Enginering Physics I

Welcome to the Enginering Physics I course, PHY 303K. This page describes the section taught by Professor Vadim Kaplunovsky in Fall of 2001 (unique numbers 57305, 57308, 57310 and 57315). Other sections should have their own web pages.

General Information

  • Professor Vadim Kaplunovsky
  • Office: RLM 9.314A
  • Phone: 471-4918
  • Email: vadim@physics.utexas.edu
  • Reserved office hour: Mondays, 4:30 to 6 PM
  • Other office hours (I am likely to be in my office and available, but no guarantees): Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, 1:30 to 2:30 PM
  • Assistant Instructor:
  • Marija Zanic
  • Office: RLM 9.222
  • Office hours: Tuesdays 5 to 7 PM
  • Email: marija@mail.utexas.edu.
  • Lectures:
  • On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 3 to 4 PM, in Painter hall PAI 2.48.
  • Attendance is mandatory.
  • There will be 10-minute pop-quizes during some lectures. To encourage attendance of all lectures, I will not announce pop-quizes in advance.
  • Disruption of lectures will not be tolerated. Persistent or egregious disruptiveness will lower your grade (if appropriate, all the way to F).
  • Tutorial (TA) sessions:
  • One hour a week.
  • Place and time depends on the unique number -- see schedule.
  • Attendence of the tutorial sessions is mandatory.
  • Review sessions:
  • October 25 (Thursday), 5:30 to 7 PM, in RLM 5.104.
  • November 16 (Friday), 4 to 5:30 PM, in the regular classroom.
  • Prof. Chiu's comments


    The main textbook for the Engineering Physics courses (both PHY 303K and 303L) is Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway and Beichner (5th edition). The older, 4th edition (by Serway) is a good substitute.

    In addition, we recommend Tutorials in Introductory Physics by McDermott etal; this book is used in the tutorial sessions.

    Syllabus and Schedule

    The Engineering Physics courses 303K and 303L are introductory rather than comprehensive. Because of time shortage, some subjects will be skipped. In particular, the 303K course skips Thermodynamics and concentrates on Mechanics and Mechanical Waves. In textbook terms, the 303K course covers chapters 1 through 18.

    The detailed schedule of lectures, homeworks and exams is available at http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~itiq/303K/syllabus.html.

    The lectures will focus on the more difficult aspects of each subject. The easy parts -- which you can learn just by reading the textbook -- will be mentioned briefly or even left out of the lecture. Nevertheless, you are expected to learn everything in the textbook anyway -- and you will be tested for this knowledge.


    The homeworks are graded by the computer. This allows for immediate feedback and eliminates grader subjectivity.

    The same computer grades your exams, so it is imperative that you register yourself with the homework computer system as soon as humanly possible . If you do register late, you will miss homeworks and eventually exams and your grade will suffer; if you do not register at all, you will fail the course.

    First of all, read the instructions for using the system. Then register yourself with the system using unique number 57305 (this applies to all students in prof. Kaplunovsky's sections).

    Once you are registered, download homework assignment #1right away and try to answer at least one question by the second class day.

    If you have difficulties dealing with the computer, ask the TA to help you; she knows the homework computer service better than the professor!

    There will be 14 homework assignments during the semester. If you miss more than two, your grade will suffer.


    There will be four mid-term evening exams (AKA long quizes) during the semester and one comprehensive final exam at the end.

  • The mid-term exams will be held on September 19, October 17, November 14 and December 5, all Wednesdays, in the UTC building, room 2.102A.
  • Each mid-term begins at 7PM sharp and ends at 8:30PM. To find your pre-assigned seat, please come to the exam fifteen minutes before it starts.
  • The final exam will be held on December 12 (Wednesday), from 7 to 10 PM (ouch) in the Geology building room GEO 100.
  • Bring your student ID to each exam. To discourage cheating, we ID everybody.
  • Bring pencils and calculators to all exams, you will need them. Don't bring books or notes, you will not be allowed to use them during exams.
  • There will be no make-up exams for any reason whatsoever. If you miss one mid-term, it will not affect your grade, but if you miss two or more mid-term exams or the final exam, your grade will suffer.

