Knight's Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 3rd edition

PHYS 255
University Physics I

Spring 2018 Syllabus

Dr. Richard Gelderman
Hardin Planetarium
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1077

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NOTICES: Bulletins, schedule changes, and general announcements will be made in class and posted on the course homepage.

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  • Goals and Philosophy 
  • Guidelines for Academic Success 
  • Attendance Policy 
  • University Policies 
  • Grading 
  • Policy on Collaboration 
  • Reading the Textbook 
  • About Homework 
  • About Exams 
  • Course Schedule 

  • Course Description
  • Required/Recommended Materials

  • Office Hours

    I consider myself to be open and accessible to my students. You are always welcome to drop by my office to seek advice, discuss your progress, or ask questions. If my door is open and I am around, then I will do my best to make time to sit down with you. Anyone who finds that my availability does not live up to my desires can catch me during my scheduled office hours or make an appointment at our mutual convenience.

  • Course Goals and Philosophy

    This is the first half of a year-long course in calculus-based classical physics for students in the physical sciences (including chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics, physics, and engineering related degree programs. Topics include kinematics, dynamics, energy, conservation laws, rotation, harmonic motion, mechanical waves and thermodynamics. The emphasis will be on developing problem solving skills and understanding the basic concepts and definitions used in the study and application of physics. A calculus course equivalent to MATH 136 is a prerequisite, with differentiation and integration an important part of the course work.

    The goal of early physics classes is to introduce the fundamental laws and to develop good problem solving skills. At this introductory level, the material will be a cartoon of the real world, often simplified to an unrealistic and unsatisfying level. Successful students will learn to see behind the elementary problems introduced in this class and apply the overall concepts to the complex world.

    Each student will be evaluated on the ability to communicate her/his progress to the instructor. Thus, the process of solving a problem is more important than the final answer. Working to solve sample problems, both those assigned for homework and as many additional exercises as possible, is the single most important key to success in this course. However, it is not possible to learn this material just by doing problems. Successful students will also understand how the main concepts and laws came about. Memorization will not be a large component of the course. On the other hand, each student will be expected to know enough about the definitions, concepts and techniques to be able to expand their knowledge and apply it to new situations.

  • Guidelines to Academic Success

    It is important that students take responsibility for their education. Ask questions, both inside and outside the classroom. Discuss the material with friends and classmates how this course relates to the real world. Manage your time and do not cram for exams. The student and professor make a team, you both want to learn the material and earn a good grade. During the first week of the semester, you should read these brief essays: how to achieve academic success and taking good notes. You might also check out the links on this webpage for other study skills information.

  • Attendance Policy

    I expect prompt and regular attendance. Material presented in lecture takes precedence over the text. Lectures will largely follow the order of the book, though lecture content may differ somewhat from the text. Students are advised to keep their notes up to date and to read the text as an accompaniment to their notes. Missed classes should be covered by obtaining notes from other students.

    You must attend all tests and the final exam at the scheduled times. If you are unable to take an exam with the rest of the class you must notify the instructor before the regularly scheduled exam time. The only makeup exams allowed after the class takes the test will be for students with a verified excuse of illness or extraordinary crisis. A missed exam will otherwise be scored as a zero.

  • Grading

    The final grade will be determined from the following formula:
    100 pts (Final Exam)
    +60 pts (Test1)
    +60 pts (Test2)
    +60 pts (Test3)
    +60 pts (Test4)
    +25 pts (In-Class Activities)
    +50 pts (Homework Avg)
    400 Points toward course grade, with any additional points as extra credit

    Your grade will be based on your percentage score for the course: (total points / 400) * 100.

    Letter grades will be assigned on a 90, 80, 70, 60 breakpoint, with class-wide upward adjustment possible according to the instructor's judgement. Appeals of test and homework grades will be considered up to a week after return of work. Later changes in grades are entirely at the instructor's discretion.

