FRS 171 and 187 Earth's Environments and Ancient Civilizations

Professors: Adam C. Maloof and Frederik J. Simons

In this Freshman Seminar, students learn how to make geological and geophysical field observations, then analyze and model the data to shed light on the interplay between active tectonic landscapes, changing climate, and ancient civilizations. During the fall-break students visit sites of geological and archaeological significance on Cyprus and collect material for subsequent analysis and presentation. Scientific writing is an integral part of this seminar and its assessment. The field trip is mandatory. All expenses are covered by the University, the Geosciences Department, and a donation by Richard L. Smith ‘70.

Fall 2013 Student Evaluations

1. Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?

Class discussion was incredible, and student participation was really the focus of the class.

Class discussion is always very intriguing because it's very easily applicable to the present. I felt I gained much from both lectures and Matlab sessions in class. The amount of material was usually pretty overwhelming, but the professors are very helpful.

Both professors actually know how to lecture a class and put together a powerpoint. In class labs were engaging.

This class was absolutely amazing! A ton of work, but work that is well worth your time if you are planning to be an engineer or researcher. Discussions and student participation are off the chart awesome and stimulating.

Class discussion was excellent. We considered broad questions of how the earth changed over time and drew conclusions from our observations. Although not all of the students participated, it seemed like everyone was engaged in the discussions.

Students were always encouraged to participate and present their ideas. This definitely helped e to learn more in this class, as it allowed me to form my own hypotheses on certain things.

The way this seminar was taught and structured was close to perfection. It covered a broad range of topics and presented detailed histories and scientific backgrounds for all of the research topics we would be studying in the class. It truly was a model of a perfect class. Extensive learning was achieved.

2. Seminars are taught by a variety of methods. In your opinion, was the presentation of the material appropriate to the subject matter of the seminar?

Frederik and Adam are fantastic lecturers and generally great people.

I thought that the lectures in this class were amazing. Adam and Frederik are definitely the best lecturers that I have experienced at Princeton so far. I learned so much from every lecture, and the way that they presented the material was very engaging.

3. Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments. Did you receive helpful criticism? Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills?

This seminar certainly improved my writing skills, maybe even more than the writing seminar.

This class is a lot of work. Sometimes (most of the time) it felt overwhelming. That being said, I can't even be to explain how much I've learned in this class. From matlab to latex to arcgis to just general science writing, m communication and analysis skills have improved exponentially. Adam and Frederik's feedback was always honest and I knew that when I got positive feedback from them it was because I had truly done well.

Criticism was amazingly helpful. I have become a much better scientific writer and know how to better support my argument with quantitative data rather than qualitative reasoning.

This seminar definitely improved my writing skills. My research and Matlab skills improved a lot, and my LaTeX skills came into existence. I learned how to write scientifically, research scientifically, and support my argument logically. Criticism on my papers, while extensive, was very helpful and the chance for a redux was always much appreciated.

There was a lot of writing in this course, and it was tough to keep up with a lab or paper due every week. However, the criticism was very helpful and I am now a much better scientific writer. I am sure these skills will be valuable in the future.

The criticism seemed overly harsh at first, but I definitely cannot deny that I have gotten better at scientific writing. The writing assignments often kept me up all night as they tended to be pretty lengthy, but there was definitely guidance.

I always received helpful and extensive feedback within a week of the due date. At first I was overwhelmed with the amount of feedback, but after a little while I got used to it and learned to appreciate it. The seminar greatly improved my scientific writing skills. I can now express myself logically and concisely.

4. Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar.


The field trip to Cyprus was spectacular, and the various other labs that we were assigned helped us to learn skills important to the class. The work was cumulative and definitely paved a path to the final project.

Cyprus was a fantastic trip. I am so close to my classmates, both because we all nearly died together and because we spent lots of time together during the trip and outside of it.

I loved the trip to cyprus; it was honestly an experience I will never forget. Beyond it simply being a fun trip, what I learned on the trip truly transformed the way I see the world around me. As I learned more about each rock formation we visited, I could feel my view of the landscape changing; rocks that had just been indistinguishable grey blobs became something exciting and new. Instead of just seeing the natural world and not thinking about it, I learned to observe and question what I saw around me. At the end of the trip, I felt like I'd been given a new pair of glasses; I could see a layer of the world that I'd never known was there before. I wouldn't trade that experience for all the matlab struggles in the world.

