Course Syllabus

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

            (attributed to Albert Einstein)


A picture of Albert Einstein

A bit about the course: This is the first semester of the introductory physics sequence for prospective physics majors. In this course, we will discuss particle kinematics and dynamics, energy and momentum conservation, rotational motion, fluids, oscillatory motion, waves, sound, and thermodynamics. Together with the second Introductory Physics course, this gives you the basis of what is now called classical physics, which is the basis for most STEM applications. I hope to go in just enough detail that you can pick up from there and study more specialized material where you need it.

Our course prerequisite (that means: a course that you should have already taken) is MATH 1310 (Calculus I). Our course corequisite (that means: a course that have already taken, or that you are taking right now) is MATH 1320 (Calculus II). I will not check on those, but please talk to me if you do enroll in this course and have not fulfilled pre- or corequisites.

Relationship to similar courses: PHYS 1420 is calculus-based; therefore, it exceeds requirements for medical school applicants. We offer the algebra-based introductory physics courses PHYS 2010 and PHYS 2020 specifically for pre-health students. For students who are interested in majoring in a STEM degree, but not physics, PHYS 1425 (instead of this course) is the default choice, although both are covering the same material.

This course and its successor (PHYS 2410) cover "Classical" Physics. When you get into the physics of very small (nanotechnology) or very fast (relativity) objects, you need to go beyond. We teach these things in PHYS 2620 (“Modern” Physics). This course contributes to making you ready to study “Modern” Physics.

What you will learn: The course content is the basis for many higher level STEM courses, and I believe the understanding how the various laws are connected has value beyond listing them on a formula sheet. You will …

  • ... build a fundamental framework of concepts particle kinematics and dynamics, energy and momentum conservation, rotational motion, fluids, oscillatory motion, waves, sound, and thermodynamics. You will learn how you can use these to solve practical problems that you encounter in your career.
  • ... develop basic ability of solving problems representative of those in the work of professional scientists and engineers, by combining physical laws with math tools. Some of those will be short, but some will span the complete real-world process. You will recognize one can use different methods to solve the same problem. And you will be able to check own solutions using estimation, “sanity” check, dimensional analysis, limit checks, and using different physical laws. You will be able to use these abilities for many applications well beyond the material we are discussing in physics.
  • ... train team-work. We will work on your ability to formulate a specific question if you get stuck so that your fellow students or instructor can give a meaningful answer. You will collaborate with your peers at your table to find the correct path to a solution together.
  • ... learn how to self-study. You will prepare the material discussed in each lecture using the textbook and my slides. We will apply the material in the lecture, not re-learn it. You will not get much out of the lecture if you come unprepared.

Though the course will be challenging, if you fully engage, work diligently throughout the semester, and continually improve and practice your critical thinking skills, this course will allow you to succeed in all of our learning goals.

How to get ready: We use the textbook by Giancoli, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 5th, with Modified MasteringPhysics for completing some assignments online. We will cover chapters 1-20. Due to otherwise unreasonable pricing, this course will take part in the inclusive access program with the UVA Bookstore. The program works as follows: All students enrolled in the class will have immediate access to your digital course materials through Canvas for about the first 2 weeks of class—for free. If you stay in the program, your student account will be charged $75.99.

The inclusive access program is optional for students, but you must actively opt out by the deadline (January 31) or your SIS account will be charged. Once you opt out, you will lose access to the etext version of the textbook. No refunds can be processed after the deadline. If you have any questions regarding the program, please email the bookstore at The downside of inclusive access program is that you lose access to the etext after the end of the course. I found it very helpful in my studies and in my subsequent career as a physicist to be able to read the book (and specifically the book I learned from). You can purchase paper copies either through Mastering Physics, or from any book seller. The 5th edition is only available as a rental, but you can keep it for an additional non-return fee at which point you will have paid about $150 for the book. Whatever you choose, you do need access to a text for your readings (must be >=3rd edition of "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" – check the title, there is another book from the same author for pre-health students), and you need access to Modified MasteringPhysics (which alone will cost you about as much as staying in the Inclusive access program).

