Sping 2012







Giridhar Nandikotkur (Giri), giridhar@umd.edu
Office: Computer and Space Science Building CSS 2357

Course Website

Or you could go to www.physics.umd.edu/courses/Phys121 and click on our class.


SECTIONS 0101 - 0106:
Tu, Thu 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Tues: 7.00 – 8.50 pm, Thu: 7.00 pm- 7.50 pm in Physics 1201
The tentative schedule of lectures can be printed (Click here)

Teaching Assistants, Discussions, and Labs
There are four sections in this course that meet at the following times



Lab (Room 3314)

Teaching Assistant


Thu: 8:00am-8:50am
Room: PHYS 1219

Thu: 9:00am-10:50am

Hong, Sungwoo, (sungwoo83hong@gmail.com)
Office: PHYS 0220, 5-5969


Tue: 8:00am-8:50am
Room: PHYS 1219

Tue: 9:00am-10:50am

Hong, Sungwoo, (sungwoo83hong@gmail.com)
Office: PHYS 0220, 5-5969


Room: PHYS 1219

Thu: 2:00pm-3:50pm

Andrews, Jason
Office: PHYS3103B, 5-6189


Room: PHYS 1402

Mon: 1:00pm-2:50pm

Cheung, Elim
Office: PHYS3103B, 5-6189


Room: PHYS 1402

Wed: 12:00pm-1:50pm

Cheung, Elim
Office: PHYS3103B, 5-6189


Mon: 8:00am-8:50am

Mon: 9:00am-10:50am

de la Fuente, Anton
Office: PHYS0104, 5-8577


Thu: 8:00pm-8:50pm
Room: PHYS 1219

Tu: 5:00pm-6:50pm

Andrews, Jason
Office: PHYS3103B, 5-6189


Tu: 9:00pm-9:50pm
Room: PHYS 1219

Thu: 8:00pm-9:50pm

de la Fuente, Anton
Office: PHYS0104, 5-8577

About the course
Welcome to PHYS 121! The first part of a two-semester course in general physics treating the fields of mechanics, heat, sound, electricity, magnetism, optics, and modern physics. Together with PHYS122, this generally satisfies the minimum requirement of medical and dental schools..

Required Texts and Materials.
Text: College Physics: A Strategic Approach (2nd Edition) Randall D. Knight, Brian Jones and Stuart Field. (Volume 1)
Lab Manual: Physics 121 Laboratory Manual (UMCP)
Both texts are available at the University Book Store and the Maryland Book Exchange.
Mastering Physics: Half of the homework is going to be online. You need to get an online account at www.masteringphysics.com.
Clickers: These are electronic devices available at the university book store and are required.

Confusion about what to buy:
You will be using Volume 1 in PHYS121, but Volume 1 AND Volume 2 in PHYS122. So you will just need Volume 1 if this is the only course you are concerned about. The testudo website lists some combination packages and recommended purchases. These have been historically associated with this course. There is some confusion due to many combinations and packages available. If you buy a complete mastering physics package, you get an ebook with it which contains both volume 1 and volume 2. If you just want the textbook, and the mastering physics account, you can go to the www.masteringphysics.com and register as a student and buy an account (ebook does not come with it) for $57. If you include ebook, then it is around $95. Some of the homework will be assigned from the textbook. So if you have an older edition or another text book and you want to save money, you will be responsible to get the homework problems. Whether you want to buy the students solutions manual and workbook, it is your decision. It is not required.

MATH 112 or MATH 115 is a prerequisite for this class. Knowledge of basic Algebra and geometry is assumed. We understand that due to the varied background that students come from, not everyone is equally equipped with the skills required. Hence, we will try to hone your skills by addressing these topics when the need arises.

Course requirements

Course requirements serve three functions.  First, and most importantly, they help you to learn the material.  Second, they help us to better teach the material in lectures, discussions, and labs by providing feedback on what is well and not so well understood.  Finally, they aid us in evaluation. 


Your grades will be based upon the following components

Mid-term exams

See the exam page. Best 2 out of 3; 12 % each


Final Exam




Dept Rules: You get an F even if you miss one lab!



Unannounced (best 4 out of 6)






Mastering Physics



Based partly effort, engaging in discussions in tutorial, % completion of homeworks, asking questions in the lecture, attendance in lecture discussion, Clicker score,
Your TA's feedback will be taken into account.


At the end of the course, roughly 25-30% of the students will end up with A- and above, 35-40 % of the students will end up with B- and above, and the rest of the students will get Cs and below.
The averages on the mid-term exams could be somewhere between 55-75 %. If the average on a mid-term is very low, some points are added to each student’s score so that 20 % of the students end up with As. Quizzes, homeworks, labscores are not curved. Students improve their grades by the end of the semester as the lowest midterm, 2 lowest quiz scores, 1 written homework, 1 mastering physics homework is dropped.

Grade cutoffs: A-/B+ 88%, C+/B- 78% D+/C- 60 %, D-/F 50%. There are many components to the process of curving.

