Even to a first year, it’s obvious that McGill has many wonderful professors. Your profs will make you laugh and your profs will make you cry. They’ll inspire you, then make you wish textbooks were just a bad nightmare and that midterms never existed. Over your college career, you will inevitably meet a variety of professors, each with a different style. Compiled below is a list of the seven types you might encounter, and how to make the most of your time in their class.
1. The Tech Savvy One
She says “LOL” and “BTdubs” while she posts her latest lecture reflection on Twitter with appropriate and witty hashtags. Sometimes, you think she’s way too awesome to be stuck teaching a bunch of tired university students on a Monday morning. She’ll wake you up better than an ice water bucket and Sunday breakfast. As Samuel Zhai (U1 Microbiology) notes, this professor doesn’t have to be someone young: “The physiology professor is, what, like 60 years old? And she still makes good jokes and ‘gets’ teenage talk!”
Tip – Embrace technology – especially when your professor is open to introducing so many new apps and sites for the course. R and computer graphics software might save you, someday.
2. The Hipster
He shows cartoons of cats and kids as he sets up before the lecture. If you didn’t know better, you would think he was one of the students. He even dresses in laid-back jeans and sneakers, but this prof doesn’t need fashion to make a statement. You never thought you would ever hear a professor (specifically Prof. Thomas Bureau in BIOL 200) say “it’s like molecular twerking or something”, but now that you’ve met The Hipster, you know it can happen. Joy Tseng told me, “In the middle of CHEM 203, the professor took off his shirt to prove his point. He was wearing a chem logo shirt under explaining bond formation.” Actions definitely speak louder than words, as Christian Favreau (U1 English Literature) notes: “My philosophy professor wanted to make the case that we have free will, so he just left the class and never came back. Even the mic was left on.”
Tip – Get to know your professor more, especially if you can ask questions without being intimidated. Be warned: lots of students might also try to cozy up to this professor for reference letters, so try to stand out.
3. The Researcher
You know who I’m talking about. She can go on and on, making what was basic genetics turn into a grand cosmic mystery. Her discussions are always open-ended, encouraging you to explore and make your own judgments. When you leave her class, your brain hurts; however, you feel somewhat fulfilled after a session with her. Not that you would ever admit that.
Tip – Prepare and pre-read for the lectures so that you can at least try and understand her tangents. Bonus points if you can come up with challenging questions to ask the professor on the subject of her new research . She’ll probably appreciate the effort.
4. The Foreign Prof
“The MATH 140 professor’s German accent is awesome!” Anthea Bu (U0 Science) told me. This prof, like others in the “Foreign Prof” category, has the best accent you’ve ever heard; hopefully, it doesn’t stop you from understanding the lecture. Even if the foreign professor drops in strange words that make you stumble through half a dozen dictionaries before you even figure out what language he was speaking, his tales of unsupervised research in other countries make up for the inconvenience. As he goes on about that time his graduate student tried to mouth pipette concentrated sulfuric acid next to a mini fridge of cell culture and last lab meeting’s snack (as well as beer, for good measure), you are hit with an urge to travel and see the craziness of his stories first-hand. Time to check out some exchange programs!
Tip – Learn as much about other cultural perspectives from this professor as possible. Sometimes solutions are really just about looking at a problem from a different angle.
5. The Nobel Laureate, Research Council Coordinator, and Hockey Star Dr. Smith
You’ve never seen an auditorium that packed for a morning class before. It’s like going to a One Direction concert. There is probably even a mosh pit in the front because the auditorium doesn’t have enough seats for all the students and visitors. He talks like the speakers on TED, and you leave the lecture hall feeling humble and ready to take on the world, all at once. His life story makes you want to simultaneously join the circus as an acrobat, cure cancer, and take up war photojournalism.
Tip – Let the professor inspire you, but not intimidate you. Just because you haven’t done x number of things doesn’t mean you won’t one day be successful in your own way.
6. The Math Genius
You know the scene in Good Will Hunting (NB: link includes profanity) where the janitor sneaks up to the chalkboard, takes a look at a complex math function and then solves it at turbo speed? Well, your genius math professor is like that. He probably even beat the graphing calculator to finding a solution. When you ask how he got from point a to b, he replies, “It’s trivial,” before elaborating with one more step. His methods don’t always make sense, but he can solve anything and everything, which, as Anthea points out, is “kinda nerdy, but the way he’s into math, it’s hot.” After a couple months in his class, you begin eyeing his water bottle and lunch bag to check if he’s even human. Anything is possible…
Tip – Ask questions when you are confused. Chances are if you didn’t understand how the professor got from the first step to the second, your classmates are lost too.
7. The Best Friend
This is the kind of professor who gets what it’s like to be a student. and will always make an effort to “put as much as you put into the course.” (Jasmine Li-Brubacher, U1 Life Sciences). She gives extensions, talks to you individually about problems and helps you on your confused career path. The last time the class failed a quiz, she brought home-made mini-cupcakes, coffee, and review sets to the TA conference. She’s the one you go to talk about your struggles through first year, your abysmal MCAT score, and your lost feelings about what you want to do in life; as Maxime Lemieux (U1 Microbiology) observes, “The way she talks to you, it doesn’t feel like a lecture.”
Tip – Take advantage early on of the fact that you can relate to this professor. You never know when you might need a mentor or someone to put in a good word for you, so keep the relationship going even after you complete her course.