Encouraging Words From Former AP Biology Students

The emails that follow are from former AP Biology students. I hope that my current students might get a broader perspective on AP Biology from those who have traveled this path before them.

Received November 15, 2017 from Lazare Herzi who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Hey Mr. Hammack,

I'm beginning to wrap up another semester at Berkeley and I wanted to thank you for all the studying advice I received in your class. Introductory Biology is my easiest course(!) in large part because of your outstanding teaching.

I'm emailing you now because I briefly talked with Jennifer Doudna, who discovered CRISPR (the most robust gene-editing tools to date). Your Prusiner field-trip prepared me to interact with her; I managed to get a book signature and a photo (attached below) as well as important technical advice on the future of biochemical research.

Besides interacting with science superstars and acing exams, your mentorship has taught me how to learn. Thank you for the life-long skills. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,

Lazare Herzi
LGHS Class of 2016


Received August 26, 2017 from Alex Wong who is attending Brown University

Hi Mr. Hammack,

It was wonderful to see you today, and I'm so glad we keep in touch. If it weren't for your class, I certainly wouldn't be where I am today. AP Biology gave me an incredibly solid foundation that allowed me to jump right into intermediate biology courses at Brown and ace them, as well as giving me the depth of knowledge that I can build off of in research and beyond. I've been able to do some amazing work that has resulted in (I can't believe it still myself) a Nature publication on a genomic analysis of oesophageal carcinoma. Link here:http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v541/n7636/full/nature20805.html

Please let all of your students know that the material they're learning right now will carry them throughout the rest of their lives, be it in biology or elsewhere. There's been many a time in my computer science classes where I've compared concepts to biological ones and marveled at the similarities! If your students hang in there, the skills they develop will be ones that no one can ever take from them.

Hope you have a wonderful rest of the year!

Best,
Alexandra Wong
LGHS Class 2014

Received January 28, 2017 from Ilian Herzi who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Hello Mr. Hammack,

I wanted to write this email earlier because I wanted to compile all the relevant times your class has helped me at Berkeley for the past two years, however that list would be too long to put in a single email. Below are just a few of the times I have used your class to help me for my Biology, Psychology, and even Organic Chemistry classes:
1. 'Purines are pure and uncut' -- identifying the difference between Purines and Pyrimidines was on my first ever bio exam and in organic chemistry when identifying structures.
2. 'Structure leads to function' -- I believe my professor actually quoted this during lecture when we were discussing enzymes.
3. DNA translation, transcription and replication -- for these sections I was so well prepared because of your class that this was one of my strongest subjects on the exam.
4. Mitochondria inhabiting cells is the result of endosymbiosis -- again I was super prepared.
5. The discovery of DNA's structure.

More importantly however, I want to emphasize that you helped teach me how to learn. Your techniques, such as quizzes on the material, were the foundation for good study habits when I began college, and for that I am grateful.

I wish you the best and I hope all of the future students over the coming years can be fortunate enough to take your class and benefit as I did.

Best,
Ilian H. Herzi
LGHS Class of 2015

 

Received September 28, 2016 from Nicole Hensley who attended University of California at Santa Cruz

Hello Mr. Hammack,

I was a student of yours a number of years ago (Graduated in 2003) for both physics and AP Bio. I credit you with my love for Biology and my given career choice, and I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience, your thoughtful lessons, and your passion for science. I'm running a genomics laboratory and we just launched a massive cancer test (Full healthy genome and full tumor genome cross-referenced for somatic mutations, which are flagged if they are drug-targetable) I am so thrilled and I couldn't have even dreamed of this ~15 years ago when you were inspiring me. Thank you so much! Hope all is well with you.

Nicole Hensley
LGHS Class of 2003

Follow-up email on September 29th:

I attended UCSC and earned my Bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. I worked for a small biotech firm, right out of college, called Medarex - creating monoclonal antibodies for cancer immunotherapy. We were bought out by Bristol Myers Squibb where I help build their automated genomics lab and mammalian cell culture lab. I missed the culture of working for a startup so I moved to Santa Cruz and hired on with Five3 Genomics. We were bought out/incorporated by NantWorks and we became a subsidiary known as NantOmics. With NantOmics I've done everything from designing sequencing labs (based around Illumina machines) to building LIMS software with our developers, to getting us CLIA and CAP certified. It's certainly been an adventure! If you're curious here are some websites:
Company website: http://www.nantomics.com/
Cancer test website: http://www.gpscancer.com/

Received June 13, 2016 from Sydnie Davis who is attending Colorado State University

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for preparing me so well for my freshman year college biology class! I felt so confident on all of the tests and lab quizzes because of all the work we did in AP Bio. Although there was a lot of work that we had to do in your class, I am now so thankful for it because when I got to my college biology class, I had already known most of the material covered. Occasionally, I would even go back to your lectures as well, to help me study for my exams (when my professor's lectures just weren't quite doing it for me :) ). Without your class, lectures, and your determination to make sure we truly understood the concepts of biology, I would have most likely struggled greatly my freshman year. I am so glad that I got to take your class, for it was so helpful in being successful in my college bio class.

Once again, thank you so much for being such a great teacher and helping prepare me so well! Hope all is well for you and that your AP bio students are working hard! Because it really pays off in the end :)

Sydnie Davis
LGHS Class of 2015



Received October 27, 2015 from Betsy Wall who is attending the University of Michigan

Hi Mr. Hammack,

I just pulled up your website for the first time since senior year. I have a midterm Monday and your step by step lecture is clearer than my professor's. I went directly to your Oxidative Phosphorylation and Electron Transport Chain lecture and started cracking up in a quiet study room because the one lecture I need is the one that you danced for. Glucose—>ATP has always stuck in my head since!

Thank you for the laugh and thank you for the tutoring! Wishing you all the best.

