the scope of any CHE question I would try to answer in a lab report. Workshopping problem sets and feedback on problem sets are definitely incredibly helpful! It would be great if all my classes gave such detailed feedback.

I'm ambivalent about the problem sets, because on one hand, they take a huge amount of time. The tide problem set in particular was legendary. I'd usually spend my entire weekend working on them, and then finish them up over the course of the week. I got them done, but my weekends were kind of dull (and predictable). On the other hand, after finishing them I always had an intimate understanding of their principles, so they did their job well. No doubt the difficulty is deliberate and self-selecting: several people dropped out after the first problem set, and probably (for them) for the better. The exams are also difficult, but fair. You're expected to know everything that he ever said or included in lectures, as well as recognizing every piece of math that ever appeared on the board or in problem sets. This practice is fair, I guess, but somewhat polarizing: either you know that salt water causes flocculation, or you don't. On the interpretation questions there's more middle ground, but you still have to be right (as far as I can tell). The project was probably the high point of the class (aside from the field trip) but, again, it will take a lot of time. Still, it's a nice culmination of work.

The PSETs were very instructional and clarified a lot of material. I think that the structure of a one box model could have been made more clear before the first PSET and also that the PSETs could be shortened. Given the high level of complexity and expectations for presentations and the fact that most students need to learn latex for the class, the PSETs, particularly the second, were excessively long. Course loads at Princeton for science students (the type of students that will take this class) are not light and the extreme amount of work involved in most of the problem sets for this class required losing sleep even with an early start and decent time management. That being said, I learned a lot of useful knowledge and skills from the PSETs. The proposal for group work was great exposure to science writing for prospective science grad students. The exams were difficult. The mid-term was more manageable than the final.

The problem sets were in general well constructed to guide the student towards an understanding of the topic. I approached most of them with a vague understanding and after having completed them things would be much clearer. It's nice to "get one's hands dirty" in a problem set. I especially appreciated the data culling and modeling aspects of the problem sets. They helped me become more acquainted with matlab, which i think will be an invaluable skill for me moving forward. The exams were for the most part fair and relevant. The final was definitely not meant to be done in 2 hours, however i was able to finish it to my satisfaction in 3. One complaint i have is that there were several questions on the midterm and final that were sheerly rote memorization, be it of a chemical formula or a word. I don't know if this is a good way to test understanding of the material... i mean, a crossword? Really adam? you're just incentivizing us to memorize words like "yardang" and "jokulhlaup". Well, i guess it worked.

WAAAAAAY too much. Yes, I have already found Latex and Matlab useful. Yes, these are tools that will prove useful to me as a student of science. But the philosophy of the problem sets seemed to be sink or swim, and most of the time I felt like I was drowning. At the beginning of the term, I felt too overwhelmed by the scope of the problem set to take advantage of Adam's offer to give group tutorial on Latex, and after that window of opportunity closed, I never found a free moment when I could make the time investment of learning how to typeset and code Matlab properly. This just made the problem sets take even longer, which made me even less willing to invest time in learning Matlab. I ended up being so overwhelmed by the quantity of output that was expected that I was able to do justice neither to the science nor to the presentation. I got much more proficient in Matlab and Latex while working on the presentation, but I don't feel entirely confident in a lot of the material covered in the problem sets just because I was so worried about being able to do everything in time. Even if I understood what the problem was asking, I rarely knew what was expected by was of an answer. For much of the class, I felt like we were given an assignment and only told what we were actually supposed to do once we had submitted out work. Telling us, for example, what we should annotate in a graph would have made everyone happier. This was particularly a problem with the project proposal. I was under the impression going in that the proposal was mostly a check-up to make sure we were doing work, so I went for quantity rather than quality. It was only when Adam went over the flaws of the proposals in class that I realized that this was intended to be more like a grant proposal.

Comments are awesome, and Adam is very helpful when you have questions to be answered. I struggled A LOT with the problem sets - mostly I think I just didn't have enough understanding of the topics to apply them effectively on my own so fast. They're great in that you learn a lot, but it's a painful process that involved a lot of me feeling lost. I LOVED the final project though (or mine, at least). We had enough guidance to start of and keep on track, but we were still able to draw our own conclusions and choose the direction we wanted to go with the topic. Now that you know what I loved, I HATED the exams. hatedhatedhated. Mostly because I find it very frustrating to study for so long and feel like I've learned so much, yet still get totally owned once I see the exam questions. I know they're designed to be hard, so that's not really a helpful criticism. sorry. If I could change one thing, I would say make the equation sheet a little more organized and straight-forward.