You should not purchase access to your Pearson materials unless you have opted out of University of Virginia’s Inclusive Access Program. If you plan to opt out, please do not use the access code that was distributed to you via the UVA Bookstore Inclusive Access link through your Canvas course. Otherwise, please follow the 2-part directions below.

  • To get started, go to your Canvas course and click on the tab for the UVA Bookstore Inclusive Access and click on the VitalSource Course Materials link. Navigate to the Courseware product you'd like to access and click "Acquire Access Code." Write down your access code or copy & paste it into a separate word/text file.
  • Now that you’ve acquired your access code, navigate back to your Canvas course, and go to the "Access Pearson" link in your Canvas course to begin the registration process. When prompted, type in the Access Code you copied/saved and complete your registration process. Please click the video link for supplementary registration directions for MyLab and Mastering.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the submission process for written work in Gradescope
( may be helpful)

​How you are learning and how will you know it: At the end of this syllabus, you find a table of contents and a tentative schedule of
our course. You are expected to read the assigned chapters in the textbook, or listen to my video recordings, before class. Since I believe doing problems with me is a more efficient use of lecture time than just presentations, I will usually NOT cover the material in my presentation.
After we do lots of problems together in the lecture, you will be asked to do some on your own, with increasing difficulty.

On quizzes through MasteringPhysics (MP): In these quizzes you will show that you read the material of the assigned chapters. I may add tutorials if I think they add significantly to the reading (Some of the tutorials in MasteringPhysics are really good).

On class work (CW): I will hand out a problem sheet with 1-2 written problems that are based on the
material you have learned in the previous lectures. You will try to solve them in groups. This will avoid misconception and build team-working skills. At the end, I hope volunteers will show a solution to everybody. At home after the class work day, you will write up the solution and submit it through GradeScope. With this you will show that you can apply your foundational knowledge, and I hope the group work leads to lots of Human interaction.

On chapter summaries (CS): The summary should have about the length of the chapter summaries in your textbook, that is, about one hand-written page. You will get most points for having made a serious effort. If hand-written, your chapter summaries can be used during exams. Use your own words, just copying the textbook summary is not considered a serious effort.

On weekly homework (HW) Assignments: We will have 1-2 more complex homework problems on paper. The dates of the deadlines are given in the table at the bottom of the syllabus. With your HW, you will show your foundational knowledge, and you will apply it. Note that I will post solutions to the homework immediately after the due date, so that you can check yourself when you remember.

On the presentation: at the end of the lecture, we will reserve a day for a presentation. You will select a topic from the textbook from the omitted chapters, and present this in class. Details and the format will be discussed after the midterm.

On the Exams: Midterm and Final exam will be closed-book exams. You will be allowed to bring a formula sheet, hand-written, by yourself. And you can bring all chapter summaries if they are hand-written by you. All exams will be held in class. We will have conceptual problems (like we discuss in the lecture) and quantitative problems (like we discussed in class work and homework). You must pledge that you have not received or given aid on these exams. The final exam will cover the whole course, but otherwise it will have the same format as the midterm.

Your written work will be graded by human beings. Neat handwriting will be greatly appreciated. Label your problems clearly as “Problem 1”, “Problem 2”, etc., and underline or put a box around your final answers. Use of a black or blue colored pen (or use of a pencil) is preferred. Please avoid red color.

The final grade for this course will be determined from: 10% MasteringPhysics, 5% Chapter Summaries, 10% Class work, 15% Homework Assignments, 10% Presentation, 20% for the midterm and 30% for the final exam. The grade points from the individual assignments translate into letter grades according to the following table:

A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
>97 >93 >90 >87 >83 >80 >77 >73 >70 >67 >63 >60  otherwise

Do not rely on the averages computed in "Grades", they are not correct.

A few things to help you along the way: I designed this course to be welcoming to everyone. I believe physics laws don’t depend on who is using them, but I do understand that some persons feel more comfortable in an environment with fellow students (and later: scientists) than others, and that being a representative (and sometimes sole representative) of an underrepresented minority can feel intimidating. Judging from past experiences, I can assure you that your sense of belonging will grow with time. I also understand that personal circumstances or unforeseen events can sometimes interfere with your academic responsibilities. I will work with you to ensure your best possible performance in the course. We can meet during or outside office hours to discuss any difficulties you may be experiencing, or suggestions for making the course more welcoming and accessible. Because of privacy issues, you will need to initiate these conversations.

