Flyby Investigates: What is LS50?

By Sruthi Lekha Muluk

Harvard loves its acronyms, and names of classes are no exception: PS1, LPSA, LS1A, CS50, ES50 . . . the list goes on. But who knows about LS50? Is this a new merger between LPSA and LS1A because we didn’t have enough students in pre-med already? Is this EC10’s new method of trying to rebound from the popularity of CS50? Flyby reporters went on a mission to discover the truth.

As it turns out, LS50 is a year-long double course, taking up two class slots per semester freshman year. That’s right, for anyone taking 4 classes each semester, LS50 is literally half their schedule this year because who needs sleep, right? The course is limited to only 25 guinea pigs--we mean students--but Mary E. Wahl, a college fellow who instructs in the course, said that she and her colleagues are looking to expand the course to more students in the future. Students work in lab and also are aiming to produce “novel work” in the course that can lead to future publications. We don't know about you, but we think most Harvard students should aim to have at least one publication by the time they are nineteen. Right?

The class meets every weekday for 1.5 hours, has two 3-hour lab sessions (which will get reduced to one 3-hour lab every week after a while), one 1-hour section every week, and for the first month, a 5-hour lab on Saturdays. If you’re in Math 55 you’ll know that amounts to 19.5 hours a week in the initial weeks of the course, not even counting the time needed for homework and studying. Talk about dedication to science! Most people can’t bring themselves to show up to their 1-hour, no homework seminar. The syllabus has been planned for the entire year, and it amounts to roughly 125 lectures. One student, Audrey H. Effenberger ‘19, spoke to us about how the course was markedly different than her high school biology courses because it was less about memorizing facts and more about how everything fits together.

Luckily, after interviewing students and faculty, we determined that all parties involved are thoroughly enjoying the class and don’t consider it to be a burden on their time. Jett P. Crowdis ‘19 said that he is mostly taking a class for a challenge. When asked what the most rewarding and challenging parts of the course were, Daniel Shen ‘19 said, “the most challenging part might be the most rewarding part” highlighting that although this course is a tough one, the students wouldn’t want it any other way because it’s Harvard.

While Saturday labs from 1 - 6 may sound daunting to the rest of us, they are apparently one of the things the students love most about the course. Two of them spoke about the bonding time they have with their peers in those sessions, and said that it’s been a lot of fun. We have yet to determine whether this constitutes an exclusive enough group to create a new Finals Club. If it does, we think it should be called The Final FINAL club: LS50.

Of course, there are some inevitable difficulties in this great endeavor. Crowdis ‘19 mentioned that connecting different ideas from lecture and checking for understanding might be challenging. However, even though there is a lot of material, “the professor are doing an excellent job doing it,” providing outlines and conveying ideas through the class or the TFs. Effenberger ‘19 also commented, saying that “pacing on some of the topics could be improved."

Students uniformly said they wanted to take the course because of an already-present interest in the sciences, and they were intrigued by the integrated, multi-disciplinary aspect of the course. #LiberalArts

Demystifying LS50 convinces us that this course is overall very cool; everyone involved is enthusiastic and excited, and thoroughly dedicated to teaching and learning about science. Rock on, LS50!

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