Course Syllabus

PHYS 2015: Fall 2018

General Physics Laboratory with a Life Science Focus



Instructor:  Prof. Jordan Gerton


Learning Assistants:

Credit hours: 1

Course website:

Location: Crocker Science Center room 022 (basement)


  • Friday, August 31st: Last day to add or drop (delete) the course
  • Friday, October 19th: Last day to withdraw from the course
  • Thursday, December 6th: Last day of class

Meeting Times:

Lab Section Meeting Times LAs & TAs
2015-001 MON 7:30am-10:30am Jason May
2015-002 MON 10:45am-1:45pm Jon Harper & Mogy Wang
2015-003 MON 2:00pm-5:00pm Jashan Sandhu & Ting Zhang
2015-004 MON 6:00pm-9:00pm Jashan Sandhu & Sanduni Fernando
2015-005 TUES 7:30am-10:30am Jon Harper & Sanduni Fernando
2015-006 TUES 10:45am-1:45pm Liz Nguyen & Ting Zhang
2015-007 TUES 2:00pm-5:00pm Taylor Boyd / Liz Nguyen & Ting Zhang
2015-008 TUES 6:00pm-9:00pm Taylor Boyd & Mogy Wang
2015-009 WED 7:30am-10:30am Linh Luong & Sanduni Fernando
2015-010 WED 10:45am-1:45pm Linh Luong & Mogy Wang


Weekly Schedule:

Week Dates Lab Activity
1 AUG 20-22 Off
2 AUG 27-29 Lab Intro
3 SEP 3-5 Off
4 SEP 10-12 Lab 1A
5 SEP 17-19 Lab 1B - Lab 1 reports due
6 SEP 24-26 Lab 2A
7 OCT 1-3 Lab 2B - Lab 2 reports due
8 OCT 8-10 Off
9 OCT 15-17 Lab 3A
10 OCT 22-24 Lab 3B
11 OCT 28-30 Lab 3C - Lab 3 reports due
12 NOV 5-7 Lab 4A
13 NOV 12-14 Lab 4B - Lab 4 reports due
14 NOV 19-21 Lab 5A
15 NOV 26-28 Lab 5A - Lab 5 reports due
16 DEC 3-5 Make-up Lab


















Goals and Objectives:  In this course, you will learn how physics principles can be used to explore and explain biological systems.  This is the first semester of a two-semester lab sequence that includes PHYS 2015 and PHYS 2025.  These course are loosely associated with the corresponding lecture courses (PHYS 2010 and 2020), which must be taken prior to or at the same time as the lab courses, but we make no explicit attempt to synchronize the topics between the lecture and laboratory courses. 

PHYS 2015 generally covers mechanical motion, including 1- and 2-D kinematics, forces and dynamics, diffusion, motion under constant force, and directed motion under drag forces.  You will utilize the relevant physics principles to engage in authentic scientific practices during weekly laboratory sessions.  You will work in groups to develop your own investigations to answer particular scientific questions.  You will also learn how to quantify the certainty of your results and conclusions, how to justify your assumptions and experimental method, and how to communicate your results and arguments to others. 

Expectations for Students:  Attendance in laboratory sessions is required and you are expected to arrive on time if not early for your section each week.  You should prepare before arriving for your session by completing all pre-lab readings and assignments.  During your weekly lab sessions, you are expected to actively participate with your group members to develop, pursue, document and communicate your investigations.  You are expected to be respectful of all students in the course and also your teaching and learning assistants.

Grading:  There are no exams for this course – your grade will be determined by your group lab reports, individual participation, and completion of pre-lab readings and assignments.  Below, you can find more specific information about how your final score will be tabulated and the approximate grade thresholds - please note, I reserve the right to make these thresholds more generous at the end of the semester, but I will not make them more difficult.

Category Percent of Final Score   Final Score Grade
Lab 1 report 10% >93% A
Lab 2 report 15% >90% A-
Lab 3 report 20% >87% B+
Lab 4 report 20% >83% B
Lab 5 report 20% >80% B-
Pre-lab assignments 7.5% >77% C+
Participation in class 7.5% >73% C
>70% C-
>60% D
<60% E

Course Material:  All the relevant course material will be posted on the course site, no additional textbook is required. 

Honesty and Respect: Cheating of any assignment is a very serious violation of University rules and is unethical. Students caught cheating will receive a failing grade for the course and will be sent to the University Disciplinary Committee for further action.  All teaching assistants and learning assistants are to be considered proxies for the instructor – you should listen to them and treat them with respect at all times. 

Office Hours:  You can meet with Prof. Gerton by appointment. These may be granted very promptly (i.e. you might e-mail and be told to come on over), but immediate meetings cannot be guaranteed.  I will be present for part of some lab sessions but will likely not be there for the entire period.  I am best reached by e-mail, not by phone. I check e-mail many times during the day and will respond promptly whenever possible.

Student Code:  All students and faculty need to be aware of provisions in the Student Code relevant to this course. Students have 20 business days to appeal grades and other "academic actions" (e.g., results of comprehensive exams). The date that grades are posted on the web is considered the date of notification. A "business day" is every day the University is open for business, excluding weekends and University-recognized holidays. If the student cannot get a response from the faculty member after ten days of reasonable efforts to contact him or her, the student may appeal to the department chair if done within 40 days of being notified of the academic action. Students should definitely document their efforts to contact a faculty member.

Similarly, faculty members who discover or receive a complaint of academic misconduct (e.g., cheating, plagiarism) have 20 business days to "make reasonable efforts" to contact the student and discuss the alleged misconduct. Within 10 more business days the faculty member must give the student written notice of the sanction, if any, and the student's right to appeal to the Academic Appeals Committee of the College of Science.

All students and faculty members are urged to consult the exact text of the Student Code if a relevant situation arises. The code is on the University web site at

University Policies:

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act. The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in this class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, (801) 581-5020. CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations. All written information in this course can be made available in an alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.
  2. Addressing Sexual Misconduct. Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which Includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a civil rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran’s status or genetic information.  If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 135 Park Building, 801-581-8365, or the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union Building, 801-581-7066.  For support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness, 426 SSB, 801-581-7776.  To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677(COPS).

Course Summary:

Date Details Due