  • Policy on Collaboration

    All work turned in for a grade must be your own. Collaboration is allowed only up to the point at which you determine the approach to solving a problem. When it comes time to actually solve a given problem and record the answer for grading, each student must work independently. No credit will be given for work that is not demonstrably your own. When solutions which are too similar are submitted for grading, all parties involved will receive a grade of zero and be reported to the WKU Office of Student Conduct. With the above restrictions in mind, studying and working in groups is strongly encouraged.

  • Reading the Textbook

    You are responsible for reading the textbook before the material is introduced in lecture. Only by staying ahead of deadlines with thorough reading of the assigned chapters in the textbook and diligent practice with example problems will you be able to start your homework early and master the material. I suggest that you initially preview the readings by slowly flipping through the assigned sections and paying attention to the headings, pictures/figures and their captions, and the boxed or emphasized text. When you sit down to thoroughly read the sections, make sure you give the task your full concentration. Don't let your mind wander, read only as fast as you can thoroughly understand the material, and reread the sections until everything is completely clear to you. DO make notes in the margins. DO NOT waste your time using a highlighter.

  • About the Homework

    In general, a homework assignment will be due just before the start of every lecture of the semester. All homework will be assigned and submitted via the Expert TA system. The access code for our course is D98F87-1JL.

    The calendar and schedule of assignments is only available via ExpertTA. Each assignment will be viewable at least one week before the due date, to allow students to work ahead. Homework problems may be assigned on material which has not been covered in lecture. No homework will be accepted after the due date, unless an exception has been requested before the due date. Appeals of homework grades will be considered up to one week after the scores are returned. Later changes in grades are entirely at the instructor's discretion.

  • About the Exams

    The questions will be primarily quantitative problems. A diligent effort to solve assigned homework and additional problems is the best strategy for a passing grade. However, be aware that the problems on the exams will be variations of the homework; a firm grasp of the big picture is needed to score high on exams.

    You are required to bring pencils and a calculator to each exam. In addition, you may also bring a single 8.5x11 sheet with formulae and constants. No other outside material, notes, texts, etc., will be allowed.

    Individual exam grades will not be curved. Appeals of exam grades will be considered up to one week after tests are first returned to the class. Later changes in grades are entirely at the instructor's discretion.

  • University Policies

    Information on a variety of topics, including Title IX (Discrimination/Harassment), Student Code of Conduct, ADA Accommodations, Emergency Preparedness, etc. is available at

    Title IX Misconduct/Assault

    Western Kentucky University is committed to supporting faculty, staff and students by upholding WKU's Title IX Sexual Misconduct/Assault Policy and the Discrimination and Harassment Policy. If you experience an incident of sex/gender-based discrimination, harassment and/or sexual misconduct, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator, Andrea Anderson, 270-745-5398 or Title IX Investigators Michael Crowe (270-745-5429) or Joshua Hayes (270-745-5121). Please note that while you may report an incident of sex/gender based discrimination, harassment and/or sexual misconduct to a faculty member, WKU faculty are Responsible Employees of the University and MUST report what you share to WKU's Title IX Coordinator or Title IX Investigator. If you would like to speak with someone who may be able to afford you confidentiality, you may contact the WKU Counseling and Testing Center at 270-745-3159.

    ADA Accommodation Statement

    In compliance with University policy, students with disabilities who require academic and/or auxiliary accommodations for this course must contact the Student Accessibility Resource Center located in Downing Student Union, 1074. SARC can be reached by phone number at 270-745-5004 [270-745-3030 TTY] or via email at Please do not request accommodations directly from the professor or instructor without a faculty notification letter from The Student Accessibility Resource Center.

    Academic Dishonesty

    Academic dishonesty (including plagiarism, test-sharing, etc.) will not be tolerated. According to the WKU Student Handbook: “Students who commit any act of academic dishonesty may receive from the instructor a failing grade in that portion of the course work in which the act is detected, or a failing grade in a course without possibility of withdrawal. The faculty member may also present the case to the Office of Student Conduct for disciplinary action."

  • Course Schedule A weekly schedule of the material to be presented, with appropriate sections of the textbook, is available: PHYS 255 Course Schedule.

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