Spring 2013








Instructor:  Giridhar Nandikotkur (Giri), giridhar@umd.edu

PHY 3102.

Teaching Assistant:

Lance Boyer
Office: Room 0104 Physics, 301-405-8577

Meng-Chang Wu
Office: Room 0220 Physics, 301-405-5969

Ananya Mohanty
Dept of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Course Website: www.physics.umd.edu/courses/Phys161/giridhar/spring13/phys161-s13.html
 or you could go to www.physics.umd.edu/courses/Phys161 and click on our class.

Lectures    Monday: 7.00 PM – 8.50 PM, Wednesday: 7:00 PM- 7:50 PM in lecture hall Physics 1410.

Discussions and Labs: There are two sections in this course that meet at the following times



Discussion: Time and Place

Section 0401

Lance Boyer

Wed: 8.00-8.50 pm (PHYS 1219)

Section 0402

Meng-Chang Wu

Wed: 6.00-6.50 pm (PHYS 1219)

Section 0403

Lance Boyer

Mon: 6.00-6.50 pm (PHYS 1219)

Section 0404

Lance Boyer

Mon: 5.00-5.50 pm (Room 1204)

Section 0405

Meng-Chang Wu

Tue: 7.00-7.50 pm (Room 1219)


The schedule of lectures can be found here.

About the course
This is the first part of a three semester calculus-based Physics course being offered at the University of Maryland College Park, covering laws of motion, force, and energy; principles of mechanics, collisions, linear momentum, rotation, and gravitation

Required Texts and Material
Text: Knight, Randall D. , Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics, Third Edition, Vol.1. Please look at testudo for ordering information here.
Also on that page is mentioned the details of the clicker (an electronic device that is used to enter responses to questions asked in the lecture) you must purchase. You must register your clicker device at the following website as soon as you purchase it. Please look at the following website for more info. http://clickers.umd.edu/Students/WebRegistration.html

MATH 140 is a prerequisite for this class and MATH 141 is a corequisite. Knowledge of basic Algebra and geometry, differential calculus 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
Note: There could be minor adjustment in some aspects of the syllabus based on some requirements/resources available and minor adjustments could be made to the weights. All such changes will be made only if absolutely necessary in a way to ensure fairness.

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 Will be announced this week 2 exams; 17 % each 34%
Final Exam Will be announced 26%
Quizzes Lecture and discussion 10%
Homework Combination of written and Mastering Physics 20%
Participation based partly effort, engaging in discussions in tutorial, completing the tutorial, asking questions in the lecture, attendance, etc More guidelines will be put up soon. 10%

How do I calculate my grade at any point in the semester?

{[Midterm percentage score*(0.34) + quiz percentage score *(0.1) + Homework percentage score *0.20 ] /64 }= percentage in the course so far. The assumption is that you will score the same percentage on the final and participation credits.

Raw Grade cutoffs (without any curving)

90 A-/B+
80 B-/C+
70 C-/D+
70 and less D- and below.

The cutoffs will be the same with or without the curve. The first curve we have in the course is the fact that (UNLIKE IN ANY OTHER COURSE!) you are able to make up one mid term (if you have not missed any) and if you take all the three exams, the lowest score will be dropped. One mastering physics homework and 1 written homework is going to be dropped. Depending on the number of quizzes we can get to, one or more quizzes might be dropped. This boosts the grade quite a bit. A distribution of all student scores is then plotted and compared against the grade cutoffs given above for calculating the curved grade. Under rare circumstances, If it turns out that the semester was unusually difficult which caused too few As and Bs, the cutoff might be lowered. But this is unlikely as you will be surprised out hard students work. The final cutoffs are adjusted based on how many As Bs, Cs Ds have to be given roughly consistent with departmental guidelines. Left to me, I would like to give all of you good grades. But you will get the best grade possible under the framework laid out.


The homework consists of two components: Mastering Physics and Written.

Mastering Physics

This component of homework is assigned online. You must puchase an access code for YOUR BOOK which can be used at www.masteringphysics.com. You can either purchase it separately on the website or purchase it along with the book (probably cheaper). The testudo website gives you few of the means of purchasing the access code. You need to enroll in our couse using the course ID given below. The regstration for the course is a straighforward procedure. The website will ask you for some basic information. There is an introduction to mastering physics assignment that is up already and it teaches you some of the technical pitfalls you will face while doing homework using this site. You are instructed to complete that as early as possible and AS CAREFULLY AS POSSIBLE. In the past various students have either not paid attention to it or not completed it. This has lead to problems later where students have lost points on the homework as they were not aware of certain features of the website. Each assignment has a due date and time(!) after which the system shuts you off completely and lose credits.


Written Problems: Although online homeworks serve a purpose, but they do not teach the art of organization and some other skills. We will be assigning a set of written homeworks through the semester. 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.  The rest of the problems are graded out of 2 points each.  An correct solution gets 2 points, a valiant attempt "almost there" gets 1.5 points, while a good attempt (right method with the correct equations, correct picture) could get 1 point, some attempt gets 0.5 points.

Homework assignments are due at the beginning of the lecture unless they are webbased.  One written homework and one mastering physics grade 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 (to be notified beforehand), 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.
  • You are encouraged to work with your peers. But plagiarizing is strictly prohibited. Your TA can call the students with identical homeworks to his/her office and ask them to explain the homework.

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. Don't waste time in writing sentences like "we know that acceleration is related to the velocity by the expression a = delta v/ delta t." We are not interested in very long English sentences. But any sentence should go towards explaining the Phyiscs.
  • If you can draw a diagram or a picture of the situation, then you must draw it.
  • All answers must have units. Any vector quantity must be expressed in the proper notation.
  • No late homeworks are accepted. You can still turn the homework (before solutions are posted) in and it will not be graded. However, we will make note of the fact that you have turned it will not affect your participation grade.