The trip to Cyprus absolutely made the class for me. Not only did I learn so much, but I was able to get to know other people and explore the world. The trip was a life changing experience.

THE BEST EVER. I loved the labs, especially the observation ones, but also the GPS one and choosing which aspect to analyze, and the West Windsor field one was just so cool. Need I even mention Cyprus? It was so amazing and I learned so much by living and breathing geology for a week. As far as special opportunities go, Monday lunches were a lovely chance to ask questions and just get to know everyone else.

The research trip in Cyprus was an amazing experience. It was definitely worth giving up fall break to travel to a beautiful country and gain experience conducting field work. The assignments were annoying at times (almost getting hit by buses while taking waypoints), but the course as a whole does an excellent job tying together different elements. Theory is learned in the classroom and applied in the labs out of class. These experiences prepare students for the research trip, and a formal presentation is prepared that requires the use of data analysis and writing techniques. The papers apply the same skills in a different way and incorporate archaeology into the course.

The hands-on labs and fieldwork in Cyprus were the best part of this class. I think I learned more in the one week I was in Cyprus than I have in any classroom course I have ever taken. The trip made me look at the world around me in a whole new way, and was an amazing experience.

Our trip to Cyprus was absolutely unbeatable. We bonded with each other and with our professors a lot. The labs were also a lot of work but ended up being super interesting and allowed us to get pretty involved.

We had a lot of hands on activities with the teachers and Adam and Frederik were especially helpful in answering our questions. I learned a lot about geology from our trip to Cyprus and the mineral lab was so much fun! I wish we had more time and looked at more things that related to our cyprus trip like the ophilolies and how to look for olivine and just more time. A great class nevertheless.

In-class we often learned what we needed to know to complete the out-of-class assignments. The assignments were extremely time-consuming, but very rewarding. Looking back I especially enjoyed the labs (like the GPS lab, and the rock analyzing lab). The trip to Cyprus was absolutely essential to this class! It brought together everything we learned. It finally got me really interested in geology, and then when we returned home I was able to utilize my matlab coding skills to analyze the data we recorded in Cyprus.

5. Please use this space to tell us anything you want to about the seminar.

So, would I do it again? Yes! But only for one reason---Frederik. If they asked me to do it again without Frederik, I would tell them HELL NO. To sum it up, the people that I came across really helped me get a new perspective on life. It was the people that made the FRS worth it.

This seminar was the hardest and best part of this semester, and it was so rewarding.

I think that Adam and Frederik were amazing professors, who pushed us and challenged us, but also helped us to grow as students. I definitely felt as if they put as much into this course as we did.

Definitely a lot of work, but the professors are great and willing to provide a lot of individual attention. Plus the trip to Cyprus was absolutely incredible. They're also pretty good about answering emails so they are definitely there as a resource to make use of.

I am so fortunate to have received the opportunity to take this seminar. I have made some of my best friends at Princeton through this class. We had such a fun time on our trip to Cyprus. It was extremely stressful, a lot of work, and I cried every week, but it was extremely rewarding and a great challenge. I have heard this class will be one of the more demanding classes I will take during my whole time at Princeton, and I am so happy that I survived and have learned so much!

6. In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course. What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?

Frederik is awesome; there is no way a perfect person can improve.

This is a really amazing course (for the right person), and the instructors are amazing.

The professors are very accessible and often held a lunch hour for any questions we had. I think there are many things I've learned from this class that I will use throughout my college career, for instance, how to handle large workloads and how to collaborate with others. I don't normally enjoy group work, but working with others in my class has been a very rewarding experience.

Adam and Frederik were amazing instructors.

One of the best decisions I have made at Princeton so far is to take this course. Extreme amounts of work but amazing payoff. Maloof and Simons know what they are doing and what the more effective way is to structure a course. They put a lot of work in and it creates an exceptional learning experience.

I got, out of this class, friendships with thirteen really cool undergraduates, four professors, a grad student, and a post-doc, the skills to write a legitimate research paper, analyze data, use Matlab and ArcGIS, the ability to use the snazziest word processing software there is (I wrote up my resume in LaTeX), an interest in geosciences as a major, and the chance to go to Cyprus.