    A student that is unable to take an exam because of illness or other bone fide emergency should notify the instructor as soon as possible; in such a case the instructor will decide on an appropriate remedy. There will be no remedy for students who missed an exam because they forgot or were mis-informed of its time or location, could not start their cars or park them on campus, had dead batteries in their calculators or their pencils eaten by dogs, or any other asinine excuses.

    No books or notes will be allowed during any of the exams. A formula sheet will be provided.

    Many exam questions will require calculations. Make sure to bring a calculator to each exam. Before each exam, check your calculator and make sure it works and has good batteries; if it fails during the exam, you are SOL.

    The exams will be graded by the same computer that grades the homeworks. However, unlike the homeworks, the exams use bubble sheets for entering the students' answers. Please bring a pencil -- the bubble-sheet scanner does not read ink.
    Remember to bubble in everything you write down. Your bubble sheet should have your name, SSN and the version number of your exam pre-printed and bubbled in; make sure this information is correct or your test will not be graded!

    More exam-related information and advice is available at http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~vadim/Classes/01f/303K/Exams.html

    Grading Policy

    The grades are based on the combined score compised of:

  • Fifteen percent (15%) of the average percentage score of the homeworks. To allow for emegencies, two worst (or missing) homeworks are skipped and only the best twelve are averaged.
  • Fifteen percent (15%) of the average percentage score of the pop-quizes during the lectures. Two worst or missing pop-quizes are skipped, the rest are averaged.
  • Forty percent (40%) of the average percentage score of three best evening exams. (13.33% for each exam). The worst exam or one missing exam are ignored. If you miss two or more exams, you are in trouble -- there will be no substitute exams.
  • Thirty percent (30%) of the percentage score of the final exam.
  • The combined score will be adjusted upward according to attendence (tutorial sessions and lectures). The adjustment is non-linear: It is very small for high scores but becomes important when the score is low but the attendance is high.

    To allow for unexpected difficulty or ease of the tests, I will wait for the final exam results before setting the brackets for the ABCDF letter grades in terms of the adjusted scores. In any case, a 90% or better score will earn an A, an 80% or better score will earn at least a B, 70% -- at least a C and 60% -- at least a D. Most likely however, the grading brackets will be more generous (e.g. 85% for an A, 70% for a B, 55% for a C and 40% for a D).


    Mid-term exams 2 and 3 turned out to be unexpectedly difficult while exam 1 was rather easy. Consequently, I am adjusting the grading policy as follows: Before evaluating the exam percentage scores and taking the averages, I add 20 points to the exam 2 raw score and 30 points to the exam 3 raw score. Exam 1 scores remain unchanged.

    For technical reasons, this adjustment cannot be made within the homework computer system, so you will not see it when you login to the system and check your grades. Instead, after the final exam for the course, I shall copy all raw data into my own software which can take care of all the adjustments.

    Likewise, the homework computer system will normalize the final exam to maximal score of 250 instead of 200, but I'll correct this before assigning the grades.

    Final Grades

    For security reasons, your final grades are no longer available at this server.

    Ultimate grading algorithm and brackets

  • First, I corrected the Exam scores as explained above and calculated the combined score
    S = 0.15 HW + 0.15 PQ + 0.40 EX + 0.30 Final .
  • Second, I adjusted the score for the tutorial attendence T(%fraction of sessions attended) according to the following formula:
    A=[S3 + (40%)3(T/100%)2 ]1/3
    Note that the adjustment is very small for high scores S but becomes important if S is low but the attendence is high. Also, the adjustment is always upward, never downward.
  • Third, I assigned the first-round grades according to the following brackets:
  • A+ for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 95% (adjusted scores not used for A grades).
  • A for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 86% (adjusted scores not used for A grades).
  • A- for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 81.5% (adjusted scores not used for A grades).
  • B for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 74% or adjusted scores A above 78%.
  • B- for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 65% or adjusted scores A above 69%.
  • C for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 53% or adjusted scores A above 56%.
  • C- for raw, unadjusted combined scores S above 43% or adjusted scores A above 48%.
  • D for adjusted scores A above 28%.
  • F for adjusted scores A below 28%.
  • Finally, I took a close look at all the grades and manually increased a few marginal grades when the particular student's overall performance record warranted such adjustment.

  • Last Modified: March 11, 2003
    Vadim Kaplunovsky