The best first-year courses: SEAS edition

To read our list of the best intro courses for Columbia College students, click here.

For some students, choosing a first semester of college classes is a rite of passage. Will you take a course in the appreciation of wines or ancient Tibetan? For SEAS students, the question becomes, “Which will cause me the least pain—Intensive Chemistry or General? Honors Math or Accelerated Physics?” The difficulty of SEAS is that most of your courses from now until you graduate will be predetermined. But never fear. We at Spectrum have the course list to make sure your first year at SEAS leaves you coming back for more. Like some weight loss plans, this list of courses is guaranteed to be pain-free. Mostly.

This list obviously isn’t comprehensive, so if you have any more suggestions for great first-year courses, leave them in the comments!

The Art of Structural Design with George Deodatis
This one is all through hearsay, as civil engineering is not my calling. However, if you think it might be, this is definitely the class for you.  By all accounts, Deodatis is engaging, clear, and wholeheartedly dedicated to his students. A friend described this class to me as the reason he and many others in his field can say they chose civil engineering. As of right now, Deodatis is one of the only engineering professors to boast a gold nugget superlative on CULPA.

Introduction to Thermodynamics with Emlyn Hughes
Emlyn Hughes—best known for removing his clothes in front of a Frontiers of Science lecture (seen above) full of first-years while trying to demonstrate the overarching principles of quantum mechanics—also happens to be one of the best professors I’ve had in a large lecture. Hughes is engaging, to say the least, and he presents the material clearly, which is by far the most desirable trait in a SEAS professor.

Calculus III with Jennifer Hom
Even in her first ever Calculus III lecture, Jennifer Hom was a shining star.  Ever adorable, organized, and clear, Hom makes the inner workings of multivariate calculus seem easy. If you have to take Calc III—which you do—take it with Hom.

Introduction to Computer Science for Engineers/Applied Scientists – Python with Adam Cannon
Yeah, I know Adam Cannon already has a spot on the list of best CC intro courses, but that doesn’t mean engineers can’t enjoy him, too. This class, taught in Python and designed for future engineers scientists, is very accommodating to those with little programming experience. Said by some to be “easier” than Java, Python is less centered around programming and is more geared toward the basics of algorithmic problem-solving. Python was a unique course in that the principles I learned were a) completely new to me and b) actually stayed with me after I walked out of the final. And Cannon dedicates himself to making the course as enriching as possible. His famous brain teasers will stick with you long after class ends.

Judo with Yoichiro Matsumura
Surprise! The key to a successful semester in SEAS is dedicated, mandatory time to do something unrelated to engineering. Matsumura is an incredible instructor and mentor. You will leave this class with a new set of useful skills and with your sanity.

In your first year of college, you will feel lost. You will feel confused, and you will undoubtedly question your insane decision to pursue engineering. But when you feel that way, remember that everyone else is just as new to this as you. Take time for yourself. Order Insomnia Cookies. Leave Morningside Heights every now and then and don’t forget to shower. You’ll be fine.

Oh, and welcome to Columbia. 


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