Here it is, the syllabus in all of its glory.  It may be a bit long, but that is because it is full of valuable information.  ;-)

Locations & Times

  • For "lecture"-101 Seaver Hall, 10:00- 10:50 MWF
  • For lab- 119 or 121 Seaver Hall, select one of the nine sections

Electronic Materials

  • If you purchased a new textbook, you should have received an access code for Physics Now, which is Brooks/ Cole- Thomson’s companion web site for our book. ( or If you bought a used book, you can still access the site for a $30 fee. The site is completely optional, however it may be worth looking at if you want some additional help. The site has several useful features. You’ll notice that at the end of each chapter in our book several question are marked as having solutions and hints on the web. One nice way to use this feature is to use the “work in steps” option. This basically acts as a coach to help you through each step in a complicated question. The active figures and chapter quizzes can give you additional practice, but they lack significant feedback.
  • When you contact me via email, I suggest that you make sure your name, and not some nickname such as “cuddlebear542” is in the header. Also, give your message an appropriate subject. These steps will diminish the likelihood that my email software, or myself, will think your message is spam and needs to be trashed.

Required Text

  • Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Ray Serway and John Jewett (Books/ Cole- Thomson, 2004) We will cover most of volume two this semester; hopefully you kept volume one as a reference.


  • Who am I?: Jeff Phillips (a.k.a. Dr. Jeff)
  • Where I "live": 106 Seaver Hall
  • When I tend to be "home": MWF 11-12, M 2-3, T 1:30-3:30   (I’m normally around my office and more than willing to meet with students at other times.)
  • Other ways to contact me: phone-338-7811 and email-


Student responsibilities include (but not limited to):

  • Coming to class prepared which includes actively reading the text, trying various example problems, and studying any additional handouts.
  • Attempting all homework, this can be done either individually or in study groups with your classmates (simply be careful not to rely on your classmates so much that you cannot solve problems by yourself on tests).
  • Asking questions when material is unclear, this can be done during office hours, in class or via email.
  • Regularly check email for schedule or policy changes.

Dr. Jeff’s responsibilities include (be are certainly not limited to):

  • Being receptive to student feedback and suggestions concerning both course content and design.
  • Providing opportunities for students to assess their own progress.
  • Employing several modalities (verbal, visual, tactile, etc) when introducing topics so as to accommodate different learning styles.
  • Maintaining a respectful and student-centered environment.
  • Aiding your preparation for future courses and careers. Virtually all activities have been chosen to help make you better students and future engineers & scientists.

Grading (drum roll please)
          Please read this section carefully.  (Okay, I hope you read all of the sections carefully, but I know this one is of particular interest to you.)  As I mentioned in the opening section, people tend to learn a skill best by practicing it.  This is probably common sense to you.  After all, one hardly becomes a great quarterback by simply watching Monday Night Football every week.  If you want to be a better athlete (or musician or painter or poet or…) you would practice the fundamentals of that activity as well as prepare for "game situations" (or concerts or whatever).  You can think of our homework as the practices, the tests as games or concerts, and me as a coach.

          With that said, I also understand that not everybody learns the same way.  Some people can study an activity from a distance and become quite proficient.  Some people may feel as though they learn physics best on their own and not attending class discussions.  For those students I want to allow you to study as you feel is best.  This means that I’m offering two grading options- one is test-intensive and the other is practice-intensive.  Each student is free to choose either option; you know yourself better than anybody.  However, I would strongly suggest the practice-intensive option.  :-)

          You choose an option by signing the contract handed out on the first day of class.  You may change your contract for a given unit by submitting a new contract no later than the unit’s second class session.  Your grading option automatically reverts to test-intensive if your homework score at the end of the unit is below a D.

          The weight for various aspects of the course are as follows:

Practice Intensive

          As you can see our semester is divided into four units.  You can refer to the schedule at the end of this document for more information on which sections of the text correspond to which unit.  (Okay, that’s not quite true.  You’ll actually see on the schedule that there is fifth unit that does not have a test.  The problems and exercises associated with this unit will be averaged with the ones from the fourth unit.)  The following sections describe the tests, problems, and exercises in detail.
          All grades in this class will be based on a fixed scale, which means that you shouldn’t feel any need to "compete" with your classmates.  The grading scale we will be using is as follows:

93-100= A
90- 92= A-
87- 89= B+
83- 86= B
80- 82= B-
77- 79= C+
73- 76= C
70- 72= C-
60- 69= D
0- 59= F

Structure Within The Units

         Each Unit will feature three separate phases. In phase builds on the others. First we begin with a qualitative investigation and discussion. This will help us to understand what we trying to study. Then we develop a model (or theory if you like) of what we have seen. The final phase is really the fun part- this is where we apply our hard work to interesting and challenging situations. For what it’s worth this structure is based on what educational researchers call the Learning Cycle. Many others have shown that this format is one of the most effective at helping students learn new material, particularly the science.