Cheers,
Betsy Wall
LGHS Class of 2014


Received May 2, 2015 from David Frankle who is attending Harvard College

Hi Mr. Hammack, 

I'm loving college, and my psychology professor now is Josh Greene, who wrote the paper on moral thinking that Jacob, Sophie, and I used for our brain project. I didn't realize it until a few weeks ago when he talked about the same paper in class, giving me an uncanny sense of deja vu. I checked my brain project after class, and sure enough, we quoted him. Way cool!

I wanted to thank you for the brain project and the seemingly unrelated readings you gave us, because a combination of looking at psychology for the brain project and your Selfish Gene reading sparked my current interest in evolutionary psychology. I might not have pursued this interest without your course structure. Thanks for sparking my interest! Of course this means I need to learn more about evolution to use as a cornerstone for thinking about evolution's impact on people's thinking today, so I may actually end up taking a bio class. I'll keep you posted.

I'm doing a lot of reading on my own now, and a few books in particular impacted me especially --- E.O. Wilson's On Human Nature and Robert Wright's Moral Animal. The cool thing is that I ran into E.O. Wilson and he let me take a selfie with him. I told him that my high school bio teacher was a big fan, which made him smile and smile. He said that maybe we can get dinner the next time he comes to campus. 

I just wanted let you know because I'm kind of star struck myself. Hope you're doing well! 

With optimism, 
David
LGHS class of 2014


Received April 9, 2015 from Natasha Cougoule who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Hi Mr. Hammack,

This is Natasha Cougoule emailing you again to tell you about how AP Bio is coming through in my college career--and in a rather different way. I'm studying for a business exam and one of the main emphases in this course is how the structure of a company leads to effective business, and I can't help but keep thinking about your motto last year, "Structure Leads to Function"! Incredible how there's that crossover. I definitely took AP Bio with me and am utilizing it in ways I never expected. Thanks, and I hope second semester is going well at LGHS!

Best,
Natasha
LGHS class of 2014

Received April 6, 2015 from Rachel Alsheikh who is attending the University of California at Davis

Hey Mr. Hammack!

I just started the introductory biology series last week (finally! I missed it so much!). I've been comparing your website to the book and online resources we are given here, and you seriously win by far. Your lectures are so much clearer and easier to understand. How much you want us to really learn and enjoy the material really comes through, too, especially compared to the huge, intimidating classes here. I've been sharing hammiverse.com with other people in my class! AP Bio was probably one of the most valuable classes I've ever taken and I've been thinking back to it a lot while trying to figure out what I want to do in undergrad. 

Sincerely,
Rachel
LGHS class of 2014

Received December 13, 2014 from T.George McBurney-Lin who is attending the University of British Columbia

Hey Mr. Hammack,

Tomorrow I am taking my Biology 121 final on ecology and genetics. The course is pretty tough and the tests are very thorough but I am doing well and am ranked very high in the class. Throughout my years of high school many teachers have told me that their course will make my life easier in college, including you. So far, however, only your course and teachings have helped me in college to succeed and given me that boost ahead of my other students. My professor is very good, but given that each lecture is only 50 minutes I find it hard to learn all the material so quickly; I often find myself using the lectures on Hammiverse to relearn and review most of my course material. So I think you are aware of how much I respect you as a teacher and a friend I would like to formally thank you for your help and for the genius that is Hammiverse.

There is a famous youtuber named Destin who has a channel called "smartereveryday" that I like to watch often. He was lucky enough to spend time at James Cook University in Australia with this wonderful toxinologist Dr. Seymour. The video reminded me of you because I remember learning about jellyfish and their stinging nematocyst cells when we were in Catalina. The video is very cool and at the end the toxinologist talks about how he loves waking up in the morning knowing that he gets to pioneer and learn and teach, and I hold that true to my beliefs and I think that is something you helped teach me.

So again, Thank you.

Sincerely,
T.George McBurney-Lin
LGHS class of 2014

Received October 23, 2014 from Carlo Armijo who is attending Santa Clara University

Hi Mr. Hammack,

I just wanted to e-mail you to tell you thank you for making such a great AP Bio course! There is so much content from AP Bio that is supplementing, and even surpassing that being taught to me in my Bio 21 Physiology course at Santa Clara University. In fact I use Hammiverse during class to better remind me of the material. I just wanted to again thank you for all your great information.

Yours truly,
Carlo Armijo
LGHS class of 2014


Received October 1, 2014 from Natasha Cougoule who is attending University
of California at Berkeley

Hi Mr. Hammack!

Hope the semester is going well! I just wanted to tell you how helpful the knowledge I gained in AP Bio has been as a student here at UC Berkeley. I'm going to take my second midterm tomorrow in a class called MCB 55, Plagues and Pandemics. The first half of the material I'm being tested on is general biology and immunity--something I feel I don't even have to study for because of what I learned in our Immunology unit! I'm still going over the material, of course, but I feel so ahead of the game knowing the four different types of constant regions on antibodies and their functions, the functions of different types of T-cells, and names like Koch and Pasteur! I cannot thank you enough for the preparation you gave me in your class last year. It's truly a blessing to have a step up on campus.

Go Wildcats and Go Bears!

Sincerely,
Natasha
LGHS class of 2014

Received June 6, 2014 from David Logue who is attending San Diego State University

Hey Mr. Hammack!

I just wanted to let you know that I got an A in my first biology class last semester by just using your notes online on Hammiverse! The class used the same exact textbook, maybe a different edition, and had the same material on the tests. The tests were a little harder than yours but I felt I was so far ahead of everyone else. I could use a lot of my time other people were using for bio to work on my other classes which were a lot harder, like Organic Chem. So I would like to thank you for being such a thorough Bio teacher and for all of the great notes that you put online. They make it so much easier than reading the textbook or trying to take notes on our professor's lectures.

Hope you have a great summer!

David Logue
LGHS class of 2013

P.S. If I could give your students some advice for your class, or for any bio class, it would be to make flash cards for every term and process that are on the Hammiverse notes online. That helped me so much in college!