The problem sets helped a lot to understand the materials. And the professor graded them carefully, gave detailed feedback, correct my grammar - I am actually very grateful for that since it helps me to improve my English. And I learned new software - such as LaTex, which I am sure that will be useful in my academic study.

I had heard horror stories about the assignments for this class, and they were honestly not bad. The tides problem set was brutal, but that was the only one. Like the lectures, the problem sets were well organized and interesting . I learned a ton by doing them. My major complaint is that Prof. Maloof, I think, puts an excessive emphasis on the appearance of things. He expects his problem sets to be really, really polished - far and away more so than any other professor I have ever encountered. I understand that handing in unreadable assignments is unacceptable, but I think Prof. Maloof goes too far in his expectations. 

5. Readings

To be honest I barely read the assigned readings, usually relying on Adam's lecture notes and the notes I took in class. However, the textbook was useful come exam time as a study tool for any areas where I felt my knowledge had any holes. The prepared materials for field trips were excellent, and had obviously taken a lot of time to prepare. However, I usually found my eagerness to read them fading as the trip progressed, because Adam was such a terrific interpreter of what we saw around us. My lack of use doesn't reflect any lack of quality or utility.

The book... is very dense. I did buy it. I've read some of it. Most likely will read the rest before the final. But, honestly, the lecture notes are more helpful. The Bahamas binder was epic. Definitely helpful as a starting point, though.

I found the main course readings really dry, and ended up not doing many of them (sorry!). I suppose we'll see if that reflects in my grade, but I was able to understand the concepts when Adam explained them but not when Leeder did. I'd do a reading even after the lecture and not get anything out of it.

No complaints.

I didn't crack leeder once. maybe that's testament to the efficacy of the lectures and problem sets. or possibly it's symptomatic of my laziness.

I found Leeder good supplementary material, and great as a go-to when I needed to brush up on a derivation or for background regarding a given process, even with the supplemental readings, I felt we
didn't have readings for everything we went over in class. Particularly when studying for exams, I felt this absence pretty strongly. Either having more consistent readings or having more annotations (ahem) on lecture slides would have greatly aided me in studying.

Leeder can be way boring sometimes, and very interesting at others. I found it varied widely on the topic. A lot of the time I felt like the math we did in class was more complicated than what was explained in the text.


Spring 2009 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=10) 4.4 / 5.0
Quality of written assignments (n=10) 3.5 / 5.0
Quality of reading (n=9) 3.3 / 5.0
Overall quality of the course (n=9) 4.3 / 5.0
Hours of work outside of class 5-10 (0%) 10-15 (70%), >15 (30%)

1. Overall Quality of the course

Excellent course. I probably got more out of this course than my other three courses combined.

Great course, a lot of work. Overall very fulfilling.

Overall, this was a good course. I liked the fact that you not just gained an understanding of processes but also developed your skill/tool box. I learnt to appreciate Matlab!

Outstanding course. I'd recommend that Adam insert at least three weeks of downtime into course. There was I think one week that we did not have a pressing assignment due or an exam to study for. A little bit of freedom would allow everyone to catch up in their other classes, as well as let the material to synthesize.


2. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures?

Adam is an amazing instructor, incredibly committed to providing a broad, yet deep understanding of earth surface processes. My lecture notebook is a testament to this. My copious notes, diagrams, and formulas form a robust line of inquiry on very complex and diverse course materials. Wish I could have taken Adam's class as a freshman/sophomore undergrad would have perhaps changed my academic path.

Lectures were great and the material was presented well. Prof. Maloof did an awesome job of not only presenting his lectures in an exciting and clear way, but was able to cover a wide range of topics in a short time and for the most part still have his students retain most of that knowledge.

Lectures were fascinating. Sometimes there was such an overload of information that it was hard to impossible to take notes on everything. 

The lectures were well organized and structured. Adam often presented the information using more than one approach and gave several examples which was very helpful. I really benefitted from the figures that were drawn on the board. However, sometimes there was a bit too much information for a single lecture which caused Adam to rush.

Lectures were always well prepared and coherent. The way people were asking questions shows you were not too intimidating! Good timing between the lectures, problem sets, and field trips = well organized for sure.

Intensity of Adam is both inspiring and slightly intimidating at times. Incredibly organized and not a minute wasted. Really liked the variety of teaching techniques: Photographs, diagrams, equations, lecture. Hands on materials in the classroom would improved the already successful lectures.


3. Papers, problem sets and examinations

Problem sets were well thought out and very informative. It was nice how they gradually developed larger concepts. The length of the problem sets was sometimes out of sync with concept development, e.g. questions would build to a culminating concept but questions following this point were just pedantic.

