Course Syllabus

PHYS 2015:  Fall 2019

General Physics Laboratory with a Life Science Focus


Welcome to PHYS 2015 - General Physics Lab with a Life Science Focus!

This laboratory class will focus on the physics relevant to living things, and will be held in one of the teaching labs in the new Crocker Science Center - CSC 022.   In these labs, you will:

  • learn physics relevant to microscopic and living systems;
  • use 21st century physics tools and software;
  • deal with data-rich environments; and
  • learn how to design the steps to an experimental investigation, interpret data, engage in argumentation, and write formal scientific reports.

This class will meet for the first time on the second week of classes, Monday Aug. 26th, Tuesday Aug. 27th, and Wednesday Aug. 28th.


Page navigation:

Where, Who, When Community Labs Grading Scheme Lab Structure Overview Missing a Week of Lab

The laboratories are run in a community lab style that will allow you to work together in groups of 4 students on experiments.  You can find more information about how these labs will be organized and graded on the community labs page.  Lab groups will be changed a few times during the semester, so you will learn to collaborate and work effectively with different classmates. 

Laboratories will cover 4 investigations, 3 of them lasting 3 weeks, and one lasting 2 weeks.  Throughout the span of an investigation, you and your group will go through a lab warm-up/tutorial activity; design a plan to conduct the investigation; collect, analyze, and interpret data; formulate an argument about a guiding question based on the results on your investigations; present to classmates; and write a final report. 

Instructor:  Prof. Claudia De Grandi


  • Phone: 801-581-4826
  • Office: JFB 313

Teaching Assistants (TAs): 

  • Jason May (head TA):
  • Sam Feldman:
  • Ricardo Gonzalez:
  • Mandefro Teferi:

Learning Assistants:

  • Dalley Cutler (head LA):
  • Austin Cheeniyil:
  • Daniela Gonzalez:
  • Tanner Maxfield:

Observing Instructor-LA:

  • Adam Beehler:

Credit hours: 1

Course website:

Location: Crocker Science Center, room 022 (basement)


  • Friday, August 23rd:  Last day to add without a permission code
  • Friday, August 30th:  Last day to add or drop (delete) the course
  • Friday, October 18th:  Last day to withdraw from the course
  • Thursday, December 5th:  Last day of classes
  • Friday, December 6th:  Reading Day

Meeting Times:

Lab Section Time LAs & TAs
001 10:45AM-1:45PM Adam & Jason 
002 M 2:00PM-5:00PM Austin & Mandefro
003 6:00PM-9:00PM Daniela & Ricardo
004 TU 7:30AM-10:30AM Daniela & Sam
005 TU 10:45AM-1:45PM Dalley & Sam
006 TU 2:00PM-5:00PM Daniela & Ricardo
007 TU 6:00PM-9:00PM Austin & Ricardo
008 W 7:30AM-10:30AM Dalley & Sam
009 10:45AM-1:45PM Tanner & Mandefro
010 W 2:00PM-5:00PM Dalley & Mandefro


Communication Policy:  All correspondence for this course will take place through Canvas announcements, messages, etc., as well as through Umail.  It is possible that announcements, assignments, or other information will be provided through Canvas or email that are not explicitly announced in class.  Please be sure to check the Canvas course site and your Umail regularly, and if you use a third-party email, that you forward your Umail to that email address. 

Lab Schedule:

Week Class Dates Lab Topics
1 Aug 19-21 Off, No Lab This Week
2 Aug 26-28 Lab 0

Lab Intro, Group Formation, CER framework

3 Sep 2-4 Off, No Lab This Week
4 Sep 9-11 Lab 1A 2-D Kinematics and Dynamics
5 Sep 16-18 Lab 1B 2-D Kinematics and Dynamics
6 Sep 23-25 Lab 2A Resistive Forces and Fluid Dynamics
7 Sep 30-Oct 2 Lab 2B Resistive Forces and Fluid Dynamics
8 Oct 7-9

Off, No Lab  this Week

Resistive Forces and Fluid Dynamics
9 Oct 14-16 Lab 2C Resistive Forces and Fluid Dynamics
10 Oct 21-23 Lab 3A Random vs. Directed Motion in Microfluidic Systems 
11 Oct 28-30 Lab 3B Random vs. Directed Motion in Microfluidic Systems 
12 Nov 4-6 Lab 3C Random vs. Directed Motion in Microfluidic Systems 
13 Nov 11-13 Lab 4A Motor Proteins and Vesicle Transport
14 Nov 18-20 Lab 4B Motor Proteins and Vesicle Transport
15 Nov 25-27 Lab 4C Motor Proteins and Vesicle Transport
16 Dec 2-4 Make-up Lab

Goals and Objectives:  In this course, our hope is that 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 courses 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-D and 2-D kinematics, forces and dynamics, diffusion, motion under constant force, and directed motion under drag forces.  Our goal is that you will learn to utilize the relevant physics principles and to engage in authentic scientific practices during weekly laboratory sessions.  You will work in teams to develop your own investigations to answer particular scientific questions.  We hope you will also learn how to quantify the certainty of your results and conclusions, how to justify your assumptions and experimental methods, and how to communicate your results and arguments to others. 