Received April 16, 2014 from Emily Van Belleghem who is attending MIT

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I hope things are going well at LGHS! Right now I'm studying for my bio test here at MIT and I wanted to let you know that one of my main resources for studying is still the one and only hammiverse.com :) We're going over action potentials again in neurons and I'm kinda showing all my MIT classmates your notes…. haha I hope you don't mind :) Everyone says its definitely one of the clearest resources out there! I remember AP Bio being a lot of personal work when I took it last year.. but remind your students that this is exactly how college is like, at least from an MIT student's perspective. I really learned how to study hard autonomously in your class.

Thank you again :)

Emily Van Belleghem
LGHS class of 2013

Received April 3, 2014 from Evin Wieser who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Mr. Hammack,

So currently in my biology class of 700 I have a midterm at 8 am tomorrow about genetics. There are online lectures and online notes that I use but don't find super helpful. However, What I found to be one of my most useful resources that helps me grasp near all relevant concepts is the notes in Hammiverse. I'm looking at operons and I cannot thank you enough for putting the time and effort to write out all these notes. Not only did they save me in AP Bio but I am still using them for my bio courses last and this semester here at Berkeley. If there is one message that I can give to your current and future students is to really take advantage of everything given to you, whether past or present. Once again, you're a gradesaver Mr. Hammack, thank you.

Best,
Evin Wieser
LGHS Class of 2012

Received February 9, 2014 from Megan Fee who is attending University of California at Santa Barbara

Hi Mr. Hammack!

It's Megan Fee from your AP biology class from 2 years ago. I'm now a sophomore at UCSB, majoring in Biology. I just wanted to say thank you for preparing me so well for these college biology courses. I still use your website (a lot actually) to brush up on information! You actually explain a lot of the information in a MUCH clearer way than college professors do!

I miss your AP Bio class and hope you are doing well!

Thanks again,

Megan Fee
LGHS Class of 2012


Received February 1, 2014 from Caitlyn Green

Hi Mr. Hammack,

I wanted to let you know I've still been using your website for my biology classes last and this semester. They're a lot more clear and straightforward than the professors notes. I hope I can come visit during my spring break since it's a different week than the Los Gatos spring break!

Best regards,
Caitlyn Green
LGHS Class of 2013


Received October , 2013 from Amanda Chambers who is attending University
of Arizona

Hi Mr. Hammack,

I took your AP Bio class last year and I just wanted to let you know how awesome it was. I'm in a nutrition class at the University of Arizona and the unit we're doing right now is just like one you taught in your class. It is so helpful to already know some stuff because this class is so much work already. I'm studying for a test I have on Friday and I can already fill out some of the study guide without even opening the book thanks to your class! "Structure leads to function" will never leave my mind and it's great to have at least that down for my test. Anyways I just wanted to let you know how extremely helpful your class is for my college classes.

Thanks,
Amanda Chambers
LGHS Class of 2013

Received September 9, 2013 from Giv Dabol who is attending Tufts University

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I hope the year is off to a great start for you! I just wanted to let you know that I'm taking a Cells and Organisms Bio class this semester, and my knowledge from AP Bio is literally saving my life!  We are currently talking about amino acids and proteins (structure leads to function!!) and I feel completely prepared and calm with the material. We have to memorize all of the carbon functional groups, and my friends are in hysteria because they don't even know what a functional group is, but since I already had to do that last year, I already have a way to remember it.  All of my friends also have no idea what is going on in class, but, since I learned (and memorized) everything last year, I'm having no trouble at all! :)  I'm so glad I put all the time and effort into my notes and into studying for tests and FRQs because it's already paying off and I've only been in class for a week.  I'm already using all my notes, and it is truly amazing how much AP Bio prepared me without even realizing it.  I never really thought that the class would be so helpful when you first showed us the emails from previous students, but now I can speak from experience, and it really is true! 

So thank you for all the quizzes, all the free responses, all the notes, all the lectures, and all the late nights at Starbucks studying for tests because I would be lost in this bio class without your help!

Giv Daboll
LGHS Class of 2013


Received March 26, 2013 from Taryn McLaughlin who is attending UCLA

Mr. Hammack,

I am finishing up at UCLA and my degree is in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. I hope to go to graduate school in either Immunology or Virology and eventually work on vaccine studies. I absolutely found your class helpful! I felt that I had a better foundation than most of my peers in all of my pre-requisite biology classes (and there were a lot of them).  Each of the classes added new information that we just didn't have the time to cover in AP Bio but I had a head-start on most of my classmates in that I didn't need to learn the basics.

As for cool things I am doing... I work in a neuroscience lab studying how hormones affect neurological development and I worked in a virology lab isolating and characterizing a novel bacteriophage.  I'm going to Beijing this summer to study astrocytes. Finally, II was on the Board of Directors for Pediatric AIDS Coalition which puts on a huge philanthropy every year for HIV (I made the curriculum for the participants). So overall I had a very science-based experience at UCLA and I have loved every minute of it!

Thank you for everything Mr. Hammack!

-Taryn
LGHS Class of 2009


Received January 13, 2013 from Megan Goldberg who is attending University of Washington


Hi Mr. Hammack!

This is Megan Goldberg from your 2011-2012 AP Bio class. I just wanted to let you know that your class has helped me so much in all of my classes here at UDub. I am using all of your lecture notes for my current bio class as they make complex subjects so much more understandable (something my current textbook is failing to do). I am so happy you introduced us to Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, because we have spent a lot of time discussing these two in my philosophy class. AP Bio is even helping me out in my psych class! Needless to say, I learned so so much in your class and now the work put into studying for the AP is definitely paying off. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful teacher!

Best,
Megan Goldberg
LGHS Class of 2012


Received November 6, 2012 from Drew Morton who is attending University of California at Irvine Medical School

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I hope this email finds you well.  I took your AP Bio class in '06-07 but lacked an appreciation, at the time, for how truly effective of a course it was.  As a neuroscience major at UCLA, I found myself having a much easier time with bio classes than my peers due to the background you gave me.  I am now three months into my first year of medical school at UC Irvine, and we have now begun Immunology.  I was just looking over a very confusing lecture on B/T-cells and caught myself trying to remember the simple framework with which you presented the topic. So here's to you Mr. Hammack, Props!