Problem sets were long!!!!! I recorded the number of hours I spent on the second problem set (about tides): 25 hours! Although I did not always do very well on them, I learned a lot from the problem sets.

The problem sets were interesting and worthwhile, but very long and work intensive. I always despised them while working on them. Then, upon completion, I would step back and realize they were actually pretty neat. The professor was great about written comments, etc.

Adam gave clear instructions for all the written work. However, little/no help was provided for the problem sets. This caused people to meet and work together on difficult questions - often a good thing. The problem sets were well constructed. However, some were ridiculously long. Many were handed in incomplete. This is a shame because often the final questions were the most interesting but could not be completed without finishing the previous questions first.

Adam was brutally honest at times, holding us to the same expectations he applies to himself and left us feeling like no matter what we tried to improve it never worked. Maybe wording is key. But in general he was very attentive to detail, which is good.

The problem sets, exams and projects were very challenging and required deep interaction with the course material. That being said Adam has a tendency towards excess, problem sets often consumed too much time for me to consider them in full and the five assignments (paper, presentation, poster, exam, and field notebook) due during finals/papers week was certainly too much for any class, undergraduate graduate or otherwise. Despite the excessive nature of the assignments, I rate the work very highly because of the carefully crafted nature of each assignment, and the assignment's ability to enhance understanding of the course materials.

4. Readings

The textbook is more than decent. A useful thing to help students work on it would be to add the numbers of Leeder pages that relate to some of your lecture slides. Question : how many students really read the suggested readings ? Personally, although highly motivated, I got so absorbed by the problem sets that the readings often were reported to later, later being the WEE just before the exam.

The book was appropriate.

Readings from Leeder were interesting but sometimes dense, bordering on incomprehensible at times.

Good complements for class topics and great reference.

Great readings: in text, supplemental field trip packets, and outside papers were helpful in providing understanding a context for Adam's lectures. Will keep all readings for reference in the future.


Spring 2007 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=7) 4.9 / 5.0
Quality of written assignments (n=7) 4.3 / 5.0
Quality of reading (n=7) 3.4 / 5.0
Overall quality of the course (n=7) 4.7 / 5.0
Hours of work outside of class 5-10 (14%), 10-15 (57%), >15 (29%)

1. Overall Quality of the course

It's hard to assign GEO 450 a grade. On one hand, it's a comprehensive survey of sedimentation, glaciation, stratigraphy, hydrology, erosion, tides and miscellaneous rapid-fire planetary knowledge from the turbocharged brain Prof. Adam Maloof that never bores and is often "fascinating" (one of Maloof's choice epithets). On the other hand, this course ate a three month period of my life like a total eclipse at sygyzy. Caveat emptor. The most obvious hook of GEO 450 is the 10-day Bahamas expedition, the crown jewel in an ambitious fieldwork schedule. Prospective students must understand this is not Saved by the Bell: Andros Vacation, but a working research trip on an open question in sedimentology that involves 12-hour workdays and wilderness camping. If (and only if) you love the outdoors, this week will be one of the highlights of your time at Princeton. The fieldwork component is tightly integrated into the curriculum, so be prepared to take notes and ask questions. If it happened on Earth within the past 4 billion years, chances are excellent Maloof has encyclopedic knowledge of the dynamical processes involved, not to mention a strong and/or contrarian opinion on the issue. This overwhelming enthusiasm for the subject material extends to lectures, which are generally well-organized, fast-paced and supplemented by numerous visuals. While a background in differential calculus (or MATLAB) is helpful, it is not necessary as Maloof thankfully takes care to simplify the occasional derivation.

The weaknesses of the class are a question of scope, not content. I would classify the workload of the course as excessive: both mid-term and final exams, four monster problem sets, a "publication-quality" group term paper stemming from fieldwork, a 30-minute presentation of this research, all on top of 19 days on the road. It would have been exhausting even if 450 was the only class I was taking. Problem sets took 15-20 hours to complete and could be frustratingly open-ended, though on the plus side this will result in your classmates becoming your second family sometime around 4 AM. Maloof has little sympathy for outside commitments, and even a group plea for extra time on one particularly nettlesome deadline was denied.

Still, GEO 450 is an adventure in the classical sense: a true voyage of discovery, packed with heartbreak and triumph. It's easily the most epic class at Princeton, which makes up for a lot. I would enthusiastically recommend it for any experienced student of the physical sciences, so long as you understand the blood, sweat, tears and time involved. Only schedule this class if you are willing to make it a priority.


My favourite course at Princeton so far. Otherwise known as "Maloof's course" as it was impossible for us to separate the course from the professor.

