Physics 131 Home Page      

Physics 131, Fall 2012
Profs. W. Losert and E. F. Redish

Navigation bar

Fundamentals of Physics for Biologists I

Description and Prerequisites

This course is intended for biology majors and pre-health care professionals. The physics topics chosen are selected for these students and the contexts emphasize authentic biological examples. Prerequisites for the course include:

  • One year of college biology (BSCI 105 and 106 or the equivalent)
  • One semester of college chemistry (CHEM 131 or the equivalent)
  • One year of college mathematics (MATH 130 and 131 or the equivalent -- calculus and an introduction to probability).

This is not your parent’s physics! This class will focus on the physics relevant to living things from molecules to worms to woodpeckers. While physics, chemistry, and biology are well established fields, some of the scientific questions you will explore in this class have only recently been tackled. You will focus on physics at the convergence with biology, where physical, chemical and biological principles all come into play. A primary theme for this first semester is the concept of motion -- and the difference between coherent, directed motion and the random motion that occurs at the molecular level.

What do I need to buy?

There is no textbook to buy for this course. We are developing a WikiBook that you will be able to read on line.

There is also no lab manual to buy. The lab instructions will be made available online.

You will need to have

  • A Clicker -- a remote control device from TurningPoint that allows you to contribute answers in lecture. It is available at the Campus Book Store. This is the campus standard. If you have one from another class, you are likely to able to use it here. If you have an iPhone or iTouch you should be able to use it as a clicker. See the campus clicker page for more information.
  • An Online HW service -- most of the HW will be done online through the online service, MasteringPhysics, from Pearson publishers. You may buy this at the bookstore or at The course codes for each professor are P131F12LOSERT and P131F12REDISH. (You can buy this without a text but you have to identify Knight, College Physics, 2nd ed. as the text. This gives access to the problems and tutorials from the text, but not the text itself. If you want access to the text, it costs extra.)
  • Access to a computer -- if you have your own laptop you will be able to use that. If not, you will have to seek out campus computers that run the programs we will be using and to see our Announcements and to track your grades on ELMS.

What else do I need to get?

A lot of what we'll be doing this term will be on the computer. Our readings and our homework will be on the internet. You will also need access to a spreadsheet, and a data analysis program. If you do not have your own laptop, you will need to seek out the campus computer rooms and find the places where you can access the appropriate programs. You need:

What do I need to do to succeed in this class?

Here is a brief outline of what you will need to do throughout the class. For more details, see the Course Mechanics page.

Times and Places

Time (0101)
Time (0201)
Lecture MWF 10-11 MWF 11-12
Physics 1219
Discussion Tu 11-12 Tu 3-4
Physics 3310
Laboratory Tu 9-11 Tu 1-3
Physics 3310






Office Hours



Prof. W. Losert

AV Williams


Thur 5-6:30
(in the Course Center 0208 or by arrangement at other times in 1308)


Prof. E. F. Redish

Physics 1308


Thur 3-5
(in the Course Center 0208 or by arrangement at other times in 1308)


Kim Moore

Physics 1322


Wed 3-5
(in 0208)

Lab Insructor

John Gianini

To Be Determined
(for lab issues only in 3310)


Max Kushner


Slawsky Clinic


Physics 1214

10-3 MWF (1214)

Honor code:

The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

If you have any questions about policy or procedures, please feel free to ask. I am looking forward to working with you and hope that you will both enjoy and learn a lot from the class.

Email Connections
To send a message to the entire class to start or contribute to a discussion, send it to me and I will forward it to everyone.

This page prepared by

Edward F. Redish
and Wolfgang Losert
Department of Physics
University of Maryland

Last revision 26 September, 2012.