  • You drop the lowest midterm exam, 2 lowest quizzes, 1 mastering physics homework, and 1 written homework. This improves your final score by a large margin if you work hard and care about your grade.
  • Points being added to each midterm as discussed above.

How do I calculate my grade?
At any point during the semester use the following formula to calculate your grade.
Your % points out 72 = % on 2 best midterm exams * 0.24 + % on 4 best quizzes *0.1 +% on MP-homework *0.09 + % on written homework * 0.09 + % on labs * 0.20.  Compare these to the cutoffs listed above.


Mastering Physics: You will need to get an account at www.masteringphyiscs.com. The homework is posted there once you enroll in the course. The course ID will be provided by the instructor in an email.
Written - assigned Problems: GROUP ACTIVITY. In the first week of meeting, you will get a chance to form a group with two classmates. Each group will turn in hand-written (NOT TYPED) homework.
Each group member will take turns writing the complete homework. You are not allowed to write the homework for two consecutive weeks. If you are not able to form groups, your TA will help you.

The surest and best way to learn physics is to work through as many problems as possible. However, it is not feasible to grade each and every problem. Hence, we will select and grade in detail two problems from every homework; each of the two problems are worth 6 points each. he problems graded in detail are marked in bold red, on the homework page. Two of the black colored problems are graded out of 3 points each. But these are graded very coarsely with possible points of 0.75, 1.5 2.25, 3. A correct solution gets 3 points, a valiant attempt "almost there" gets 2.25 points, while a good attempt (right method with the correct equations, correct picture) could get 1.5 point, some attempt gets 0.75 points. Homework assignments are due at the beginning of lecture.

Guidelines for homework assignments: 

  • All homework assignments should be neatly written with answers to questions presented in numerical order.  Be sure that your name is clearly written at the top of all pages and that you have stapled all pages together. You are responsible for misplaced or lost pages. The TA will NOT grade any homework that does not meet this criterion and you will get a 0 on that homework.
  • Be sure to answer all parts of each question.

Please follow the detailed instructions given in class on how to solve homework problems. Some of them are also listed below.

  • Make sure that you attempt problems starting at the top of the sheet proceeding downward. If you have the habit of solving problems with sequential steps proceeding horizontally, then you cannot have 2 problems next to each other (horizontally). If you are in the habit of having sequential steps below each other, then you can have more than one problem next to each other ONLY IF there is a clear partition between the two. These instructions are probably not very clear. If you do not understand these instructions, please clarify with the instructor.
  • Have enough empty space between one problem and the next.
  • Your problems must contain words and explanations for your steps. THIS IS A MUST.
  • Any answer must be explained with physical principles or concepts. A SIMPLE YES OR NO WILL NEVER DO.
  • If you can draw a diagram or a picture of the situation, then you must draw it.
  • All answers must have units.
  • Each group is allowed to turn in homework late ONLY once during the semester. But these will be graded for 15 % less credit for every day that they are late. No credit will be given if they are turned in after the solutions are posted on the web. The second late homework will get you NO credits and will not be graded. But we will make note of the fact that you attempted it. But it still has to be before the solutions are posted which are usually within a few days of being assigned.

Suggested Problems
Often, I may suggest work problems (from the student’s solutions manual) that may help students to better understand some concepts.  These problems are not due in class or will not be graded, although it would be extremely beneficial to work through them. These problems will be put up on the website. These problems are in italics and green.


Six 15-minute quizzes, consisting of 3 multiple choice questions and 1 problem, will be conducted through the course of the semester; the quiz problem will be similar to one of the homework problems.  These quizzes will be during discussions. There could be a surprise quiz in a lecture also.  The best 4 will be counted towards your final grade. The quizzes will be conducted at the end of discussion. The multiple choice questions will be based on the questions given at the end of each chapter and/or concepts discussed in the class. Please refer to the website for the dates. There are no makeup quizzes. If you miss a quiz due to a religious reason or illness, try to schedule (ahead of time) to take the quiz with another section. You have to get in touch with the TA from the other section and make sure that there are enough chairs in that room to accommodate your request. If none of the discussion section timings suit you, you will have to count that as one of your dropped quizzes. Please note that this process is allowed for only one quiz.


There will be three closed book and closed note exams midterm exams and one final exam.  You can drop one of the midterms.  No makeup exams for any of the mid terms are allowed; if you miss one of the mid-term exams, it will count as your dropped exam.  The exams will be of one hour duration and a mixture of conceptual (multiple choice questions) and work problems. The mid term exams will be proctored by the TAs.
Exam 1: Feb 21 or 23; Exam 2: Exam 3: May 1.


The laboratory schedule is posted on the website at
https://elms.umd.edu/bbcswebdav/users/seo/SYLLABUS/P121LAB2012S.htm. The lab part of the course is run independently. Please address your questions to your TA or the professor in charge of the lab course.

Please keep the following in mind.

  • Students have to complete ALL the laboratories and turn in all the lab reports to be eligible for a passing grade in the course. 


