PHYS 115: General Physics

PHYS 115: General Physics

Welcome to PHYS 115, the second of the algebra based introductory physics sequence. You should find this course challenging and stimulating, and I hope that you also find it interesting and enjoyable. 


Focus of Phys 115 

This course will focus on analysis of the physical world using laws and principle of physics such as the laws of thermodynamics and the laws of electricity and magnetism. Topics covered will include fluid mechanics, thermal physics, and electromagnetism. Lectures will focus on the conceptual understanding of these topics and quantitative problem solving skills.


Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1.   Develop algebra-based models to describe the physical world.

2.   Apply physical laws to understand physical phenomena.

3.   Utilize and apply the laws of physics pertaining to:

      a. static and dynamic fluid mechanics
      b. temperature and heat
      c. phases of matter
      d. thermal processes and entropy
      e. electric and magnetic field and force
      f. electric potential and potential energy
      g. electric current and circuits


  • Lecture times:
    • Section A: MTThF 1:30pm to 2:20pm
    • Section B: MTThF 2:30pm to 3:20pm
  • Lecture room:  in lecture hall A102 of the Physics and Astronomy Building auditorium wing
  • Instructor: Kazumi Tolich
  • Office hours: TTh 12:15pm to 1:15pm in the study center (for location see below). You are strongly encouraged to visit me regularly during office hours.
  • Teaching assistant office hours:
    • Khang Nguyen: TTh 11:00am to 12:00pm and W 12:30pm to 1:30pm in the study center
    • Bosong Sun: T 9:30am to 11:00am and W 1:30pm to 3:00pm in the study center
  • Help and contact info: If you cannot attend office hours and have a physics question, please post it to the discussion board, which I will monitor a few times per week. If no one else answers it, I will respond. If you have a personal question, please send an email to me, If you have a comment to me that you would like to be anonymous, please use the following web interface, but remember that since it is anonymous, I will not be able to reply.



  • Walker, Physics, Volume 2, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, 2010, Custom UW Edition, ISBN: 0-558-38502-8
    Note:  the Complete 4th Edition of Walker may also be used, if desired.



We will follow the schedule in the syllabus as closely as possible, and we will announce changes as necessary. (Here is a link to a PDF version of the schedule if you are interested). 



  • There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. All exams are closed-book. However, I will provide equation sheets.
  • Midterm exams have multiple-choice questions and long answer questions. Final exam has all multiple-choice questions. Therefore, you need a bubble sheet for each exam.
  • Calculators are permitted. However, the use of the text-storage capability is not permitted. Cell phones, radios, laptop computers etc that allow you to communicate with others are not permitted. 
  • Note that there will be no make-up exams in PHYS 115. Students with outside professional, service, or career commitments (i.e. military service, ROTC, professional conference presentation, NCAA sports, etc.) conflicting exactly with the exam dates must contact the instructor early in the quarter to establish alternate examination procedures. Students who miss an exam without making prior arrangements with the me will drop that exam score.
  • If you believe that the points on the examination were incorrectly totaled, or if there is a gross error in the grading, you may return an exam for regrading. To do so, you must resubmit the examination no later than at the beginning of the lecture following the one in which the exams are returned. You must attach a regrade request form. Do not make *any* changes or marks on the pages of the examination. You should be aware that any request for a regrade may result in a regrading of the entire exam. Therefore your total score may increase or decrease.



  • Homework will be assigned and collected weekly through the WebAssign system.
  • The homework will be due at 11:00pm each Tuesday (except Homework 5). The first homework will be due April 14th.
  • The instructions for WebAssign can be found here.
  • Note that there is no class code for WebAssign. If you log in this WebAssign site using your UW NetID, you should be able to find Physics 115 automatically.


In-Class Quizzes

  • I will ask a few questions per lecture where you can respond using an TX3200 RF transceiver (Clicker), which are available from the University Bookstore.
  • You need to register your clicker here.
  • For each question, I first ask you to answer on your own. I will then show the answer distribution. If less than 80% of the students chose the correct answer, I will ask you to discuss with your peers and answer the same question again.
  • For each in-class quiz, you will receive 4/5 of credit for attempting to answer, and the other 1/5 for having the correct answer. If a question is asked twice, only the 2nd attempt counts towards your grade. 
  • You will get a full credit for the in-class quiz section of the grade if you earn more than 80% at the end of the quarter.
  • If your clicker is not working during an in-class quiz, check that the channel has not been reset by setting the correct channel again.
  • Your clicker's channel should be configured to channel 01.
    • If you have an older model, instructions to configure your clicker can be found in this link.
    • For the newer iCue Pro model, please see the following:
    1. Press the MNU key multiple times to display the RF channel change mode
    2. Set to RF channel 1
    3. Press the SEND key
    4. The LED will flash green


Grading Policy

The final course grade is based on one of the following grade weightings. Your final grade will be assigned based on the option that gives you the higher grade. Therefore, if you miss a midterm for example, your grade will be determined using option 2.

  • Option 1:
2 midterm exams 46%
Final exam 23%
Homework 25%
In-class quizzes 6%


  • Option 2:
Midterm exam (better 1 of 2) 23%
Final exam 46%
Homework 25%
In-class quizzes 6%


  • Your responsibility: Check your grades on the WebAssign system every week or two and report any problems to me immediately. Exam grades should be recorded for your review within one week from the date of completion of your work. WebAssign homework grades should be recorded within 24 hours of submission. Grading problems that are reported in a timely fashion will be investigated and, if action is warranted, corrected. I may choose to ignore grading complaints that are not reported in a timely fashion.


Study Center

  • Students are encouraged to gather and work cooperatively in small groups in the Physics Study Center.
  • The Physics Study Center is located in room AM018 of Physics and Astronomy building. To reach it, go down the stairs that circle behind the Foucault pendulum and proceed toward the end of the hall.
  • Teaching assistants will be available for consultation during many portions of the day if your study group needs assistance, but staffing levels will not support much individual attention. The Study Center is staffed from approximately 9:30am to 4:30pm on weekdays.


Discussion forum

There is a discussion button to the left. You are encouraged to to ask your fellow students for help with homework, or to organize study groups, etc. 


Administrative help

If you need assistance with registration and overloads, please contact:

Susan Miller
Office: Physics and Astronomy building C136
Phone: 206-543-4982


Undergraduate adviser:

If you wish to talk with an academic counselor about becoming a physics major or minor, or have general questions about the physics program, please contact the physics department undergraduate adviser:

Margot Nims
Office: Physics and Astronomy building C139
Phone: 206-543-2772


Phys 118 Labs

Taking a laboratory course, Phys 118, concurrently is strongly recommended.

  • Robert Van Dyck  ( is in charge of Phys 118.
  • More information on the laboratory section is given here.
  • Many of the labs finish late at night, so I encourage all of you to look at the useful Safety links.

Access and accommodations

If you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations, you can have special access and accommodations. Please look at this link for more details.


Course Summary:

Date Details