  • Investigation- In the first phase we will make careful observations of the world through demonstration, experiments and videos. Before we start to create theories or jargon, we want to simply describe what happens in our own words.
  • Model Formation & Testing- This will be the bulk of each unit. Here we will create a model (or theory) of what we observed. These models will be described very carefully using specific terms and/ or mathematics. Once we think we understand what is going on, we will try the model on similar systems. Think of this as your time to tinker, and allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t expect that you’ll get it right all of the time- nobody does!
  • Application- After we feel comfortable with our model, we can then apply it to new situations. Here we can take what we discovered with simple experiments and apply it to “real-world” situations. This is where the power of physics can be seen.

       You may be wondering- where the textbook fits into all of this “exploring” and “model testing?” Most science texts are very dense and take some thought to read. The good news is that they have an incredible amount of knowledge within them; almost too much. You need to remember that it has taken some of the world’s most persistent and learned people hundreds of years to figure out what is written in our text. In order to compress all of this knowledge into a somewhat reasonable size, most of the “superficial” information has been stripped out. Unfortunately, this includes the questions that these clever individuals were trying to answer. What good are the answers without the questions? It’s not impossible to make sense of the information, I’m just saying it will take some work.
       Within our unit structure, it would be a good idea to read the text while we are building and testing our models. After all, this is what it does best. The practical message is this: you should read the text actively, and complete all of the reading for a unit within the first couple days. That way you’re either ready to ask questions about the reading or apply the ideas to exercises and problems.

         Some "problems" you will encounter will be more straightforward than others.  This is not to say that they will always be "easy".  Think of this type of homework as the drills you might run over and over in practice or the scales you play until you can play them without thinking.  All of these simplified practices can be referred to as exercises (which will help to differentiate them from problems).  Before you can move on to playing Mozart you need to know your scales.  Similarly, you won’t be solving physics (or engineering) problems without first mastering the fundamentals through exercises.  Exercises are usually (but not always) characterized by certain features:

  • They may involve only a single application of one major principle, so that deciding on an approach to the problem is simple.
  • The question is clearly stated as the need to find some specific physics quantity, e.g. velocity, energy, force, so that the relevant physics description is often suggested by the problem itself.
  • Just enough information has been provided for you to determine a numerical value of the desired quantity, so that describing the situation and problem approach are simplified.
  • All quantitative information is given in a simple set of units, so that if the correct principle is applied, the numerical solution will be correct.
  • They often resemble other exercises which you may have recently encountered (from either class or the text).  Because the objects described in the exercise and their relationship are similar to other examples given, visualization of the problem is simpler.

         Often exercises will be given to you in the form of a worksheet that is related to either what we did in class or what you are to read for the next class.  Other exercises may be in the form of end of the chapter problems from the text.  Also, in-class we will often perform mini-experiments or work on problems in groups which will be considered part of your exercise grade.  Exercises will normally be graded them according to the following system:

10- very thorough explanations and solutions
8 - good effort, complete, mostly correct

6 - incomplete (looks like something thrown together ten minutes before class) 

0 - ouch!; either you failed to turn in your worksheet on time, or you made no effort

         As you can see the grading here emphasizes making a good faith effort.  Exercises are designed to help you focus your studying on the essentials and begin to apply the concepts to straightforward "problems".  You shouldn’t feel as though you need to work on the exercises in a vacuum- work with other students and ask Dr. Jeff questions.


         If exercises are the practice drills of this course, then problems are the scrimmages or recitals.  Just like in a scrimmage, successfully solving a problem will require you to use the fundamentals you have previously mastered.  In contrast to exercises, problems have the following characteristics:

  • They may require the application of multiple concepts and/ or multiple applications of the same concept.
  • The question may not be stated as the need to find any particular quantity; the problem may ask for a judgement, in which case you must decide what quantities you need to find in order to make a good judgement.
  • The problem statement may include information which is not useful at all.  On the other hand, some important information may not be expressly provided; you will have to provide that information from your own general knowledge.
  • Quantitative information may be provided in unfamiliar or inconsistent units.
  • The situation described may appear new to you; it may appear that you have never seen a similar problem.

         As you can tell from this list, problems tend to be much more like what you can expect to encounter in "the real world".  In fact, it is safe to say that no matter what you profession (from engineer to journalist) you will face many more problems than exercises. 