I'll try to stop by when I'm back in town, but chances are my breaks will line up with LGHS's.

Drew Morton
UC Irvine School of Medicine


Received November 1, 2012 from Sofia Porush who is attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I am loving San Luis Obispo. The school is great and the location is even better. There are so many outdoorsy activities to do and the accessibility is amazing. There are countless hikes and trails, kayaking and canoeing places everywhere, and the agricultural aspect of the city is definitely evident--I love it! You might recall that my major here is nutrition, and I think I told you that reason I ever became interested in that was the sections of AP Bio that focused on the macro-nutrients, digestion and absorption, Krebs, Glycolysis, ETC, Protein synthesis, etc. I feel like I picked the right major because I love it thus far, and it's only the first quarter. One of my classes, sort of an intro to nutrition, does an overview of all the nutrients, the digestion, absorption and transport of them, and the ways they affect the body, as well as touching on diet planning and healthy habits. It's just awesome for me because nothing I'm learning is really new--it's more of just an expansion of what I learned in your class. I feel like I have a great grip on the material and most of it is review with some more in depth analysis pertaining to certain things. It's just great and really solidifies that I made the right decision (taking AP Bio, and now choosing to major in nutrition) because I am still as interested in it now as I was when I first learned it in your class. I just wanted to send a HUGE thanks! You may be an influence on the path of the rest of my life! I learned so much in AP Bio and you were an awesome teacher, which made all the endless studying worth it. I learned so much and it was because you made it fun to learn.

--Sofia

Received October 12, 2012 from Stephanie LaBouve who is attending UCSB

Hey Hammie!!!

So week two of my sophomore year of college is coming to an end, and I'm finally enrolled in a biology class! It meets 4 days a week at 8 am, and I think its going to be the absolute death of me. It's taught in our largest lecture hall that holds like 850 students. You'll be thrilled to know that it's an absolute piece of cake! Your class has been more than preparatory. I really do miss your class, however. We're using the book Life: Science of Biology, and it's pretty much an absolute bore. I just had my mom ship over my old binders from your class so that I can review your notes. Why can't they make the biology books a little bit more interesting!?! I'm bummed that I wasn't allowed to just pass out of this quarter entirely- I'm getting bored of learning about DNA replication and the like. Between you and Shultz, I feel like I've got that part down.

Anyways, you can give yourself a big pat on the back for a successful curriculum since all of my other friends (even the ones who took AP Bio at their schools) complain about how difficult this class is!

Miss you!!

Stephanie


Received August 28, 2012 from Ryan Gasvoda who is attending Colorado School of Mines

Hello Mr. Hammack,

I am now into my second school week here at Colorado School of Mines and would like to tell you that I was able to pass out of a biological systems class by doing extremely well on a test. Thanks for teaching the biology to me in a way in which I not only can remember it but also understand and explain the processes to other people.

Thanks,
Ryan Gasvoda

Received May 30, 2012 from Emily Bays who is attending University of Washington

Mr. Hammack,

Just wanted to drop a note of appreciation for your wonderful teaching in AP Bio. I was in your class 2008-2009. I am a public health major at the University of Washington now. I can't stress enough how much the class helped prepare me for college biology and chemistry (inorganic and organic!). The amount of effort you put into helping us learn biology was extraordinary and really paid off. You were also one of a number of wonderful teachers I had at LGHS who really showed dedication to the academic success and general well being of students. Your teaching continues to positively influence my education, three years later. Thank you so much!

Sincerely,
Emily Bays

Received May 3, 2012 from Evann Dufort who is attending University of California at Davis

Hey Mr. Hammack!

This is Evann Dufort from your AP Biology class in 2009-2010. It has been a long time since I have seen you! I hope the marriage is going well and AP Bio is still as great as it was when I took it my junior year. I am currently in my third quarter as a freshman at UC Davis as a Food Science and Technology major. I am having a great time and learning so much in college!! I am just starting the Biology series here and I am appalled at how different the teaching styles of university professors differ from my time at Los Gatos High School. I am using my old chunky AP Bio binders as a valued resource. 

I just wanted to thank you for preparing me so well for college bio and the workload, especially. In college, you are constantly expected to be ahead of the professor's lectures and it definitely helps to just read hammiverse lecture notes before I go into class. I am truly at an advantage because I took your class!!

Thanks again!!

Evann Dufort
LGHS class of 2011

Received February 15, 2012 from Kevin Meng who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Dear Mr. Hammack,

It's Kevin, one of the twin brothers who took your AP Biology course the year of 2008. I just remembered how big of an influence you were in getting me interested in science and helping me find my place in the world. I'm currently at UC Berkeley, if you don't remember. Studying Bioengineering now, possibly going into bioinformatics or synthetic biology.
I'm really grateful for the awesome class you held for me when I was a junior. The class was very well setup and a whole bunch of fun, but most importantly it was memorable. You're one of the few teachers I still remember from high school because of the impact you had on me. I feel I've been a bit lacking in keeping in touch with teachers in LGHS so I might come by and visit sometime this May, look forward to it!

Thanks for everything once again!

Best
Kevin Meng
LGHS class of 2009

Received September 19, 2011 from Adrienne Clark who is attending University of California at Los Angeles Medical School

Dear Mr. Hammack,

I hope you are well.  I graduated from LGHS in 2002 and took your AP Biology class my senior year.  You were the first person to introduce us to Steven Jay Gould, E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, etc., and I still remember how much fun it was to learn to think about evolutionary biology as something modern and controversial.  Your class was one of the best science classes I've ever taken, and probably had a lot to do with how I ended up in medical school.