Getting help: Office hours, Slawsky Clinic 
If there is ever anything that you do not understand, get help immediately! Do not fall behind because you were afraid to ask questions. We view seeking help as a sign of your commitment to the course, and this will be considered when grading time comes around. You have many options available: you may ask me during or immediately following class (except after Thu 7pm class), meet me in my office hours. We also encourage you to draw on the strengths of others in this class to learn the material by forming study groups—however, plagiarizing will not be tolerated. The Department of Physics also offers help at the “Slawsky Clinic” which is in room 1214 (check their door for their hours). This is a voluntary service and is run by individuals familiar with Physics, who are not associated with the course directly.

The more you think about a problem, the better you are equipped to face the next one. Don't expect your TAs to show you how to do the problems, however. Problems are best solved when you learn by thinking about them, not by memorizing them or watching someone else show you how to do them. The TAs are encouraged to ask you questions first, and then to give you suggestions and hints on how you might proceed. You might have to talk to the TAs many times during the same problem. It is natural to get stuck while solving a problem. But developing the art of thinking about it and finding your way out is where the learning lies!  Feel free to email your professor and your TA with any questions you might have.
Office hours will be posted on the website early next week. We are also going to be starting an account at www.piazza.com on an experimental basis. This is the first time we are trying this and hence are not sure how it is going to work out. The course ID will be emailed to you soon.


Students are welcome to consult ANY or ALL of the TAs for help on understanding concepts and homework. Please respect your TAs time. So if you want to ask a question about a homework problem, please give it an honest attempt. If you cannot get started, send any of us an email to help you get started. The TAs hold their office hours in their own offices whose details are given at the beginning of the syllabus.


  • 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm -- Sungwoo


  • 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm -- Jason
  • 4.00 pm - 6:00 pm -- Giri


  • 3:00 pm - 8:00 pm -- Giri (office directions step1, step2)


  • 1:30 pm -3:30 pm ....................Giri
  • 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm -- Anton


  • 11:00 am -12:00 pm-- Elim

Effort and Attitude
A 4 credit complete Physics course is extremely fast paced and demanding! You will be learning new concepts every lecture and missing even one lecture can make you fall behind simply because the concepts build on the ones covered in earlier sessions. Hence, attendance (lectures, discussions, and labs) is mandatory and will be taken almost during every lecture and discussion. Please send a note to me or the TA if you have a valid medical reason for not attending. Absence without permission/a valid reason or walking out of lectures/discussion will count towards negative points that could make your participation points zero. The fact that you are able to register for the course means that you do not have a conflict with any other course at Umd. It also means that you have adjusted your work/exercise/recreation/socializing schedules to be present during ALL lectures and discussions.

If you decide not to show up, it means one of two things: a) you are confident that you understand the material and you don't need to waste your time in a lecture/discussion. b) You feel that you are so lost that lecture/discussion will not help you. If it is the latter, then please contact me the day you begin to feel this and I will try to do my best to address your specific problem and try to suggest a solution. Remember, the TAs and I are not your enemies. Nothing would give us more happiness than you doing well. So feel free to talk to us about your concerns. If you belong to category “a,” then remember, it is your responsibility to create an atmosphere in the lecture and discussion that promotes a healthy spirit and is conducive to learning. Thinly attended lectures do not help in building the confidence of those who are a little behind and are lost. We should move forward as a group. It is commendable that you are balancing 13-18 credits/ or a full time job with taking Physics. But do not forget your responsibility towards the course.

LAPTOPS, CELL PHONES, TABLETS are prohibited. If you are spotted using any of these devices, you will be penalized 0.25 % of the course grade. The penalty increases for repeated offences.

Attendance in lectures, discussion, and Clickers
A 4 credit complete Physics course is extremely fast paced and demanding!  You will be learning new concepts every lecture and missing even one lecture can make you fall behind simply because the concepts build on the ones covered in earlier sessions.  Hence, attendance (lectures, discussions, and labs) is mandatory and will be taken almost during every lecture and discussion.  Please send a note to me or the TA if you have a valid medical reason for not attending.  Absence without permission/a valid reason or walking out of lectures/discussions will count towards negative points. Your name might be called out during the lecture at random and if you are absent during that lecture, then it is noted as an absence and you will be docked 0.25 % of the final grade. If you walk out of lectures, you will be penalized 0.25 % of your course grade. Please make sure you register your clickers. If you are absent, the clicker database will show you as absent. Please wait for announcements on how to check clicker participation. Sometimes your clicker might not work. Please bring this to the instructor's notice. This is allowed only a couple of times. It is your responsibility to make sure that the clicker is working.

Attending discussions is a must. Please read the sections on "Effort and Attitude" and attendance. You cannot miss more than two discussions. You will be docked 1% of the course for every absence after that.


Academic Honesty
Giving/receiving help on exams or plagiarizing homework and other assignments is not acceptable behavior in this class.  Using two clickers is considered a violation of your academic honor pledge. Please refer to the student academic honor page www.shc.umd.edu for details.  As mentioned earlier, you are allowed to discuss with your peers while attempting homework problems, but the work that you turn in must be your own.  Any cases of suspected cheating will be immediately referred to the Honor Council; this is to protect your right to due process and a fair hearing.