The course is very (read: Very) comprehensive, covers a lot of ground and does not focus too much on any single subject. It does a good job presenting all the issues from a fundamental level upwards, and you can come into this course having no previous experience in geology whatsoever. At the end of the course you will have a broad image of topics such as surface processes, geology, earth's geological history, the drug history of the Bahamas, to name just a few.

A big part of the course is centered around the week-long field trip to the Bahamas. Warning: It is not a tourist trip, and in fact it goes to probably the one island in the Bahamas that has almost zero tourism and no palm trees. It does however give you a good introduction into authentic/original field work, with everything that implies:
- unlike a regular class field trip, no one can tell you wether your assumptions about a particular geological processes are correct.
- (a.k.a.)you will be doing original research, collecting original data, analyizing and drawing your own conclusions.
- hauling large and expensive equipment that will sometimes break down; wading through kneed deep mud; sleeping in tents (through which it might or might not rain), working sunrise to sunset. -You will either hate or love this trip. Probably love it by the end.

The course load is significant, however bear in mind it is a 400 level course. The workload is comparable to a 300 or 400 level physics course, but not more then that. (I know I've spent many more all-nighters on E&M and the Physics Death-Lab then GEO 450). It is probably more work and at a more physically and mathematicall rigurous level then most other courses in the Geo Department.

Word for the wise: The assingments are over periods of two weeks. Treat them as such.

The only place where the course does seem to come tumbling down upon you is at the end of the semester when you have a final exam, a final paper consisting of original research, an oral presentation, and another small paper or two.

Because of its broad scope, more similar to an intro course in geology, and the level at which the material is presented, worthy of a 400 level course, GEO 450 has the feeling of an introductory grad course.

Take it if you are serious about and want a good and scientifically rigurous introduction to Earth processes.


Both Adam and the course material asks for a lot of effort, motivation, and drive for knowledge from the student, so if you lack any of these qualities, think twice about taking the course. If you do not put the effort forward, not only will you fall short in the course expectations, but you and your classmates will be disappointed to miss the opportunity to explore cutting edge research on the geomorphological earth processes. As stated in another review, do not take this course if you are looking for a free trip to the Bahamas - take it because you are excited about the subject matter, the field work, and the opportunity to do research.

This course demanded a lot of the students, but provided them with a unique experience and even bonded them in a way that you rarely see in Princeton courses. If you are looking for a course that can teach you research skills, allows you to work hands on in the field, is scientific and technical, and prepares you for advanced study in the sciences, this course may just be for you. It is one, if not the only course, that I can walk away from knowing that despite receiving some lower grades on problem sets and tests, I worked extremely hard and was challenged, and at the end of the day, am really proud of what the class had accomplished together. If you do decide to take this course, set aside a lengthy amount of time for this course every week. It deserves a large amount of attention, so try not to pack your schedule with other extremely demanding courses as well. Be sure to start problem sets early because even if they look simple, they will take a long time. Use Adam as a resource. He knows a lot about a lot so don't hesitate to use his office hours/meet with him.


Don't take this course just because you want to go to The Bahamas. There are several other courses in the GEO department that will give you the chance to travel without too much academic headache. Take this course because you are interested in the subject matter, which is fascinating. More than any other GEO course, "Earth Surface Processes" provides a comprehensive introduction to the world of geophysical processes and the cutting edge methods being used to research these processes. This course is time-consuming and challenging, though I'm guessing that expectations for workload will probably become a bit more reasonable based on the complaints of students in the inaugural year. The problem sets are very long and often somewhat repetitive. The tests require a lot of preparation but are actually quite fun, requiring quite a bit of critical thinking and application of just about everything you've learned. The central focus of the class is the Bahamas trip, and you will be doing real research, including the mundane aspects of data analysis and the frustrations of learning to use computer software such as GIS. Andros Island in the Bahamas is a wonderful place, and the research site is ideal for studying geomorphological processes. Overall, this course is a great preparation if you are considering graduate study in geology or related fields, as it provides you with great research experience backed by wide-ranging knowledge. If you're serious about geology then you must take this course. Just be prepared to work hard!

This course provided me with a unique and essential perspective on geophysical processes that I had not found in other GEO department courses. The lectures and the reading really got at the fundamental physical, biological, and chemical processes behind geomorphology and the study of earth history. Unlike most professors who specialize in great depth on one subject, Adam Maloof is a generalist who can speak on just about any subject, and he has the rare ability to integrate knowledge from just about any scientific discipline or subdiscipline. This is extremely valuable when studying a subject such as "Earth Surface Processes" which is inherently multidisciplinary.