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PHYS 141 A: Honors Mechanics

Meeting Time: 
MWF 9:30am - 10:20am
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photo of Paula Heron
Paula R. L. Heron

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to PHYS 141A. My name is Paula Heron (she/her), and I will be your instructor. 

In this class everyone is welcome, regardless of other identities you hold in addition to that of physics student.  I expect everyone in this class to treat each other with respect.

The honors introductory physics sequence is composed of PHYS 141, 142, and 143. Students with a strong interest in physics and strong calculus preparation are encouraged to enroll in this sequence. 

The material covered in PHYS 141 is the same as in PHYS 121, but each topic is discussed in more depth and may include active research and cross-disciplinary applications, and additional topics may be discussed. If you are enrolled in the UW Honors Program, PHYS 141 satisfies Interdisciplinary Honors credits. You should find this course challenging and stimulating, and I hope that you also find it interesting and enjoyable.


This course has multiple components lecture, lab, and tutorial (QZ section in time schedule) each of which has several important aspects.  These are described below after some general information critical to success in this course.

Resources to help you succeed

This website describes recommended practices to succeed in this course, and contains a list of resources you may find helpful for a variety of issues students may encounter during your time at UW.  Contact me if you need help finding the resources you need.

One very important practice described in the above website is working collaboratively.  You will be matched with a small group of your peers to form a “learning pod.” You will work together during Tutorial sessions, and we encourage you to collaborate on other aspects of the course. You and your pod will be working with a single TA for all aspects of the course. Slack (see below for more info), the collaboration platform we have picked for this class, will be the primary space where you can communicate with your pod and your TA.

Getting started

  • Connect to the online homework system (MyLab&Mastering) using the instructions found here.
  • For labs, we will use Pivot to perform video experiments.  Note that you have already paid for access to Pivot through the course fee as part of registration.  Your TA will announce details on how to get access during the first week of the quarter.
  • Slack will be the primary space where you can communicate with your pod and your TA.
    • To get started with this space, please complete this survey, so that we can try to match you to a group of people you will learn with effectively, and who you feel more comfortable with. 
    • Use your UW email to join our Slack workspace. Note that you will only see course-wide channels at first. Your TA will place you in a learning pod by the end of your first Tutorial session.
    • Get Slack running on your device. Here are useful tips and features for using Slack. We highly recommend downloading the mobile or desktop app, and turning notifications on so that you don't miss messages from your TA and other members of your pod.

Office Hours and Posting Questions

During the week the TAs and I will hold office hours on Zoom where you can ask questions.  Click "Office hours" in the menu on the left for the office hour schedule. 

Use Slack or the Discussion Board (click "Discussions" in the menu on the left) for physics questions or syllabus related questions.  Students are encouraged to answer each others' questions.  I will check in from time to time, but urgent questions should be sent to me directly. 

Contact information

For questions, send an email with your course and section (PHYS 141A), your UW netID (the part before in your email address), and name as it appears on Canvas to:

  • Me (Prof. Heron) at for personal correspondence related to grades, health issues, etc...
  • the program coordinator at for administrator questions related to registering, overloading, etc...
  • your TA (contact information here) for other questions.
  • the Phys 141 TA coordinator (Peter Shaffer) at for questions about your TA, or questions your TA may not be able to answer.

Course Material

You need to purchase the following items:

  • The Tutorial Course Pack,
    • Now available at the UWBookstore. 
    • This will be used to fill in your tutorial work and tutorial homework, so you cannot use a used one.
    • Contact Prof. Peter Shaffer at if you have questions.
  • Access code for MyLab and Mastering,
    • See purchasing options here.
  • Textbook: Principles & Practice of Physics, 1st edition by Mazur
    • See purchasing options here.

Class components

This class consists of lecture, lab, tutorial and exam components.  

Important: Since each exam includes questions based on the lectures, labs, and tutorials, missing a lecture, lab, or tutorial section can have an impact on your exam performance.  You should be sure to attend (or watch) all lectures, and work through any lab or tutorial that you miss as soon as possible to minimize the impact on your course grade.