Frederik was very good at giving help and feedback throughout the course and making it enjoyable even when the work was very stressful. The course could be improved by making the assignments due on a different day from the day of class. I fell asleep during lectures often, not because they were boring, but because I was so tired from working the previous night on the assignments.

I have grown and learned so much as a student, scientist, and writer throughout this course. I think that this course was extremely demanding, but definitely gave me an advantage over my peers in terms of my preparedness with academic writing. I think that a slightly lighter workload would have enabled me to enjoy this course more and take time to really try to improve during each assignment, rather than always rushing to get labs or papers done.

The amount of work you put in you got out, but the papers and matlab just took way too long. I would not trade this class though because it was such a nice class and I have learned a lot about how I work as a person, especially things I need to work on, but about science and how geology fits into the contexts of the world and how to frame the current global warming in the context of a civilization.

My professors did a particularly good job of teaching technical skills with instrumentation such as GPS, GPR and magnetometry. They also gave a good introduction to analytical methods using matlab and ArcGIS. They excelled in teaching scientific writing. The course could be improved by further emphasizing the great amount of work the course requires in the course description. It needs to be made clear that this class is not a cozy freshman seminar like the rest of the seminars are. It is not a class that eases freshman into life at Princeton.

I have learned more in this class than all my other classes combined. Thank you!

Fall 2012 Student Evaluations

1. Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?

in depth class discussions, very interesting, diverse opinions

Very lively discussion

This class was engaging.

While the classes were lectures they encouraged questions and discussions. I always felt comfortable engaging in discussion and I always received thorough explanations.

The class discussions were always very interesting and the lectures given by the professors were generally fascinating to anyone interested in the earth sciences.

2. Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments.  Did you receive helpful criticism?  Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills?

massive amounts of writing, pacing sometimes absurd. lots of work. be prepared. lots of helpful criticism, as well, though so you do become a better writer.

A lot of writing, and very useful feedback was given each tme.

This writing seminar has taught me how to write scientific papers. The writing assignments are spaced out enough to be productive.

Before this seminar, I never wrote any kind of scientific paper, so in that aspect this seminar improved my writing skills.

The writing was extremely numerous and the pacing was very fast, but criticism was very detailed and very helpful. The seminar definitely improved my scientific writing skills.

The assignments were difficult and very self-guided. The papers seemed unrelated to the lecture material and were very challenging to research. However I did receive excellent feedback and my science writing improved immensely.

The criticism, though plentiful, was extremely helpful. I would whine about all the work I had to do for the class while I was doing it, but when all I was said and done I could tell I had learned a lot and improved. I have a feeling I'll continue to reap the rewards from the hard-earned knowledge I gained in this class well into the future.

3. Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar.

The trip to Cyprus was amazing. I learned so much on that trip.

The trip to Cyprus was extraordinarily interesting. The geologic formations were very instructive as well as the assignments we were given once there.

I think the trip to Cyprus transformed this class from being my most time-consuming, stressful class this semester to my most time-consuming, stressful class that I wouldn't trade in a million years.

Our class trip to Cyprus was by far my favorite part of the class. The hands-on learning experience was really piqued my interest in Geoscience.

Cyprus was a great experience, definitely not a vacation, as we spent it looking at rocks and collecting data that was central to most of the work we did in the second half of the semester.

The best part of this class was the fall break trip to Cyprus. While this trip required a lot of work (days began at 6am and ended around 11pm or later), it was a wonderful experience.

CYPRUS: Very very cool opportunity, a once in a lifetime experience. Extremely challenging (physically, intellectually, emotionally) but memorable. The trip to Cyprus was certainly not a pleasure trip, and if you think it's going to be you should not take this class. It was hard, hard work, and it was very much "learn or die".

THE TRIP WAS INCREDIBLE (but exhausting).

The trip to Cyprus was the best aspect of this course and was really a once in a lifetime experience. While it was very demanding, the the trip was certainly a great experience and involved a lot of learning and work.

4. Please use this space to tell us anything you want to about the seminar.

This is a truly awesome seminar.

The research opportunities that resulted from this trip were life changing.