         Since the course focuses more on how you do a problem rather than whether you’ve gotten the right answer (this is true on tests as well), the grading of problems will emphasize process as well as correct physics.   What is most important is that we improve our problem solving and critical thinking skills.  Thus, in writing up problem solutions, you should write out complete solutions.   We will discuss the level of necessary detail later in class, but the basic criteria will be- can somebody else read your solution and understand each step.  This means no ESP should be necessary when trying to understand a solution. 

         Problems will largely be graded on your use of the problem solving algorithm.  As is mentioned in the problem solving handout, the model (the pictures, words and equations) are your answer to a problem, not just the final numerical result.

         Just as with the exercises you’re encouraged to work collaboratively on the problems - studying together is a good way to learn physics.  But don’t just copy work from a friend!  You will help yourself in the short run (good score on the homework assignment, maybe) but punish yourself in the long run (you’re not learning anything, and it’ll show on tests).


         There are in-class tests following the completion of each unit (see the class schedule on the last page for dates).   In addition, there will be a comprehensive final exam gvien on Friday, December 15 at 8am, which will be worth 25% of your grade.

        Tests will consist of conceptual questions of the multiple choice, short answer, and fill-in-the-blank variety as well as exercises and problems. For each test, you will be allowed to bring in one 3”x5” note card. You can write down anything you want on this card- equations, notes, examples, prayer to St. Albert (patron saint of scientists), whatever. Keep in mind that physics is a description of physical phenomena. Sometimes we use the language of mathematics to articulate these ideas, but the math itself is not physics. Exams will be written to test your understanding of physics not mathematics

         You should understand that while each test is associated with a particular unit that does not mean that the physics that we learned before that unit can be forgotten.  Each unit relies on the previous ones.  A test will certainly emphasize the material of that particular unit, but concepts and problem solving techniques from the previous unit may also appear on the test.  In fact, one can go even further to say that it is important to also remember what was learned in physics 101.  There are many concepts that return in 201.  (Forces and energies are two main ones.)

         One consequence of this cumulative nature of the course is that when you receive your test back with corrections, it would be beneficial to review it and learn from any mistakes.  To help encourage this I’m going to offer each of you the opportunity to make corrections to their tests and earn back some of the points you may have missed.  Also, all of us sometimes make mistakes, especially when we under pressure as in a test, and it can be very frustrating not being able to fix your mistakes.  We will discuss the test correction scheme more before the first test.

         Note that there are no make-up tests unless you can provide documentation of some dire circumstance that prevented you from being present at the test.


         Details about labs can be found in the guideline section of the Physics 203 Lab Manual.


         As with all courses at LMU, each student is expected to contribute to the course.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to present a 30 minute lecture on quantum electrodynamics; rather, simply asking questions or sharing your ideas is all it takes.  As was mentioned several times before, people learn best when they do something or they try to explain it to others.  So, by participating in discussions you will not only help yourself, but also your classmates- definitely a win-win situation.

         We’ll try and be as flexible as possible, not going too fast, but this course will require each of us to work outside of class, to come to class prepared, and to participate.  It is important that everybody asks questions when they’re unsure about something.  Ask in class, after class, in office hours, over email ,etc.  With sufficient feedback (both students giving to the instructor as well as the instructor giving to the students) we should be able to keep the course at a reasonable, yet challenging level.


Assorted administrative policies
         Cheating, plagiarism, submission of the work of others, etc. violates LMU’s Honor Code and may result in penalties ranging from a lowered grade to course failure or expulsion. Often students will be allowed to work together in groups on homework assignments, but this does not mean you are able to turn in somebody else’s work. Any group work (in or out of class) is meant to be a collaborative effort that improves the students’ understanding of physics as well as team working skills. When in doubt as to whether or not group work is permitted, or what exactly constitutes collaborative teamwork versus plagiarism, ask Dr. Jeff. A further discussion of the campus policies and student obligations are given in the Undergraduate Bulletin.
         Homework will be accepted the following class period after the due date (unless otherwise stated assignments are due at the beginning of class). However, there is a late penalty of a 50% reduction in the score. So, if you turn in a worksheet the next class and receive 8 points out of a possible 10, then your actual grade becomes 4 points out of 10. Assignments will NOT be accepted after this grace period.
         If you know of any campus activities (travel with sorts teams, for example) that will interfere with class, you should inform Dr. Jeff ahead of time so fair adjustments can be made. Students who require alternative accommodations due to learning disabilities should contact Disability Support Services in Daum Hall.