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PHYS 116 A: General Physics

MWF 1:30pm - 2:20pm / PAA A118
T 5:00pm - 6:20pm / KNE 220
Kazumi Tolich Picture
Kazumi Tolich

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to PHYS 116 A. This is the third of a three-quarter sequence of introductory physics courses targeted for students in life sciences. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to develop algebra-based models to describe the physical world pertaining to oscillations, waves, wave optics, ray optics, quantum mechanics, atoms and nuclear physics, and apply them to other fields of science and everyday phenomena.

You should find this course challenging and stimulating, and I hope that you also find it interesting and enjoyable. The course consists of lecture and tutorial components. Each component provides a different way of learning the material. The course schedule is found here


  • Below is a list of who to contact with particular questions.
    • Lecture instructor: Kazumi Tolich
    • Tutorial instructor: Dean Bretland
    • Introductory physics administrator: Susan Miller
      Contact with questions about registering, overloading, etc...
    • Physics department undergraduate adviser: Margot Nims
      Contact if you are interested in being a physics major or minor.


  • Lectures will focus on conceptual understanding of topics in the reading that students found most difficult, and we will also work on quantitative problem solving skills. We will not go over all the material covered in the book.
  • Lectures are from 1:30 PM to 2:20 PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in lecture hall A118 of the Physics and Astronomy Building auditorium wing.
  • You can find recordings of the lectures under "Panopto Recordings" on the left menu.
  • There are pre-lecture reading quizzes and in-class quizzes associated with lectures.
  • There are also suggested practice problems that are not graded.
  • Pre-lecture reading quiz
    • In order to follow the lecture, it is important that students do the assigned reading before class.
    • A quiz based on the reading and assigned through MyLab and Mastering is due at 8:00 AM on the day of the lecture that covers the particular topic.
    • There is no make-up pre-lecture reading quiz.
    • You have up to 5 attempts for each question.
    • For each wrong answer 10% of the grade is subtracted.
    • At the end of the quarter all scores are scaled by 1.25, so that 80% or above becomes 100%.
    • Note that practice problems, adaptive follow-ups, and dynamic study modules available also through Mastering are not graded, but great for your study.
  • Lecture in-class quiz
    • In order to increase participation and learning, there are quizzes during class that are assigned through Learning Catalytics. These require you to bring a web enabled device to lecture, so please contact me if you do not have access to a web enabled device.
    • When you first come to the classroom, log in to Learning Catalytics enter the seat number.
    • Some questions are graded purely on participation, and some are graded 80% for participation and 20% for the correct answer. At the end of the quarter all scores are scaled by 1.25, so that 80% or above becomes 100%.
    • The first time I ask a question, you should answer it by yourself. Depending on the result, I may ask it a second time, in which case you should discuss with your neighbors. Afterwards, some of you will share what you discussed in your group with the entire class.


  • Tutorials are from 5:00 PM to around 6:00 PM on Tuesdays in lecture hall 220 of Kane hall except on the days of midterms, October 16th and November 13th. 
  • Tutorials will focus on developing your conceptual understanding of physical laws though a scaffolded discovery process.
  • Tutorials consists of pretests and in-class participation with quizzes.
  • There will be suggested homework problems posted to Canvas, that will not be graded. However some long-answer problems on the midterms will be based on content from the tutorial homework, so completing the homework is highly recommended.
  • Tutorial pretests
    • NOTE: Pretests are assigned through Canvas. All other assignments are through Mastering Physics.
    • Pretests become available the Friday before the associated tutorial and must be completed by the day of the tutorial, Tuesday at 8 AM.  
    • The pretests are slightly different from pre-lecture: they are only open for 30 minutes, and after time is up your answers will be automatically submitted. Please keep a record of your confirmation page.
    • They are graded based on an honest attempt, so you will receive credit as long as you have attempted most of the questions, even if you run out of time.
  • Tutorial in-class quizzes
    • In a small group you will work through conceptual problems. Do not sit by yourself. If you get stuck, TAs will guide you by asking you questions rather than answering your questions.
    • Print out and bring the worksheets available in the Files link on the left.
    • In order to increase participation and learning, there are quizzes during tutorials that are assigned through Learning Catalytics. These require you to bring a web enabled device to tutorials, so please contact me if you do not have access to a web enabled device.