This seminar definitely teaches you a lot of stuff, perhaps on a level that's a little beyond what freshmen expected. Nevertheless, I would still strongly recommend taking this as I am grateful for all the skills and things I learned through this seminar. If you do take this seminar, be prepared for a very very heavy course load and two very demanding (but friendly and helpful) professors. Plan your week well and do assignments early as they are weekly assigned, and expect the trip to be as much work as on campus.

The professors were very personable, were always available to answer questions and encouraged personal relationships.

This seminar challenged me in ways I have never been challenged before. I was pushed to my limits intellectually and occasionally emotionally

The trip was intense. It was amazing and draining at the same time. Coming off of midterms all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep, but instead i was trekking around cyprus lugging rocks up and down mountains....which was super, super cool, but also made me want to keel over at times. it was great to get to know the professors, though. if i had to make the decision whether to take this class all over again, i would take it only because of hte professors. they made the class.

This was a good and interesting course that was a beneficial experience. It was by far the most work of any course I had this semester and was highly demanding. A lot of individual effort was required for any form of success and while there was a lot to be gained, it was sometimes difficult to see through the massive amounts of work required.

5. In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course.  What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?

overall quality of the course is excellent. the planning is really awesome, and again, you get a lot of time management, writing, and geological knowledge out of it. do know that its heavy on science though.

I learnt scientific writing, how to do basic research, field observation skills.

I learned how to organize a field survey, conduct my own research, work in groups, write scientific papers, identify rocks, present my findings from my research, and write in a field notebooks.

On top of the geoscience materials covered in the seminar, I learned a lot about science research and scientific writing, which I think are very helpful. The class was very well planned out and incorporated many interesting topics and materials, but the course load could be lightened.

The professors had high expectations that were difficult to meet and were frustrating in the beginning, but in the end I was so happy they pushed us to do so much. I learned a lot about research and how to write scientific papers as well as the subject matter.

Frederik and Adam were the highlight of this class, they made us feel comfortable and gave the class a very unique feel. Adam is a born teacher, he is very articulate and passionate. Frederik is hilarious and always willing to help. Their interactions were awesome.

This course taught me the basics of scientific research, writing and data-formatting. The Cyprus trip was a great opportunity to get a hands-on look at what field work is like for a geologist or geophysicist. The professors are great people and I'm glad I got to know them on a personal level so well (Cyprus was great for that).

It was easy to complain about the course because of hte difficulty and volume of hte work, but every time I got a response to my frantic email at 4 am I was reminded of the fact that the professors were working even harder.

I am very glad I took this course. Although I sometimes hated it during the year, I really appreciated getting to know Adam and Frederik. Visiting Cyprus was an experience I will never forget, and now I am even considering Geo-science for my major.

Fall 2011 Student Evaluations

1. Please comment on the quality of class discussion, including the extent of student participation?

Class discussions were excellent. Professors would often ask probing questions that encouraged independent thought, especially in the field. They were very encouraging of student participation.

Though there was a lot of good interaction between students, I don't think class discussion was a primary method of information exchange in this seminar. Students had to participate in the class to really become engaged, which I thought was good.

Class sessions were highly engaging. Generally, Adam and Frederik would present a slideshow, with ample time for questions (which were encouraged) and musings.

The class was very interesting. I learned a lot from the professors who encouraged us to do a lot of our own research.

2. Comment on the amount of writing and the pacing of the assignments.  Did you receive helpful criticism?  Do you believe that the seminar improved your writing skills.

The papers, labs, and projects require a great deal of writing, but even more of getting figures done (all assignments require figures drawn up in Matlab, ArcGIS, etc) and getting LaTeX to format right. If you don't procrastinate everything is doable, until you start getting into the second half of the semester, where you get buried by group projects, a final project, and continued quizzes. If you have little experience with programming and using LaTeX, and refuse to spend quality time acquainting yourself with them, you will have a hard time; approach these with an open mind for best results. The instructors have lots of criticism for what seems like every line of your assignments, which are very helpful. They really teach you to write concise, clear, scientific papers.

There was a lot of writing but we always had ample time to do it. The criticism was pretty harsh but it helped me improve throughout the semester.

The workload for this class was incredible. It was a constant bombardment of tasks, and it was not uncommon for multiple significant assignments to be due on the same day. Like being thrown in the deep end, this was a powerful way to force time management. And because there was so much work, I absolutely did learn a huge amount.

