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GEO/CEE 373 (Spring ’11(8) & ’13)

Professors: Adam C. Maloof and B. Schoene


An introduction to the physics and geometry of brittle and ductile deformation in Earth’s crust. We consider deformation at scales from atomic to continental, in the context of mountain building, rifting, and the origin of topography. Weekend Field Trips: Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York.

Spring 2010-2011 Student Evaluations

Quality of lecture (n=10)  4.67
Quality of written assignments (n=10)  3.33
Quality of reading (n=9)  4
Overall quality of the course (n=9)  3.83

1. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures? Please comment, as appropriate, on how well the instructor presented the subject matter, stimulated your intellectual curiosity and independent thinking, and contributed to your knowledge of the subject matter.

The hallmark of GEO 373 was the quality of the lectures. Blair and Adam are the best that the GEO department has to offer in terms of undergraduate teaching. The lectures were concise, to the point, and well thought out. I wish more undergraduate courses could have professors this engaged.

The history of the Appalachians was possibly my favorite lecture I've ever had. Plus Adam's usually a pretty good lecturer in general. Very enthusiastic.

Adam was very engaging and made concepts clear generally. There were sometimes where I felt like he was going too fast through material and I could have used a bit of reiteration to make sure the concept sank in.

Lecture slides had too many words often copied and pasted from Fossen, which was distracting. Gave every student Stockholm's syndrome. Very helpful with questions. Extremely intense. Prepares lectures very well.

Adam is THE MOST INTENSE man I have ever met. There is absolutely nothing mediocre or moderate about Adam Maloof. It must be great to be Adam Maloof, because then you'd be awesome at life...and you'd win. I deeply respect Adam, but a part of me also fears him. I am always scared that I will disappoint him by not living up to his high standards. I suppose it's understandable for him to have high standards; since he is so effortlessly awesome at life, he expects perfection. However, I don't think I could ever quite reach Adam perfect. I tried this semester, but I don't think I succeeded. Of course I will continue to endeavor to reach the Adam ideal. Adam is a great lecturer. He always spoke very clearly and presented the subject matter well. I always enjoyed his lectures and I felt that I understood the material well when he covered it. Adam answered questions thoroughly and although I did fear him a little, he was actually quite approachable. He was always happy to meet to discuss any questions I had and he was not condescending. Adam is a great professor and you will learn a lot from him.

Adam is a really good lecturer. Not only are the lectures well-presented, but they also have a habit of being a bit like a story: by the end of the class, we understand something fundamental in a clear way that we didn't before. Rather than just providing information, Adam's lectures seem to open new realms of interesting study. After Adam's lectures, I usually find myself thinking that I want to focus on that topic for the rest of my career (until, of course, the next lecture rolls around). Because his focus is sedimentology, the structural study was a little sediment-heavy, but that's somewhat to be expected given how close structure and sedimentology are.

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

I took this course because it is fundamental to an undergraduate GEO degree. I would say that I was pretty engaged for the course.

I took this course because I want to be a geologist, which means I need to know structural geology.
General interest in structural geology.

Geosciences concentrator

I took this course because I thought the topic would be interesting. I had no idea what lay in store for me. No one had really prepared me for Adam and Blair. Apparently it is clear to all the undergraduates in the Geoscience department that there are two scales of difficulty, there is difficult and then there is Adam & Blair difficult. I was not aware of this distinction. I attended all the lectures and labs. I spent 90% of my time this semester on this course. 10% of my time was spent for my 3 other courses, eating, sleeping, showering, laundry, & talking to friends and family. I dedicated my life to Structural Geology. I suspended my social life and lived in Guyot. The lab reports and the final project represent my Spring semester. I gave it my all and I did the best I could.

I'm majoring in geosciences, and I've wanted to learn structural geology for a while. Understanding that this class was being co-taught by Adam Maloof, I went into it prepared that this would be my primary class, and this approach let me do very well and learn a lot (though possibly at the expense of my other classes).

3. Please comment on the guidance of the instructor(s) in preparing you to do written work, comments in response to written work, and the overall value of the papers, reports, exams, and problem sets to the course.

The problem sets for GEO 373 were also well put together and often highlighted a single important concept or skill from the curriculum. My only critique is that the problem sets could be excessively long, not because the questions were exceptionally difficult but because of the expectations for formatting. Ultimately, formatting and creating computer graphics took longer than answering the questions themselves. I think if the problem sets were shorter, the students would feel less stressed, do a better job formatting, and do higher quality work.

Actually, I thought most of the psets were pretty good. soooooooooooooooo loooooooooooooooooooong, but good. They were difficult, but not like "Kill me now, I can't do any of this" sedimentology difficult. Just uber challenging. Exams......meh.

The labs were time-consuming, excessively long and difficult, and nearly drove me to insanity on many occasions (read: nearly every week). Looking back on the labs, they definitely were good applications of the material we studied in class, but they did not need to be nearly as long as they were. I often felt like I was completing three lab reports in one assignment and not entirely sure what I was learning. Methods for completing analysis of data needed to be better outlined because I am still trying to learn how to be a geoscientist. I often felt completely in the dark, even after seeking help. I felt overwhelmed by some tasks in the lab reports and found it impossible to be as neurotic as I usually am with my assignments because attempting to do a perfect lab (with the standards of this class) in one week was simply not feasible.