  • There are two midterm exams on October 16th and November 13th from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The detailed midterm exam procedures are discussed here
  • The final exam on December 10th from 2:30 PM to 4:20 PM in our regular lecture room, lecture hall A118 of the Physics and Astronomy Building auditorium wing.
  • All exams are closed-book. However, I will provide equation sheets.
  • Midterm exams have multiple-choice questions and long answer questions. Final exam has all multiple-choice questions. Therefore, you need a bubble sheet for each exam.
  • Calculators are permitted. However, the use of the text-storage capability is not permitted. Cell phones, radios, laptop computers etc that allow you to communicate with others are not permitted.
  • Note that there are no make-up exams. So, students with outside professional, service, or career commitments (i.e. military service, ROTC, professional conference presentation, NCAA sports, etc.) conflicting with the exam dates must contact me early in the quarter to establish remote examination procedures. Exam scores for students who miss an exam without making prior arrangements will be zero.

MyLab and Mastering and Learning Catalytics

Note that scores from Mastering are manually synced to Canvas, so if there is a discrepancy between these, the Mastering score is more correct, and the Canvas score should be correct at the next sync.

Getting help

OFFICE HOURS: Fridays from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm in the study center and Tuesdays from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm in my office, B 221. You are strongly encouraged to visit me regularly.

DISCUSSION BOARD: If you have questions about physics or course issues, please post it under the "Discussions" menu on the left, which I will monitor a few times per week, and if no one else answers it, I will respond. You are encouraged to use this to ask your fellow students for help, or to organize study groups, etc. I have heard that there is a discussion group set up on Facebook, but I will not monitor it, and it is in no way related to me.

STUDY CENTER: Teaching assistants can help you in the study center.

EMAIL: If you have a personal question, please send an email to me,

CLUE: CLUE provides drop-in tutoring and exam reviews.


  • Knight Jones Field, College Physics a strategic approach, 4th edition technology update, Pearson, 2018
  • Note:  the eTextbook is available through Mastering Physics, and you have paid for it through your registration course fee.


  • The final course grade is based on one of the following grade weightings. Your final grade will be assigned based on the option that gives you the higher grade. Therefore, if you miss a midterm for example, your grade will be determined using option 2.
      • Option 1
    • Midterm exams 40%
      Final exam 20%
      Pre-lecture reading quizzes 25%
      In-class quizzes 10%
      Tutorial pretest 5%
        • Option 2
      • Midterm exams (better of 2) 20%
        Final exam 40%
        Pre-lecture reading quizzes 25%
        In-class quizzes 10%
        Tutorial pretest 5%
        • The exams are curved, but all other aspects of the course are graded on an absolute scale, making it a little difficult to give a precise indication of your grade. The average grade in the course will be set to around 3.0 and typically between 5% and 10% students get a 3.9 or above, which leads to about 5 to 10% getting less than 2.0.
        • Check your grades regularly and report any problems to me. Exam grades should be recorded for your review within one week from the date.
        • Many majors have a minimum grade requirement for PHYS 116. Therefore, you should discuss departmental entry requirements with your undergraduate or departmental adviser, and plan your course load accordingly.

        Phys 119 Labs

        Taking a laboratory course, Phys 119, concurrently is recommended.

        I am in charge of Phys 119.

        More information on the laboratory section is given here.

        Many of the labs finish late at night, so I encourage all of you to look at the following useful Safety links.

        Access and accommodations

        Your experience in this class is important to me, so if you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but are not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical), please see details here (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

        Safe campus

        • I am committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus. I suggest you check out the resources available here. These include services if you have a lab or tutorial that is late at night and need someone to walk with you.
        Catalog Description: 
        Basic principles of physics presented without use of calculus. Suitable for students majoring in technically oriented fields other than engineering or the physical sciences. Sound, light, and modern physics. Credit is not given for both PHYS 116 and PHYS 123. Prerequisite: PHYS 115 or PHYS 122. Offered: AWSpS.
        GE Requirements: 
        Natural Sciences (NSc)
        Section Type: 
        Last updated: 
        October 17, 2018 - 9:41pm