Anyway, I'm in my last year of medical school at UCLA now, and I rarely have time to read for pleasure. I was thinking of re-reading The Naturalist (Wilson), since it's been a few years, but was wondering if you had any other recommendations. If you have time, I would love to hear what you've enjoyed recently or think of as the "greatest hits."

Thanks as always :)
Adrienne

Adrienne Clark
LGHS class of 2009

Received September 13, 2011 from Sean Afshar who is attending University of California at Berkeley

Hello Mr. Hammack!

It's Sean from Berkeley. I just wanted to see how you're doing and, once again, remind you of your influence even now that I'm 3 years out of high school, and 4 years out of your class.

Though I study at UC Berkeley I'm currently "abroad" in DC in a fellowship with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. . . I really just wanted to again thank you for instilling in me a love of science, which is really why I'm here. I approach policy not like a lawyer, but like a scientist, so my logic in writing such a proposal relies solely on facts and pragmatism, not partisanship and emotion. . . For this pragmatic and scientific approach, I owe you. . . I plan to go to Med School so I can eventually come back to DC and complete my mission if Congress hasn't already passed a bill that actually works.

Anyway, thanks again, and I hope you are doing well. Please let me know if I can help in any way, because I know it can be absolutely overwhelming to be lighting fires in kids' heads, day in and day out. Though it may not seem like it with all of the kids, I know that in a few years time they will look back and see what a valuable teaching experience they got from you.

It'll be good to hear from you, and I plan to visit you in January when I get back.

Sean Afshar
LGHS class of 2009

Received August 26, 2011 from Katie Hunt who is attending University of San Francisco

Hey Mr. Hammack,

I just wanted to send you a quick email and let you know how incredibly much your class has helped me so far here at USF. I just had my Human Physio lecture again this morning and I was able to follow along so easily and understand everything my Prof. was talking about due to your class. Today we were going over negative and positive feedback loops and so many people were so confused but I instantly thought of all the animations and diagrams you showed us last year. Thank you for an amazing year of AP Bio and for getting me so prepared for college. I'll stop by and say hi next time I'm back home. Hope you're doing well with the new school year and congratulations again on the wedding. 

Katie Hunt
LGHS class of 2011


Received January 3, 2011 from Sarah Collogne who is attending University of Chicago


Hi Mr. Hammack,

I took your AP bio class three years ago, and I wanted to take a moment to write to you to tell you about an experience I have just had which made me think of both your class and our trip to Catalina. Normally I am a theater major at the University of Chicago, but I took last quarter off to complete a program with an organization called Seamester. In this program I lived on a one hundred foot boat for three months with 23 other students and 6 staff members and sailed from Rome to the Caribbean. However, while learning to sail was a large part of the program, the other major academic pursuit on board was our courses in Marine Biology and Oceanography. By being on a boat, we were able to get the most out of these classes with hands on experiences like keeping field logs of the organisms we identified while scuba diving and completing our own oceanography experiments on board.

It was the experience of a lifetime that is structured in such a way that essentially anyone could get something out of it, and I wanted to tell you about it for two reasons. First, when I was taking the marine biology class it was amazing how much I remembered from AP Bio and how much that helped me, so thank you for such effective instruction. Second, this trip was very similar to the Catalina experience (if a little more lengthy and rigorous) and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed their time on Catalina and was looking for a unique and amazing study abroad experience. While the program was great for someone like me who was completing it in the middle of their college career, there were also many "gap year" students on board who had just finished high school and not yet been to college. I would highly recommend this program to just about anyone who is looking for an adventure.

I hope you are having a great year!

Sarah Collonge
LGHS class of 2008

Received November 12, 2010 from Lexie Kendra who is attending University of North Carolina

Mr. Hammack!

It's Lexie Kendra, I hope you remember me from a couple years ago! I'm a biology major now!  I just wanted to send you a message to let you know that I've got a test on friday in my molecular biology and genetics class at Carolina and I am using your website to help me review! Your website is the bombbb!! It is so awesome and reminded me how much I loved your fabulous AP bio class.

I hope all is well, and thank you for continuing to help me understand this material!

Lexie Kendra
LGHS class of 2009


Received November 4, 2010 from Kelly Davis who is attending Scripps College


Hi Mr. Hammack!

We've finally started some bio in my accelerated integrated science course, and I am excited to say that it is, so far, nothing more than what we covered in AP Bio last year!

So far in my class it's been really advanced chemistry and physics that, I presume, were at least introduced in AP Chem/Physics (two classes which I did not take), so I've been really lost so far. Today, however, we started a discussion about lipid membranes, and I knew everything my professor was talking about!

Also, I found a striking similarity between my college biology and your AP Bio class: my professor asked what was so important about the membrane's structure, and I immediately thought of AP Bio's mantra "structure leads to function". No sooner than I thought of this, the professor says "structure subserves function. If there's one thing you remember about this course, this is it." You were right! (Not that I ever doubted you, of course).

I hope everything is going well for you and AP Bio this year, and I will make sure to keep you updated if any other parallels appear between college bio and AP Bio!

Best,
Kelly Davis
LGHS class of 2010


Received October 23, 2010 from Andrew Miller who is attending Stanford University

Hey Mr. Hammack,

I just wanted to thank you for being such a great teacher last year. I know I was really critical of the structure of your class come the end of the year, but the fact is it worked really, really well. I just had my Intro to Brain and Behavior midterm the other day, and your class completely saved me. You went so much deeper into detail than this class even comes close to that these lectures felt like very basic review - I even used some of your lectures to study with instead of my professor's. As much as I would have preferred a critical thinking-based approach, your class ended up being way more useful than I could have imagined.

Thanks again,
Andrew Miller
LGHS class of 2010


Received October 19, 2010 from Kelsey Fiance who is attending University of San Francisco

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I'm at the nursing school at the University of San Francisco and I am loving it! It is really hard, but its a good challenge! AP Biology helped so much with my physiology and even my microbiology classes I took last semester! AP Bio gave me a good advantage over some of my peers who had not taken the course at their high schools. Having some basic knowledge about the body systems and a bit about microbes made learning the newer material so much easier! Thanks for being a great teacher and helping me get that 5 on the AP exam and prepare me well for college courses!