Inclusion:  The PHYS 2015 instructional staff is here to help you learn, and we want you to succeed in this class.  We expect that the entire PHYS 2015 community – students, instructors, TAs, and LAs – will strive to be an inclusive and supportive community, appreciative of the many perspectives that come from us each bringing to the class different backgrounds and beliefs.  We expect all members of this community to be respectful of each other and to strive to create a community that facilitates self-expression, inquiry, and learning.

If you have already established accommodations with the Center for Disability and Access (CDA -, please communicate your approved accommodations to the instructor at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.  If you have not yet established services through CDA, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but are not limited to:  mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact CDA at 801-581-5020 to make an appointment.  General information for students can be found under the "Students" tab on the CDA website.  CDA offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s), and CDA.  It is important to the University of Utah to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Expectations for Students:  Most of your work for this course will be accomplished during the weekly 3-hour laboratory sessions.  Because of this, and because you will be working in teams, attendance in laboratory sessions is critical to your and your teammates success.  Thus, we expect you to make all attempts to arrive on time if not early for your section each week - tardiness and absences will be recorded and will affect your participation score (see below). 

Because your work will be done during the laboratory sessions, it is really important for you to prepare before arriving for your session by completing any pre-lab readings and assignments - otherwise, you will likely have difficulty completing your work.  Also, your team is much more likely to complete its work if you all actively participate and work together to develop, pursue, document, and communicate your investigations.

Grading:  Below is an OUTLINE of the grading scheme for the course.  More specific information can be found on the Canvas page Grading Scheme on the course site. 

There are several distinct categories that will determine your final grade for the semester:  Attendance, Labs, Post-Lab Feedback, and Surveys and Reflections.  In the table below is specific information about how your final score will be tabulated. Each category is split into smaller components.

Category Percent of Final Score
Attendance 23%
Lab 1 13%
Lab 2 18%
Lab 3 18%
Lab 4 18%
Post-Lab Feedback 3%
Surveys and Reflections 7%

ATTENDANCE (23% of final grade)

Intro Week Attendance:  Attendance of the introductory week of lab (second week of the semester).  This will account for 1% of the final grade.

Weekly Lab Attendance:  Weekly attendance to lab, including being on time and staying throughout the section.  There are 11 weeks of lab during the semester.  This will account for 22% of the final grade (2% per week).

LABS (percentages vary by lab):  60 points

There are four labs throughout the semester, one 2-week lab, and three 3-week labs.  Each lab will be scored out of 60 points, as detailed below:

  • Warm-up/Tutorial Activities (10 points, individual submission)
  • Design Plan (5 points, group submission)
  • Argumentation Session (5 points, group submission)
  • Peer Review (4 points, group submission)
  • Final Report (36 points, individual submission)

POST-LAB FEEDBACK (3% of final grade)

After each week of lab (11 weeks total), you will be asked to submit a short feedback assignment on Canvas.  This feedback assignment is not expected to take more than 10 minutes, and it is meant to give you a chance to reflect on your week's lab work and group dynamics and prepare for the following week.  This will account for 3% of the final grade (0.273% per week).

SURVEYS AND REFLECTIONS (7% of final grade)

  • Attitudinal Survey:  1% of the final grade (0.5% per survey). 
  • Course Feedback Surveys:  2% of the final grade (1% per survey).
  • Data Analysis Assessment:  2% of the final grade (1% per version).
  • University Course Evaluation:  1% of the final grade.
  • Reflection on Learning through Failure:  1% of the final grade.


Missing a Week of Lab:

If you miss Week 1 of a lab investigation, you will need to complete the Warm-up/Tutorial Activity outside of class or when you come back for Week 2.  If you do not complete this activity you will not receive credit for the assignment.  When you return for Week 2 of the lab, you should be prepared by reading through your group's Design Plan that they submitted on Canvas and/or shared with you through other means.  Be ready to catch up with your group; you will still be expected to actively participate in your group's investigations for the remainder of the lab. 

If you miss Week 2 of a lab investigation, you will need to get in contact with your group to view the collected data and subsequent analysis, as well as the group's Argumentation Session submission on Canvas or elsewhere.  If you do not do this prior to coming to Week 3 of the lab, you will be behind and unable to complete the Final Report. 