Lecture components:

In Physics 141, lectures will be held live MWF at 9:30 on Zoom.  Zoom links can be found here.  Before each scheduled lecture you need complete the assigned reading (see schedule below).  The lectures include the following graded components:

  • Lecture reading discussion (4% of grade):
    • After completing the reading you need to complete the associated discussion assignment before 5 pm on the day before the assigned reading.
    • These are graded based on a thoughtful attempt, not on correctness, and you will be given credit for either asking a question, answering a previous question, or discussing a part of the reading you found particularly interesting.
    • This is a place for you to answer your fellow students' questions about the reading.  I will address important/common questions at the beginning of each lecture.  
    • If you miss more than three due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), please contact me.
  • Lecture participation (4% of grade):
    • The Zoom lectures will include discussion questions using the "Learning Catalytics" system (accessed through MyLab and Mastering on the menu at left).  Participation will count toward your final course grade.  
    • Lectures will be recorded and posted so you can review them.  
    • If you miss more than three lectures due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), please contact me.
  • Lecture homework (8% of grade):
    • Homework will be due on Tuesdays at 5 pm, and will be based on material covered in the previous week's reading and lectures.
    • The lecture homework can be accessed through MyLab and Mastering on the menu at left.

Lab components:

  • Labs (12% of grade):
    • There are eight graded lab assignments, some of which may have multiple parts.
    • Each lab assignment under "Assignments" tells you the parts to be completed in Pivot.
    • The labs are due Wednesday at 5 pm.  Before then you need to collect and analyze data from video experiments on Pivot and answer questions based on your work.
      • After you start any of the assignments, you can save your work and go back to it as many times as you want before the deadline, thus, allowing you to talk to peers or a TA, and then go back and finish.
    • Each lab assignment will be graded based on the following:
      • Adequate (2 points): All questions answered thoughtfully, and measurements closely match those expected.
      • Needs improvement (1 point): Some questions could use more explanation, and/or some measurements do not match those expected.
      • Inadequate (0 points): Lab not done or many questions could use more explanation, and/or many measurements do not match those expected.
    • If you receive 0 points or 1 point, you can do or redo up to 2 labs without asking for permission.
      • After the deadline, you will temporarily no longer be able to submit new work. Once the lab has been graded, it will be reopened, and you can complete missing work or change your responses based on feedback.  You need to contact your TA to make sure that they grade the new work.
    • If you need to make-up more than 2 labs due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), contact me.

Tutorials components:

The tutorials include the following graded components:

  • Tutorial pretest (1% of grade):
    • These are designed to get you thinking about your ideas on topics covered in this course.  They are graded based on a thoughtful attempt, not on correctness.
    • These become available Monday at 3:30 PM and are due on Thursday at 5:30 pm.
    • Once you start a pretest, you will have 15 minutes to complete it without the ability to pause.
    • Your lowest tutorial pretest score will be automatically dropped.
    • If you miss more than one tutorial pretest due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), please contact me.
  • Tutorial in-class (3% of grade):
    • You need to attend and actively participate in discussion at your tutorial section (QZ section on time schedule) each week to get participation credit.  Each tutorial will be graded based on the following:
      • Adequate (2 points): Actively engaged in discussion throughout tutorial.
      • Needs improvement (1 point):  Multiple periods not engaged in discussion during tutorial.
      • Missing (0 points): Did not attend any tutorial section.
    • If you cannot attend your tutorial section in a given week, you can attend another section.  A schedule of tutorials with their Zoom links can be found here (select "141" then select "141 Tutorial Schedule").  Be sure to contact your TA to let them know.
    • Your lowest tutorial in-class score will be automatically dropped.  However, you are still responsible for submitting the associated tutorial homework on time.
    • If you miss more than one tutorial in-class due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), please contact me.   
  • Tutorial homework (8% of grade):
    • Each tutorial has homework that is due at 5 pm the Wednesday after you have worked through the tutorial.
    • You need to upload a scanned pdf file to the Canvas tutorial homework assignment.
    • You can submit one tutorial homework up to one week late without asking for permission and with no penalty, but you need to contact your TA to make sure they grade it.
    • If, due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc), one homework needs to be submitted more than one week late, or more than one homework needs to be submitted after the deadline, please contact me.

All important tutorial information can be found under the "Tutorial Information" menu on the left.  Once at the tutorial website select "14x." 


Exams will be done online.  The exam procedure is described here.

The following dates are preliminary and may change.

