Professors are hit-and-miss at research universities. Sometimes you’ll get a Nobel Laureate who’s the world’s leading expert on quantum chromodynamics but can’t spell the word “orange,” and sometimes you’ll be stuck with a “great lecturer” who doesn’t seem to know any of the required material themselves. Below you will find a carefully assembled list of five professors whose classes you should actively seek out, just for the experience of taking a class with said professor.
1. Professor Edward Frenkel, mathematics:
Notable classes: Math 53 – Multivariable Calculus
Reader, how could we write a list of top professors at Berkeley without mentioning this guy? Professor Frenkel is a Mathematical genius, and he is super nice as a person. Some people might find him hard to follow during lecture, but that’s because he is very passionate about the subject and wants to explain everything from his perspective. Students complain because the material is hard but other than that he’s an excellent professor.
2. Professor Dan Garcia, computer science:
Notable classes: CS10 – The Beauty and Joy of Computing and CS61A
Dan Garcia’s CS10 class is widely regarded as one of the most fun classes an undergrad can take. It provides practical knowledge of computers—although it’s really baby programming—with an enthusiastic instructor. The problem with Garcia lies in the fact that Garcia makes people like programming. Rather, he makes people think they like programming, when in reality, they know too little about it to make heads or tails of the real CS major. He also makes CS sound like fun. And let’s face it. CS is anything but fun.
3. Professor Alex Filippenko, astronomy:
Notable class: Astro C10 – Introduction to General Astronomy
Professor Filippenko is consistently voted best professor on campus by students. He dresses up like a black hole for Halloween and throws candy to his students. Here are some comments students have to make about him:
“He is incredibly respected in his field, obviously cares for his students, and delivers enthusiastic lectures that are succinct and well organized. Midterms were both pretty easy; Final was a bit more tricky but the curve made up for it. An A was definitely achievable, but be prepared to work for it! Lectures are course-captured; DO NOT get behind!”
4. Professor Steven Goldsmith, English:
Notable class: English C107 – The Bible as Literature
Goldsmith is everything anybody could want in an English professor, except for the British accent. And he doesn’t wear as much tweed as one would hope. And he doesn’t smoke a pipe. Everything else, though, he’s got. If the only things you require in an English professor are those three things, then meeting him will be awkward. But not as awkward as David having to bring Saul the foreskins of a hundred Philistines in order to marry Michal! And that’s the kind of stuff you can learn about in Goldsmith’s English C107 class, The English Bible as Literature. This class could easily devolve into a debate-heavy, cringe-inducing hour of talk, but Professor Goldsmith’s cool demeanor lends itself to an awesome classroom experience where everybody is too busy being enraptured by his non-English accent to even check Facebook.
5. Professor Yun Song, statistics and computer science:
Notable class: Statistics 134 – Concepts of Probability
Taking a class with Professor Song is kind of like sky-diving, mostly in the sense that in both situations you’re likely to be scared for your life. Professor Song’s classes are known for their difficulty, and students have to be either incredibly brave or a little bit masochistic. The only real reason to take a class with Professor Song is to feel as if you’ve earned that you belong at UC Berkeley. That, and you’ll get to feel much smarter than everybody else who took the class with another professor. In his class, students worship at two altars: the altar of logic and the altar of partial credit.
These guys should be top priority for registration. And if for nothing else, sometimes you just want a professor that is easy going and interesting!