If you miss Week 3 of a lab investigation, you will need to complete and submit on Canvas your Final Report by the end of that week (Sunday at 11:59pm MT).

If you miss any week of the lab, your final report score will be one-half of its initially graded score.  For example, if you miss one week of a three week lab, and your final report is graded as a 34/36, you will receive a 17/36.  You will be able to gain back some of these points by attending the Make-up Lab (see below).  Also, keep in mind that for each missed week of lab you will lose the corresponding 2% of attendance points from your final grade.  This can be made up during the Make-up Lab. 

Missing two or more weeks of a single lab investigation will require consultation with the course instructor, Claudia De Grandi, prior to any grade penalties being formalized. 

Make-up Lab

If you miss a week of lab investigations, you will lose points from your Final Report score (see above).  To make up these points, you can attend a Make-up Lab at the end of the semester, where you will complete a condensed lab investigation and submit a final report.  This report will be graded using the same rubric as the other final reports during the semester.  The amount of points you receive back for your missed Final Report will be based on the score you receive for the Make-up Lab Final Report.  More information on Make-up Labs is available on the Canvas site.  Note:  the Make-up Lab will be a different new lab, not the one that you have missed.

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

Educational Research: Within this course, instructor Claudia De Grandi and Head TA Jason May plan to conduct educational research to study how students learn in introductory physics courses. To do this, they plan to ask if students in the course give or do not give consent to participate in the research. More information on this will be given during the first week of labs. If you have any questions about any of the educational research that may be conducted in this course, please reach out to Jason or Claudia. 

Honesty and Respect:  Cheating on 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. 

Student Office Hours:  Office hours with your Instructor or TA can be scheduled via email.  Please look at the contacts at the top of this page to email them.  Prof. De Grandi will do her best to answer promptly and schedule an appointment at your convenience.

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

Policies and Resources:

  1. Student Names and Personal Pronouns Statement. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student’s legal name as well as the “Preferred first name” (if previously entered by you in the Student Profile section of your CIS account).  While CIS refers to this as merely a preference, we will honor you by referring to you with the name and pronoun that feels best for you in class, on lab reports, group assignments, etc.  Please advise your instructor and TA of any name or pronoun changes (and update CIS) so that we can help create a learning environment in which you, your name, and your pronoun will be respected.  If you need assistance getting your preferred name on your uID card, please visit the LGBT Resource Center, Room 409 in the Olpin Union Building, or email to schedule a time to drop by.  The LGBT Resource Center hours are:  M, W-F 8am-5pm, and 8am-6pm on Tuesdays.
  2. 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.
  3. Learners of English as an Additional/Second Language.  If you are an English language learner, please be aware of several resources on campus that will support you with your language and writing development.  These resources include:  the Writing Center; the Writing Program; and the English Language Institute.  Please let us know if there is any additional support you would like to discuss for this class.
  4. Veterans Center.  If you are a student veteran, the University of Utah has a Veterans Support Center located in Room 161 in the Olpin Union Building.  Please visit their website for more information about what support they offer, a list of ongoing events, and links to outside resources.  Please also let us know if you need any additional support in this class for any reason.
  5. Wellness Statement.  Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, etc., can interfere with a student’s ability to succeed and thrive at the University of Utah.  For helpful resources, contact the Center for Student Wellness; 801-581-7776.
  6. University Counseling Center.   The University Counseling Center (UCC) provides developmental, preventive, and therapeutic services and programs that promote the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social development of University of Utah students.  They advocate a philosophy of acceptance, compassion, and support for those they serve, as well as for each other.  They aspire to respect cultural, individual, and role differences as they continually work toward creating a safe and affirming climate for individuals of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, languages, mental and physical abilities, national origins, races, religions, sexual orientations, sizes, and socioeconomic statuses.
  7. Office of the Dean of Students.  The Office of the Dean of Students is dedicated to being a resource to students through support, advocacy, involvement, and accountability.  It serves as a support for students facing challenges to their success as students, and it assists with the interpretation of University policy and regulations.  Please consider reaching out to the Office of Dean of Students for any questions, issues, and concerns.  200 South Centeral Campus Dr., Suite 270.  Monday-Friday 8 am-5 pm.
  8. 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).
  9. University Safety Statement.  The University of Utah values the safety of all campus community members.  To report suspicious activity or to request a courtesy escort, call campus police at 801-585-COPS (801-585-2677).  You will receive important emergency alerts and safety messages regarding campus safety via text message.  For more information regarding safety and to view available training resources, including helpful videos, visit

Course Summary:

Date Details