Sincerely,
Kelsey Fiance
LGHS class of 2009

Received October 5, 2010 from Sean Ashfar who is attending UC Berkeley

Hey Mr. Hammack,

How are you doing? This is Sean Afshar from the class of 09, I took your AP Bio class my Junior Year and you did one of my teacher recommendations for college! Anyway, I just wanted to see how you are doing and thank you again for the great teacher you've been. I'm a Pre-Dental/Political Science major right now at Cal and I'm taking a Psychology class for my Pre-Dental requirement and we just had a midterm. It was on neural signaling, the endocrine system, and other parts of the nervous system. Long story short, I used your lectures on Neural signaling and the Endocrine system to help me study for the test (www.hammiverse.com- best website name ever) and got a 91%, way above the class average. Keep up the good work Hammack, you were easily one of the best teachers I've ever had and you're influence is still helping me in college. Make sure your students know that, because I'm busting my ass right now in Organic Chemistry and Psychology along with some Political Science classes and it would have been way harder if I didn't have the strong biology background you gave me. 

Take care,
Sean Afshar
LGHS class of 2009

 

Received October 4, 2010 from Adam Siegel who is completing a PhD at Arizona State University

Hi Mr. Hammack,

I graduated from LGHS in 2000, from Tufts University in 2004, and am scheduled to defend my Ph.D. in Biology in January 2011 at Arizona State University. I took AP biology my senior year (I made the squid video). That year I read a copy of Journey to the Ants (that I believe may have belonged to you). Now I am in the same research group as Bert Hölldobler, and know him well. My advisor is Robert Page Jr. who may have been a graduate student at UC Davis when you were a student there.  My dissertation work is on the physiological mechanisms that regulate foraging behavior in honey bees. I'd be happy to send you more detail if you are interested. I just wanted to say hello and give you an update. You are one of the three most influential teachers that I had in my academic career.

Best,
Adam Siegel
LGHS class of 2000

Received March 24, 2010 from Alexa Chavez who is attending UCLA

Hello Mr. Hammack,

I am in my second year at UCLA now, and I am having a blast. I am majoring in neuroscience, and recently started a research position in the neurobiology lab. My project is called "neural fiber tracking in cognitive circuitry in patients with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS)". I am working with MRI's of CCHS patients to measure the overall neural fiber density within three specific cognitive circuits. The work is very interesting, but certainly more intense than my other classes. I am having a great time with it.

All of the things I learned in AP bio are proving to be extremely relevant and useful for many of my college classes. If I hadn't had a strong background in biology, I don't know how I would have survived some of the pre-med introductory classes. For example, my professor covered all of cellular respiration in one 50 minute lecture, and for the test we had to recall all ten steps of glycolysis and all ten enzymes. I was really glad that I had a good conceptual framework going into the class.

Keep up the good work, Mr. Hammack! Thank you so much for all of the effort and energy you put into the AP bio program at LGHS. I will come visit when I am back in Los Gatos.

Take care,
Alexa Chavez
LGHS class of 2008


Received February 9, 2010 from Lia Farb who is attending University of Michigan

Hi Mr. Hammack!

It's Lia from you AP biology and physics class last year! I am emailing you because I wanted to thank you so much for everything that you taught me last year in AP bio. Because of you, I passed out of two semesters of general biology here at the University of Michigan. I am now taking a biology lab and we are learning about PCR. The song that we listened to about PCR keeps playing in my head! Thank you so much for preparing me so well for college. I hope your year has been great so far and I hope to come visit when I come home for summer!

Sincerely,
Lia Farb
LGHS class of 2009


Received January 14, 2010 from Mary Stump who is attending University of California Davis

Dear Mr. Hammack,

I’m a now junior at UC Davis majoring in Viticulture and Enology (AKA "winemaking"). How I got into winemaking is kind of a long story since I actually started majoring in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Genetics. Your course in AP Biology really encouraged me to go into the sciences once I got into college, and I’ve stuck with the sciences ever since. Unfortunately the AP Biology Test didn’t get me out of my Biology Course Requirements at UC Davis, and I quickly discovered that I was required to take a brand new series of biology courses because they were phasing out their old first year biology curriculum. This meant that my classes were “guinea pig” classes, and every now and then I got a professor who didn’t really know how to teach a class since it was in its beginning stages. Thankfully the lectures on your website really came in handy and helped me to work through a lot of the topics that my professor didn’t describe to the extent I needed to learn it.

I can say with certainty that I’m in love with the sciences, and my new major. A lot of that came from your AP Biology course, and I don’t know what I would be majoring in if it wasn’t for that class.

Thanks for all your encouragement,
Mary Stump
LGHS class of 2007

Received December 17, 2009 from Noelle Stephens who is attending University of California Irvine

Hi Mr. Hammack!
 
I am currently a Freshman at UC Irvine and my major is Biology.  My school requires all Bio majors, even if students received a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, to take its intro Biology course.  I cannot tell you enough how much your class had prepared me for that course!  The professor would be going over concepts during lecture and many things just clicked and made sense to me because I had seen the material before or had drawn pictures of it on your tests.  Many of the diagrams and pictures on your powerpoints were exactly the same!  I was shocked at my first exam grade because I scored well above the class average.  Pop quizzes were no problem, even if I hadn't yet studied the material from previous lectures, because I remembered concepts from your class.  I also took Chemistry during the fall quarter and it was extremely difficult, even for students who took AP Chem in high school.  I think I would have been so stressed this past quarter if I had not taken AP Biology because both courses would have been very overwhelming.  I heard that many Bio majors change majors because of this.  Let all of your AP Bio students know that everything they are doing now is going to pay off in college!  I thought I would forget everything over the summer, but the material really sticks with you.
 
Thanks again for everything!
You truly are a great teacher.
 