Guidance was a bit weak for the final projects. Needs to make more clear guidelines (examples: many were not aware that partial credit could be awarded on multiple choice in exams, there was no example of a poster/Powerpoint on Blackboard, many lecture slides were difficult to open).

Structural Geology lab reports took over my life this semester. My entire existence revolved around Structural Geology, especially the lab reports. It was all I ever did and I did learn a lot from them. The questions on the labs were interesting and it's clear that Adam and Blair spent a lot of time preparing them; however, they were quite long. I also got the feeling that the lectures were supplementary to the labs, when usually it should be the other way around. I think the problem sets did a great job of teaching me a set of skills, but not necessarily the material. The lab reports did not cover all the subject matter we learned in class -- which is understandable -- but I suppose I felt there was a slight disconnect between the lectures/exams and the lab reports. I think the final exam worked to bridge that gap, given that the final exam did concentrate a lot on demonstrating this skill set. However, I expected that the final exam would test concepts we learned during lecture and focus less on the skills, which is perhaps why I did poorly on the final. I think there could be more of a balance between emphasis on the material and emphasis on the lab reports. Overall, the lab reports were well organized, interesting, and thought-provoking; even if they were a little long. The exams were fair, but I was never really sure what to expect. I think it would have really helped if Blair & Adam posted example text questions or even a list of topics or concepts that we should definitely review for the exam.

(Problem sets covered in lab section.) The exams and projects were fair and comprehensive. I never found myself completely at a loss as to the answer of some question on an exam, and usually the exercises were interesting. The projects were a little less interesting, possibly because we didn't have very much time, both during the trips themselves and afterward. I think in future years this class will go somewhere during the break, which will be a better way of conducting research, in my opinion, when we're not worrying about work from other classes over a short weekend.

4. Please comment on the quality of the readings in the course. Did the readings present the subject matter clearly? To what extent did the readings stimulate your intellectual curiosity and independent thinking?

The textbook was great.

I'm a fan of Fossen, apart from the whole falling apart thing. I also found the supplementary readings extremely helpful, especially for stereonets and cross sections.

With the lab reports, I quickly found it impossible to keep up with readings. So, besides my Fossen completely falling apart circa week 2, I really can't comment on the text. Okay, maybe it was a little dense.

The lack of practice problems in the text was disappointing. The book also fell apart in our hands. However, it illustrated concepts well and provided a multitude of illustrations to help guide us. Would definitely recommend continuing the use of this text so long as the manufacturer steps up and binds these books with proper glue. The reading supplemented the course well, but as I said before, I don't think it was really emphasized in the class. Structural Geology revolved around the labs, understanding them and completing them. I think the reading fell by the wayside.

The readings were rather dispensable: I always find that I learn more by listening to lecture than reading from the textbook. I didn't do most of them, and when I did, I skimmed so that I'd know the key words for the next lecture. Also, the books fell apart, which was kind of funny and sad at the same time.

5. Overall Quality of the Course

Please comment on the overall quality of the course. What worked particularly well and in what ways might the course be improved?

One of the best courses that I have taken at Princeton. The expectations are very high, which can be both good and bad.

It's hard but also very rewarding.

Fun times with trips and learning out in the field, but the coursework was needlessly painful and still makes me cringe. If that had been more manageable, it would have been a decently challenging course on its own.

The course needs more emphasis on actual concepts of structural geology and less on the aesthetics of lab reports. A huge chunk of my time was spent making things look "nice" when I could have used the time to read the texts to cement the material in my mind. Labs took too long to complete because of the need to make figures publication quality. Every week was spent trying to get a good grade on labs rather than actually learning the material. At the end of the course after the final project presentations I personally felt completely burnt out and sick of geology. My interest in the subject completely vanished for a few days. Furthermore I did not feel like I had learned much given the amount of work I put into the class. All I know is that a course that takes away the enjoyment of a subject you are quite fond of definitely needs reworking. Make the labs shorter and more efficient. Do not make the labs tedious, like many of them were. We understand that treating every problem set as a "research" endeavor is nice, but it really takes away from learning the foundations of structural geology. It is first important to learn the fundamentals and to know them well. Learning other tools is secondary and can be learned at a later time.

Overall I thought the course was run very well and I enjoyed taking the class. I appreciated all of Adam and Blair's help throughout the semester. They promptly answered emails and were very approachable. They always met with me if I had any questions on the problem sets or the material. They never seemed annoyed with me. I did learn a lot this semester and it was an enlightening experience. It was so much work, but it was also a lot of fun.

I took this course with the expectation that it would be the high point of my semester, and I was not disappointed. I've come to expect a level of closeness and enthusiasm from geo professors, as well as a satisfaction from their courses, which this class filled admirably. Because it was their first time teaching the class, the curriculum was maybe not as cohesive as it would be if the class was well-established, but I learned a lot and enjoyed myself doing it, and I can't really ask for more from a course.