While the workload was high, I got great practice with scientific writing. Adam and Frederik will both take a great deal of time to provide you with meaningful comments on your writing assignments. I matured tremendously as a scientific writer through this class.

The assignments were paced well most of the time. I received a good amount of helpful criticism, and I believe that the seminar improved my writing skills for scientific papers.

I think that this seminar was very helpful. I learned to write a science paper, which is a skill that you don't always have the chance to develop in this way. The professors were really helpful when they gave us feedback

3. Please comment on in-class and out-of-class assignments, hands-on activities, trips, and other kinds of special opportunities, and describe how important they were to the Freshman Seminar.

There was an optional trip to the Catskills and a mandatory one to Cyprus. I did just the latter, and it was fun, but also exhausting. It's not fun on the beach time (though we did do that a few times); rather you spend the whole day looking at interesting geologic sites, doing scientific experiments, examining archaeological sites, and you spend the night evaluating the data you collected. The trip is central to the class-it's what gives the class it's name, and takes up the second half of the semester in the form of a group project where you present findings on the data you collected on the trip.

The trip to Cyprus was an integral part of the course and defined our work for the second half of the semester.

The trip to Cyprus was definitely the defining feature of this class. I took this class solely to go to Cyprus during fall break... I didn't care how hard the class was, I was determined to go on this trip. The trip was awesome, but we were not sight seeing or on vacation. It was a lot of work. There was a ton of work that came out of the class - a group project that was the reason I stayed up all night every Wednesday from November to December.

However the quality of the tasks assigned was superb. Despite the workload, the assignments for this class were easily the most interesting and engaging for me. They always encouraged independent thought, and encouraged us to use real techniques to gather real data and write real papers - I have yet to take a class anywhere else that really shows what the subject is like beyond the classroom. The trip to Cyprus was awesome! Again we used real research techniques to gather real data, and the day trips around the country examining geological and archaeological features was invaluable - it was something that one cannot learn from any textbook. And besides the educational aspects of it, it was just plain fun!

The assignments, activities, trips, and special opportunities were essential to the freshman seminar. I enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the class and felt like I got an opportunity really see science "work" in the real world, which was great. Getting to go see an actual ophialite was especially valuable.

The field trip to Cyprus was the highlight of the class. I actually felt like I understood the material when I was it hands on.

I honestly could write a 10 page essay about how incredible the trips (New York, Cyprus, Cyprus, and Cyprus) were. But even that wouldn't do it justice. So just take my word for it, the trips were everything I hoped for and more. I mean, we worked in the site of a fricking iron age civilization!! We really did work from morning to night, but the geology, archaeology, and history we learned about was absolutely fascinating. The professors are both really fun-loving and hilarious, which added to the general awesomeness.

The trip to Cyprus was incredible as well that the trip of Catskills. I learned so much from both and had an experience of a lifetime. I will quote Professor Maloof when he said that "you will never regret a trip." After listening to Adam and Frederik, you can't really look at the Earth the same.

The trip was my favorite part of the class. It was great to get to know faculty members and classmates. I loved that we were able to see interesting geological sites as well as interesting archaeological ones. Cyprus is a special place. The group project based on our experiment in Peristeres was really meaningful, because it gave us the opportunity to learn to work effectively in groups, and to carry experiments to meaningful conclusions.

4. In thinking about the overall quality of the course, please comment on what you got out of the course.  What did the instructor do particularly well, and in what ways might the course be improved?

Out of this course I gained an appreciation of geology, and the ability to use the programs Matlab and LaTex. The instructors really cared about this course, and their preparation and dedication really was astounding.

Easily the best course I took this semester - it really showed me what a career in the geosciences would be like, and was an excellent foundation from which I can take further geosciences courses. Like I mentioned earlier, the one thing I would change is the workload.

I think I gained a lot of analytic skills from this course. I learned about a subject that I had never considered before, and I am considering being a Geosciences concentrator because of it.

Good job Adam and Frederik. Just reform your quiz policy and you've got the perfect course.

I think the one thing I would would change would be the reading quiz policy. However, this was probably my favorite class this semester. It was a once in a lifetime experience.