Take care,
 
Noelle Stephens
LGHS class of 2009

Received November 7, 2009 from Bridget Lillis who is attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Hi Mr. Hammack!

This is Bridget Lillis and I just wanted to let you know how helpful and glad I am that I took AP Bio last year! At Cal Poly SLO, I was able to get out of the beginning biology class and take the next level. We just had our midterm where I got a 96%!!! =]

It definitely helped taking AP bio last year because I just had to review before the test. Most of the information came back to me from all the hard work and studying before the AP test.  I even looked at some of your lectures online to help clarify some processes!! They do come in handy!

I just wanted to say thanks for everything and I hope this year is going great!!

Bridget Lillis
LGHS class of 2009


Received October 28, 2009 from Amy Zhang who is attending Dartmouth College

Hi Mr. Hammack!

This is Amy Zhang; I was in your AP bio class last year. Hope all is going well
at LGHS!

I promised that I'd tell you how bio in college is going, so here it is:

First off, possible bio majors have to take an entry level class at Dartmouth in order to take any upper level bio classes with lab, so that's what I'm currently doing. The title of the class is called Conflicts and Cooperation in Bio, and the subjects covered are as broad as the title indicates. But I'm doing very well in that class, and I think it has a lot to do with the bio background that I gained from your class last year (thanks by the way). The class is very large (biggest in the college I think) with almost 170 students and two profs, but its structure is similar to your class with curved tests and ppt lectures (there are much fewer tests of course). The material is very esoteric at times, which is sometimes cool but other times frustrating because the relatedness of material is not clear. But for your current bio students, tell them that they are very lucky to have your ppt lectures because I think they are much neater than the ones my profs give. Plus, they shouldn't complain about the few readings you give them because those in college are much denser, longer, and often less interesting. All in all AP bio is very helpful in life after high school, as it even helped me get a paid research internship as a freshman. So thank you and hopefully my message will make your current students feel better about their bio class.

Best,
Amy
LGHS class of 2009


Received February 26, 2009 from Aimee Walker who is attending UCSB

AP Bio Students:
    Taking AP Biology is one of the best investments you could ever make for your upcoming college career, especially if you are planning to major in the area. When I entered UCSB, even a 5 on the AP test cannot get a Bio major out of taking the intro bio classes, so studying to forget this material once the test is over will not benefit you. I urge you to take advantage of the way that Mr. Hammack teaches you now because you will most likely never get another teacher as dedicated as he is. The free response style seems so tedious and time consuming, but it is the best way to study for not only biology, but also many other classes. The free response pushes you to be able to explain exactly how a mechanism works. If you cannot write out a free response, you do not understand the material yet. Writing it all out is like being able to explain the idea to someone else that has never studied biology before. TRUST ME, the time you take now is worth it because it will give you that much more time while you are in college to keep up with every thing else you have going on. I have found that my 600 person classes are very hard to learn from, but with my strong background from Hammack's class, I am doing well. I have talked to other students that did not take AP Bio in high school, and they are struggling quite a bit. There is so much information, and so little time (especially in quarter scho ols), you need to be on top of your game. When you are done, you will be thanking Hammack, no matter  how hard it may be now to push yourself further than understanding the material to get an A. If you study the material to the point where it is no longer about memorizing facts but about connecting ideas and telling a story about a mechanism (like in hormone regulation or DNA replication), you will be golden. USE Mr. Hammack's website as much as you can, and ask all of the questions that come to your mind. Something i would suggest is to write questions down as you are studying at home and bring them to class. This will keep you engaged in the material and enhance your understanding as well. Enjoy the rest of high school, and good luck with your search for a fitting college!!

Aimee Walker
LGHS class of 2007



Received March 26, 2008 from Andrew Emmons who is attending UCSD

To the students of AP Bio,

It can be a rough road leading up to the AP test, but the hard work is well worth it especially if you plan to pursue science. Different colleges accept different amounts of credit depending on the test and depending on the score; at UCSD by getting a 4 or a 5 you receive credit for two quarters of lower division bio classes which are common to most bio majors, and I know other UC schools at least are generally very accepting of AP credit. Getting introductory level classes out of the way allows youto get ahead as well as pursue other interests, which really is one of the most exciting aspects of college. Even if you don't get credit for classes you need then you can still get units which help with your class enrollment times so you can get the classes that you do want, which is an aspect of college that I never even considered to be important. So I highly suggest that you do as best as you can and don't slack on the Bio and other AP tests because you really don't know just how much it will help until you get to college, I know I wished I had tried harder on certain tests because if I gotten a 5 versus a 4 on Physics than I would have been exempt from a quarter of Physics.

In addition, Mr. Hammack does an awesome job of giving you the resources you need to succeed. If you actually learn the material than the transition into college bio classes will be a breeze. Even a lot of the course descriptions for upper division biology classes contain a lot of overlap with what you learn in AP Bio. As a Bioengineering: Biotechnology major I found it super helpful to have a background in chem and bio to understand a lot of the topics covered in many introductory level classes.

So essentially the harder you work now the better college will be because you won't have to spend as much time stressing or studying for tests (at least this is the case for me and several other people I know). So do what you can to succeed now, and good luck!

Andrew Emmons
LGHS class of 2007


Recevied March 26, 2008 from AJ Shepard who is attending UCSD

Hi Mr Hammack!

     The AP bio test, along with all the other AP tests, has really helped me out my first year in college. Going to UCSD with 46 units of credit already under my belt means that not only to I get to sign up earlier than most freshman, not only can I take upper division courses (which are far more interesting, and less review) my first quarter, but when I mess up with my GE requirements I know I'll still graduate in four years. Even in AP classes you don't plan on taking the test for, or you don't get a high enough score on, it is still important to try hard and learn, because you'll find that early lower division courses are the EXACT same as your high school AP courses, except you have to learn the same amount of material in 1/3rd the time. Also, there's less homework, and more learning on your own. I got a five on the AP Bio exam, got out of the two first bio classes at UCSD, and the third one is still a review of Mr. Hammack's class (the pictures in the examples are the same ones in his lectures). You have the option to learn this stuff in high school, or learn it in college, and it's easier and way more cost effective to learn it in high school. Plus, the opportunity to place out of courses allows you to get to the fun, meaty, upper-division courses that much sooner!

