Spring 2008






SYLLABUS                                           Print


Instructor:  Giridhar Nandikotkur (Giri), giridhar@umd.edu
Office: Physics 3102, Phone (301) 405-5997

Teaching Assistants:

Section 0401: Steve Cowen (scowen@umd.edu)

Section SES1: Sylvia Zhu (sjzhu@umd.edu)
Office: 3103, Physics, (301) 405-6189

Course Website: www.physics.umd.edu/courses/Phys121/giridhar/spring08/phys121home.html
 or you could go to www.physics.umd.edu/courses/Phys121 and click on our class.

Lectures    Tues: 7.00 – 8.50 pm, Thu: 6.30 - 7.20 pm in Physics 1412

The tentative schedule of lectures can be printed here
Discussions and Labs: There are two sections in this course that meet at the following times


Discussion (Room 1402)

Lab (Room 3306)

Section 0401

Thu: 7.30-8.20 pm

Tue: 5.00-6.50 pm

Section SES1

Tue: 6.00-6.50 pm

Thu: 7.30-9.20 pm

About the course
Welcome to PHYS 121!  This course, the first of a two-semester series in general physics, covers the fields of mechanics, thermodynamics, sound, fluids and oscillations.

Required Texts
Text: Serway, Raymond  E. and Jerry S. Faughn, Chris Vuille, and Charles A. Bennett.  College Physics, Vol 1, 7th edition or enhanced 7th edition.  The books list just the first two authors on the front.
Lab Manual: Physics 121 Laboratory Manual (UMCP)
Both texts are available at the University Book Store and the Maryland Book Exchange.

MATH 112 or MATH 115 is a corequisite 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 giving you specially designed exercises in these specific topics.

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: (Best 2 out of 3; 14 % each)                       28 % 
Final Exam (May 20 7.00-8.50 pm)                                        22 %
Quizzes (best 4 out of 6)                                                      10 %
Laboratory                                                                          20 %
Homework (The lowest 3 will be dropped)                              20 %

Assigned Problems: 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 5 points each.  The rest of the problems are graded out of 2 points each.  An almost correct solution gets 2 points, while a good attempt (right method with the correct equations, correct picture) gets 1 point.

Homework assignments are due at the beginning of lecture.  No homework grades will be dropped and no late homework will be accepted unless accompanied by written documentation of a University-recognized excuse (documented illness, documented family emergency, religious observances, participation in the University activity at the request of a University official).

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 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 student is allowed to turn in homework late ONLY 2 times during the semester. But these will be graded for 20 % less credit for every day that they are later.


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.


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 right after discussion or lecture hours.  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 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.
(Exam 1: Mar 06, Thursday, 6.00 – 7.00 pm)
(Exam 2: April 1, Tuesday, 7.00 - 8.00 pm)
(Exam 3: May 8, Thursday 6.30 - 7.30 pm)


The laboratory schedule is as follows, and can be printed here

Serial #

Expt # (in the manual)

Week of




Feb 4-8

The Pendulum…Error Analysis



Feb 11-15

Motion with Constant Accel. (Air Track)



Feb 18-22

Equilibrium of Forces



Feb 25-29

Conservation of Energy (Air Track)



Mar 3-7

Cons. of Linear Momentum (Air Table)


Make Up

Mar 10-14

Make up



Mar 17-21



Make up

Mar 24-28




Apr 1-4

Centripetal Force & Acceleration



Apr 7-11

Equilibrium of Rigid Bodies



Apr 14-18

Mechanical Equivalent of Heat



Apr 21-25

Simple Harmonic Motion & Hooke's Law


Make Up

Apr 28- May 2

Make Up

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.  You will be given two opportunities to make up labs.  However, you cannot make up more than two labs (1 from each half of the course).
  • Please read the complete experiment in the lab manual and complete all the questions listed in the “prelab.”  The prelab questions are due at the beginning of the lab.
  • The lab report is due at the end of the lab.  You will not be given extra time to turn in the report.  So, it is a good idea to prepare for the lab by making all the necessary tables before coming to the lab and bringing the necessary supplies (pencil, ruler, graph sheets etc) with you.


Rescheduling of lectures, discussions, or lab hours
Some of the lab, discussion and lecture hours may have to be rescheduled.  We will have some exams or quizzes during lecture period and some during discussion period (specific announcements later).  Please refer to the website for any changes.

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.

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, ask your TA in lab, or set up an appointment. 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.

Office Hours

Giri      : Monday 4.00 pm -5.00 pm, Wednesday 4.00pm-5.00pm      

Steve  : Wednesday 12.00 pm-1.00 pm, Thursday 5.00 pm-6.00 pm

Sylvia : Tuesday 4.00pm -5.00 pm. The other hour will be announced soon.

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.

Academic Honesty
Giving/receiving help on exams or plagiarizing homework and other assignments is not acceptable behavior in this class.  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.