  • Midterm exam 1 on October 29th starting between 4:55 and 5:15 pm (PDT). Once you start the exam, you will have 60 minutes to finish the exam.
  • Midterm exam 2 on November 19th starting between 4:55 and 5:15 pm (PST). Once you start the exam, you will have 60 minutes to finish the exam.
  • Final exam on December 16th starting between 8:25 and 8:45 am (PST). Once you start the exam, you will have 110 minutes to finish the exam.

Students in other time zones: We will let you know of alternative arrangements once the quarter starts.

There are no make-up exams.  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 alternate examination procedures.  Exam scores for students who miss an exam without making prior arrangements will be zero.

Each exam is out of 100 points, and has three components:

  • 70 points on lecture material
  • 15 points on tutorial material
  • 15 points on lab material

Exams will count for 60% of your grade.  Your overall exam score will be based on the best of the following two methods:

  • Method 1: 20% from each of your midterms scores and 20% from your final exam score
  • Method 2: 20% from your best midterm score and 40% from your final exam score

We will design the exams such that a student who understands some of the material very well but needs some improvement in the remaining material should get a score around 65%.  If the class average on a given exam is less than 65%, then all the scores for that exam will be adjusted upward so that the average is 65%. Scores will not be adjusted downward even if the class average is higher than 65%.

If a student is found responsible for misconduct during an exam, a score of zero will be given for that exam for this student.  If the misconduct occurs during a midterm, only Method 1 is used to calculate the final grade, and Method 2 is not used.


You will get a grade of 0 for the entire course if either of the following criteria are met:

  • You receive 0 points for 3 or more lab assignments.
  • You receive less than 9 out of the 16 points possible on the lab assignments.

Otherwise your final weighted percentage is converted to a grade point using the following thresholds: (THESE ARE PRELIMINARY AND BASED ON 121 - THEY MAY BE REVISED)

grade point course score   grade point course score   grade point course score   grade point course score
4.0 92.0 3.0 76.0 2.0 60.0 1.0 44.0
3.9 90.4 2.9 74.4 1.9 58.4 0.9 42.4
3.8 88.8 2.8 72.8 1.8 56.8 0.8 40.8
3.7 87.2 2.7 71.2 1.7 55.2 0.7 39.2
3.6 85.6 2.6 69.6 1.6 53.6    
3.5 84.0 2.5 68.0 1.5 52.0    
3.4 82.4 2.4 66.4 1.4 50.4    
3.3 80.8 2.3 64.8 1.3 48.8    
3.2 79.2 2.2 63.2 1.2 47.2    
3.1 77.6 2.1 61.6 1.1 45.6  

Reading schedule

Reading schedule.

Access and accommodation

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 contact DRS to arrange accommodations.

Equity and inclusion

I am committed to promoting equity and inclusion in society, in the physics community, at the UW and in my classroom.  Feel free to let me know if you feel I am not living up to this commitment.  

Safe campus

I am committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus.  I encourage you to check out the resources available here.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (

Academic integrity and student conduct

The University takes academic integrity and student conduct very seriously.  Behaving with integrity and respect is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community.  Acts of academic misconduct may include, but are not limited to: cheating by working with others or sharing answers on exams.

Please note that screenshots or recordings of instructors, other students, and course materials during active video (Zoom) participation sessions are strictly forbidden.  Streaming or posting inappropriate materials on any course platform is also not allowed. 

All the course materials including exam and quiz questions, lecture notes, lecture videos are intellectual properties of the instructor and the University of Washington. Distributing them in any form without permission is forbidden.  

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals.  Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution.  More information can be found online at

If you’re uncertain about if something is academic or behavioral misconduct, ask me.  I am willing to discuss questions you might have.

Catalog Description: 
Addresses same material as PHYS 121 in more depth and with additional topics such as current research and cross-disciplinary applications. For students with strong calculus preparation. Maximum 5 credits allowed for any combination of PHYS 114, PHYS 117, PHYS 121, and PHYS 141. Prerequisite: either a minimum grade of 2.5 in MATH 124, MATH 134, which may be taken concurrently, a minimum score of 4 on the AP Calculus AB exam, or a minimum score of 3 on the AP Calculus BC exam; recommended: high school-level physics course. Offered: A.
GE Requirements: 
Natural World (NW)
Other Requirements Met: 
Honors Course
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
April 16, 2021 - 9:14pm