Your TA is Gary Quaresima <>, one of our graduate students with teaching experience, and your grader is Zachary Rios <>. They will help during classwork time. Zachary will grade chapter summaries, and Gary will grade classwork and homework. Please direct questions and complaints about the grading initially to them (unless it is about the exam), best through the Gradescope system.

You can reach me in my office, in room 169 in the physics building (or by email). My official office hours are Tuesdays 3-4 pm and Thursdays 5-6 pm. You can reach Gary Quaresima in office hours, which are on Wednesdays between 2 pm and 3 pm in room 231 of the physics building.

Personal circumstances can impact a person’s ability to learn. If you are comfortable doing so, please notify me of any life circumstances that may affect your engagement in this class. The Office of the Dean of Students provides a list with resources that can help if you are experiencing mental health, housing, safety and food insecurity issues here or at their contact list.

A few course policies: Due dates are firm, but extensions requested ahead of time are normally granted. In all cases, later work is preferable to plagiarism, which is considered a violation of the honor code. What is plagiarism? Generally speaking, it is any attempt to take credit for work done by another person (including chatbots and "homework helper" websites). If you have any questions about what may constitute plagiarism, please consult with me.

By the end of the semester, those of you who fill out the course evaluation will have the lowest HW grade exempt from the final grade. Additionally, each of you will receive a “free pass” on Mastering Physics quizzes. That means one of the weekly quizzes is exempt, in addition to the zeroth quiz that is ungraded. This should take care of occasional illness or other unexpected “bad week” reasons for missing the HW or a quiz.

Illness Policy: Email me before the day of the class and I will use Zoom for the lecture. All assignments can be done outside the classroom. Do do not hesitate to request an extension if you feel sick.

Please contact me ( if anything is unclear or links become outdated.

Tentative Table of Contents:

Date Textbook Topic
W1/17 1.1-1.5 Measurements
F1/19 2.1-2.5 Kinematics
M1/22 1.6-1.7/2.6-2.8 Problem solving
W1/24 3.1-3.8 3D Kinematics
F1/26 Classwork
M1/29 3.9/4.1-4.4 Moving reference frames and Newton's Laws
W1/31 4.5-4.8 Newton's Laws, cont.
F2/2 Classwork
M2/5 5.1-5.3/5.5/5.6 Friction / Circular motion
W2/7 6.1-6.5 Gravitation
F2/9 Classwork
M2/12 7.1-7.4 Work and kinetic energy
W2/14 8.1-8.6 Conservation of energy
F2/16 Classwork
M2/19 8.7-8.9, 9.1-9.3 Conservation of energy, cont., linear momentum
W2/21 9.4-9.9 Collisions, Center of Mass
F2/23 Classwork
M2/26 10.1-10.6 Rotational motion
W2/28 10.7-10.9 Rotational motion, cont.
F3/1 Midterm
M3/11 11.1-11.3 Angular momentum
W3/13 11.4-11.6/12.1/12.2/12.4 Angular momentum, cont., Equilibrium
F3/15 Classwork
M3/18 13.1-13.6 Fluid statics
W3/20 13.7-13.12 Fluid dynamics
F3/22 Classwork
M3/25 12.5/12.6/14.1-14.2 Elasticity and fracture, Oscillations
W3/27 14.3-14.5/14.7/14.8 Oscillations, cont.
F3/29 Classwork
M4/1 15.1-15.5 Waves
W4/3 15.6-15.11 Waves, cont.
F4/5 Classwork
M4/8 16.1-16.5 Sound
W4/10 16.6/16.7/16.9, 17.1-17.2 Sound, cont., Temperature
F4/12 Classwork
M4/15 17.3-17.4, 17.6-17.8 Ideal gas
W4/17 17.9/18.1-18.3 Kinetic theory, Real gases
F4/19 Classwork
M4/22 18.4-18.8 Real gases, cont., Diffusion
W4/24 19.1-19.7 Heat and 1st Law of Thermodynamics
F4/26 Classwork
M4/29 Presentations
F5/10, 2 pm Final