There you go!

Aj Shepherd
LGHS class of 2007


Received January 16, 2008 from Francis Nguyen who is attending Tulane University


Dear Mr. Hammack,

I just wanted to send you an email to thank you for teaching AP biology to me my Senior year. I never could have known how important having a biology background would be in college, and I now can see how great of class your AP biology class really was.

I will admit that at the time, I was skeptical. I liked that you were so enthusiastic about biology and that you genuinely cared about the subject, but I couldn't really see how what we were learning was really that advanced or complex. I guess that goes to show how great of a teacher you are. But I also couldn't see how what we were learning would help me for what I was going to learn in college.

Now, as a pre-med major at university, I can now see how wrong I was in thinking those things. I have now taken an evolutionary biology course called Diversity of Life which was all about evolutionary history and ecology. I enjoyed the subject matter of the class a lot, but the teacher was not too great of a teacher (and his slides weren't all that great either). I even ended up using your slides as extra study material for his tests! I also now am taking a cell biology class and a public health course which focuses on disease on the cellular, organism, and population level, both of which require a very strong biology background to succeed in. I feel that I honestly have that strong biology background.

Without your constant dedication, the excellence in the way your course is taught, and all of the material that is covered in your class, I am having a much easier time understanding more advanced biological concepts that my classmates who did not have the same caliber of education are struggling to understand. For that, I want to thank you.

I recommend your biology class to everyone. Biology is so relevant to the world today that is it practically inescapable. New advances in medicine, the discovery of new organisms, the spread of diseases around the world - these are all things that make headline news and affect the world as a whole. Even if students think that they hate science and they don't think that it will affect them because they plan to study liberal arts, I want to tell them that it will. As living beings in a constantly changing world, biology affects us all, and I highly encourage students to take the rare opportunity to learn more about that world in your class.

Keep doing a great job!

Best,
Francis Nguyen
LGHS class of 2007



Recevied April 21, 2008
from Jenna Anderson who is attending UCSD

Hi Mr. Hammack!

I'm studying for my first Biology midterm and I thought of you and AP Bio. It's weird how much of the material I remember even though I took your class two years ago! I have actually gone back to look at some of your lecture notes to help me study because you put everything there for easy access. Even though I remember a lot of the material our test covers 20 chapters, which is a lot of information to cover! I really appreciated how you gave us all the tools to help us succeed, and look, they are even helping me after I am done with your class!

I am really enjoying UC San Diego. I am very happy with my decision to come here. Although LG prepared me well school is still pretty difficult so I've been putting a good amount of time and energy into that. I played rugby this year though, and that was a great time and it also gave me a good outlet from all of my studies.

I just wanted to say hi and I hope everything is going well with you and your Bio classes.

Jenna Anderson
LGHS class of 2007


Recevied April 16, 2008
from Jon Gelber who is attending Yale University

Hey Mr. Hammack,

I truly am sorry that it took me so long to write this e-mail, but I hope that I can still stress to your class how important the AP is!

First I'll give a little bit of an update on myself right now - I am nearing finals right now, so I have some serious studying in front of me....
I am currently a MCDB major here at Yale (Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology), and am about halfway through the courses right now.

First of all, I just have to say THANK YOU for keeping the AP Bio website updated and open to anybody to see.  I cannot tell you how much I have used the site as a reference and study material.  I actually did the majority of my studying for my reproductive biology class from the reproductive biology section on your website!

During my freshmen orientation here, I realized that almost none of my AP credits would help me at all here.  The key work here is ALMOST.  The single, only, one AP credit that can place you out of credits for your major here is the AP bio credit! Luckily enough for me, I got a 5 on it (thanks to AP bio at LGHS!) and was able to place out of 2 semesters of intro bio, and an entire year of intro bio lab.  Those credits freed up my schedule so much that I will actually be able to study abroad (a lot of bio majors here have too many requirements and not enough planning to study abroad).  Again, the bio AP credit was the only thing that helped, and it helped a lot!

(OK, so Yale actually does accept one other type of AP credit - language AP credit, but unfortunately for me, my spanish was not bastante bueno for Yale to accept any credit...)

Anyways, I still love studying bio, but I think that I've only recently realized my passion within the major:  The more courses I take, the more I realize that I find cell signaling and super microscopic biology a little boring, and that I really do love studying whole organisms, environments, and evolution.  Unfortunately, Yale doesn't have a zoology or marine bio major, so I am stuck with my MCDB major here.  However, I am trying to transfer now to either Stanford or Pomona.  Stanford has an absolutely amazing marine biology program, and Pomona has many organismal biology courses, as well as extremely small biology courses.  Additionally, although I am halfway through my biology major here at Yale, all of my bio courses have been huge (200+) lecture courses.  If I had known that the bio courses were so huge here, I wouldn't have wasted paying twice as much, and would have gone to a UC with the same caliber classes for half the price!

Anyways, I would just like to say thank you for all your help and encouragement with biology.  Additionally, I hope you know that your class was a big inspiration to me and made me want to study biology as a major and a possible career choice later in life.

Thanks again, and I look forward to talking to you soon!

Sincerely,
Jon Gelber
LGHS class of 2007

P.S. I did forget to mention an important thing in my past email though:  I initially had trouble studying for bio tests in college because I thought that all the information was too much to handle, and simply going over my notes wasn't cutting it.  So, I decided that I was going to try the "Free Response" approach, and it worked out amazingly!  To this date, the way that I study for all bio tests/ quizzes/ finals is by reviewing my notes, and then writing out in paragraph form everything that I know about the material until it is absolutely ingrained in my head.