For the 6 point problem, points will be taken off for: incorrect method, insufficient explanations (upto 3 points!), lack of units(-1/2), lack of direction and magnitude if vectore quantities(-1/2), for not showing the equation that you use (in its complete form) to start calculating a particular quantity(-1 to 2), lack of staples(-1), not being neat and tidy(-1), not writing your name, section number, homework numbe (-1 for the first time and -2 thereafter).

Suggested Problems:Often, I may suggest work problems 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 solutions to these problems will be put up on the website. These problems are marked green italics in on the homework page.



We will have some quizzes in lecture and some in the discussion. These quizzes may or may not be announced.

There will be two closed book and closed note exams midterm exams and one final exam.   The exams will be of one hour duration and a mixture of conceptual (multiple choice questions) and work problems. You will get one opportunity to take a make up exam that will be conducted out of lecture hours on a Wednesday from 8:00pm-9:15 pm. You might want to take this exam either because you missed one midterm due to unforseen circumstances or because you performed poorly on one of the mid term examination. If you unfortunately miss one exam, then YOU MUST take the make up exam. However, the question about fairness of you not getting another opportunity to drop a bad exam does not arise. With so many students, it is logistically impossible to schedule special exams. The decision of allowing you to drop a bad exam is because we are aware that we all have bad test days. So this opportunity gives you a second chance to set things right. The exam dates will be announced next week and please make sure that your schedule is free on the day and time of the make up exam should you decide to take it.

(Exam 1: Feb. 27 2013, 7:00 pm-8:15 pm. (It is a one hour exam but you get 15 extra minutes.You should be able to finish it in an hour)
(Exam 2: April 03. 2013, 7:00 pm- 8:15 pm
(Make Up exam: Will be after lecture on one of the Wednesdays. May 01, 2013 8:00pm-9:15 pm)


Attending discussions is a must. Please read the sections on attendance and Discipline. You cannot miss more than two discussions. You will lose a little less than half a letter grade for EVERY two discussions after that.

Effort & Attitude

This is a 3 credit class and you are expected to put in lot of effort. It is possible that there will be times when you will get frustrated. But that is the nature of learning Physics. It takes a while before you begin to see the returns. We (the TAs and me) want you to do well, and learn Physics at the same time. Please feel free to ask questions

Getting help: Course Center, Slawsky Clinic,
If there is ever anything that you do not understand, get help immediately!  Do not spring 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, 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 best place to seek help is theCourse Center in room Toll 0208. The course center hours will be put up soon and is monitored by TAs who may or may not be from your course. You are strongly encouraged to come there, to work with other students, and to ask the course center TA questions that will help you understand the problem and eventually solve the problem. The more you think about a problem, the better you are equipped to face the next one. Don't expect the 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 learining lies!

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.

Office Hours

Will be put up soon.

  • Giri:
    • Monday 11:45am- 12:45pm (PHYS3102)
    • Wednesday 12:15 pm- 1:15 pm (PHYS 3102)
    • Wednesday 7:50 pm- 8:50 pm (PHYS 1410)
  • TAs
    • Lance Tuesday 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
      • Thursday 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Meng-Chang
    • Tuesday 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm.


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 spring 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/valid reason, or, walking out of lectures/Tutorias 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, 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 is 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.

*Your clicker participation counts as attendance too.

Participation Credits: The participation credits are a combination of the following and performing poorly in any of these categories causes deduction in points. So we assume that you have have given 100 % of your effort. That gets you 10 %. But some of the points taken for some of the individual categories are (up to a total of 10).

Poor attendance in discussion: Refer to the relevant secion.
Poor attendance in lectures as shown by clicker presence: upto -3
Incomplete/ unattenpted mastering physics homeworks: upto -3
Incomplete/unattempted written homework upto -3
Lack of respect towards TA, colleagues, Instructor (Read below).
Lack of effort in discussion (participating in discussions, cotributing suggestions while solving problems, encouraging cooperation among peers) upto -1
Deteriorating grades through the semester: upto -3
Plagiarizing on homeworks: Please refer to the seciton on Academic honesty.

Ideally, if you care about the course, your peers, the effort that your TAs and your instructor puts in, work hard, turn in ALL the homeworks there is no reason why the participation grade should not be 10/10. We don't set out to deduct points unless there is a case for it.

DISCIPLINARY ISSUES: The goal of this course is simple... to *try* to appreciate the beauty of the physical world. Physics is an exciting subject if you put in the effort and it changes the way you view the world. Being able to understand how things work gives you a great joy! But all this is possible if we create the right atmosphere for learning as mentioned above. So no laptops! no Cellphones! no web browsing! We respect you, your effort, your goals and your ambitions. We expect you to do the same with respect to your classmates. Distracting the class is not welcomed. If you are found to indulge in any kind of behavior that interferes with the class, you will be politely warned. After the second warning, you should make an appointment with the instructor to dicuss why you are not able to concentrate in the class so that we can help motivate you to foucs. After this, any future incidents will lead to negative points(upto one and a half letter grade) and you will be referred to the disciplinary council.Hopefully we will never get to that stage. This is not about treating you like kids. This is not about understanding that you are responsible adults now and in college and you should be paying attention for your own good and other similar kinds of emotions. This is just about learning Physics in a nice environment. If you feel upset by any of these things mentioned and not confident of giving your 100 % to the class in the way required, please feel free to drop the class before it begins. We love and respect all our students. Your goals are our goals. Your ambitions are our ambitions. If you feel frustrated we want to help you. The joy you experience when you learn a concept will be felt by us too!

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.