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 2002 (unique numbers 57985, 57990, 57995 and 58000). 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 hours: Thursdays 4 to 5:30 PM.
  • Other office hours (I am likely to be in my office and available, but no guarantees): Mondays 4:30 to 5:30 PM and Fridays 1:30 to 2:30 PM.
  • Assistant Instructor:
  • Marija Zanic
  • Office: RLM 9.326
  • Office hours: Mondays, 4 to 5 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:
  • 57985: Wed 12-1, RLM 5.118;
  • 57990: Tue 4-5, ECJ 1.204;
  • 57995: Mon 5-6, RLM 6.120;
  • 58000: Tue 7-8 (PM), RLM 5.118.
  • Attendence of the tutorial sessions is mandatory.
  • 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.

    Syllabus and Schedule

    The Engineering Physics courses 303K and 303L are introductory rather than comprehensive. The 303K course covers Mechanics and Mechanical Waves (chapters 1 through 18 of the textbook); because of time shortage, Thermodynamics will not be covered.

    The detailed schedule of lectures, homeworks and exams is available at here and also here.

    Some optional sections may be skipped in order to allow more time for the rest of the material. Whenever I start a new chapter in class, I will announce which sections (if any) I am going to skip, and the tests will not include the skipped material.

    Here is the complete list of skipped sections: §6.4-5, §7.6-7, §8.9-10, §9.8, §11.7, §12.4, §13.6-7, §16.9, §17.4-5, §18.6, §18.8, and §14.9-10.

    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 altogether. Nevertheless, you are expected to learn everything in the textbook anyway (except the skipped optional sections) -- 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 57985 (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 18, October 16, November 13 and December 4, all Wednesdays, in the W.C.Hogg building, room WCH 1.120.
  • 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 17 (Tuesday), from 2 to 5 PM, in the B.H.Jester Center, room JES A121A.
  • 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 here.

    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.
  • Adjustments:

    The second and third exams turned out to be rather hard while the first and the fourth exams were relatively easy. Consequently, I am adjusting grading policy as follows: before dropping the lowest exam score and averaging the other three exams, I add 20 points to the raw scores of exams 2 and 3 -- but not the exams 1 and 4.

    The combined score is adjusted upward according to attendence of the tutorial sessions, in a non-linear fashion: The adjustment is very small for high scores but becomes important when the score is low but the attendance is high.

    For technical reasons, these adjustments cannot be made within the homework computer system, so you will not see them when you login to the system and check your grades. Instead, after the final exam for the course, I copied the raw data into my own software which took care of all the adjustments.

    Here is the exact method I used: I started with the percentage scores hw01 through hw14, pq01 through pq07, ex01 through ex04, fin01, and at01, exactly as they as you see them in the HW system. Then I calculated:

  • hw_avg = average( best 12 of [hw01 through hw14]);
  • pq_avg = average( best 5 of [pq01 through pq07]);
  • ex_avg = average( best 3 of [(ex01),(ex02+20),(ex03+20/1.1),(ex04)]);
  • fin_adj = fin01 · 215 / 160;
  • combined = 0.15·hw_avg + 0.15·pq_avg + 0.40·ex_avg + 0.30·fin_adj;
  • IF (at01<100%) THEN at_nl = sin2( 90°·at01/100%); ELSE at_nl = 1;
  • adj_score = ( combined3 + at_nl·(40%)3)1/3;
  • The letter grades are based on the above adj_score.

    Letter Grades

    I do not have pre-set brackets for converting the adj_scores into ABCDF letter grades. The exams vary in difficulty from year to year, so the brackets should be adjusted accordingly, after all the exam scores are known. At the start of the semester, I promised that in any case, a score of 90% or higher will earn you an A, a score above 75% will earn at least a B, a score above 65% will earn at least a C and a score above 50% at least a D, although most likely I would end up using more generous brakets.

    Here are the brackets I actually used this semester:

  • A+ for adj_scores above 100%;
  • A for adj_scores between 95% and 100%;
  • A- for adj_scores between 90% and 95%;
  • B for adj_scores between 77% and 90%;
  • B- for adj_scores between 72.5% and 77%;
  • C for adj_scores between 63% and 72.5%;
  • C- for adj_scores between 54% and 63%;
  • D for adj_scores between 41% and 54%;
  • D- for adj_scores between 36% and 41%;
  • F for adj_scores below 36%.
  • Note that the UT Registar ignores pluses or minuses on the grades, so an A- counts as an A, a B- counts as an B, etc., etc. The reason I assign them anyway is to let the students know how strong or weak their grades actually were, and let them plan their future studies accordingly.

    Your Final Grade

    Becase of the UT administration's new policy on confidentiality of the strudents' records, I cannot post the final letter grades on this web site. Instead, I uploaded the information back to the HW System. Please login as usual and check the dummy assignment letter01.

    For technical reasons, the HW System shows all grades as numbers. Here is the translation table:

    letter01 in the HW System Letter Grade
    raw percent FYI Registar
    4.20 105% A+ A
    4.00 100% A
    3.80 95% A-
    3.00 75% B B
    2.80 70% B-
    2.00 50% C C
    1.80 45% C-
    1.00 25% D D
    0.80 20% D-
    0.20 5% X
    0.00 0% F
    -1.00 -25% Q or W

    If you have any questions about your grade, please ask me in January via email at my usual e-address vadim@physics.utexas.edu.

    Have a nice holiday!

    Last Modified: December 18, 2002.
    Vadim Kaplunovsky