Engineering Physics I

Welcome to the Engineering Physics I course, PHY 303K. This page describes the sections taught by Professor Vadim Kaplunovsky in Spring of 2007 (unique numbers 59405, 59410, 59415, and 59420). Other professors' sections should have their own web pages.

General Information

Assistant Instructor:
Tutorial (TA) sessions:
Coaching Tables:
Located on the fifth floor of RLM building and manned most hours between 8 AM and 5 PM on weekdays. This is a good place to get answers to your physics questions, especially if you cannot wait for my or TA's office hours.


The main textbook for the Engineering Physics courses (both PHY 303K and 303L) is Physics for Engineers and Scientists by H. C. Ohanian and J. T. Markert (3rd edition).

There are electronic versions of this book, and they are significantly cheaper than the paper version. But you cannot bring them to exams.

Most engineering physics textbook cover the same material; the difference between them is mostly style, emphasis, and organization. If your budget is tight and you already have another engineering physics textbook (for example, the Serway and Jewett book we have used at UT until this year), you may use it, but beware that the chapter and section numbers would be completely different. But if you don't have an old textbook (or can afford to by a new one), then buy the Ohanian and Markert book.

Don't waste your money on a clicker. Some professors use it for quizzes, but I will not.


I have no control over registration process and no authority to waive a prerequisite.

If you have problem registering to my class or to a lab, or if you need to get your transcripts into the system to satisfy a prerequisite, or if you have any other kind of prerequisite problem, — please go to Pat Morgan, the undergraduate secretary at the Physics department; her office is in RLM 5.216.

Please make sure to resolve all of your prerequisite problems — including the lab — by the twelfth class day (January 31). If you don't, the registrar will automatically drop this class on 1/31. I have no control over this process.

Syllabus and Schedule

The Engineering Physics courses 303K and 303L are introductory rather than comprehensive. The 303K course covers parts I and II of the textbook (Mechanics and Waves, chapters 1 through 18), while the 303 L course covers parts IV and V (chapters 22 through 35). Because of time shortage, parts III (Thermodynamics, chapters 19–21) and VI (Modern Physics, chapters 36–41) will not be covered.

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

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.

Teaching Tools Computer

The homeworks are graded by the computer — Teaching Tools by Prof. Moore and Dr. Ward. This allows for immediate feedback and eliminates grader subjectivity. The same computer grades your exams.

Note: the security certificate for teaching tools is homemade. If your browser raises a warning about this, tell it to allways accept this site.

Please register yourself with the Teaching Tools system as soon as humanly possible. If you 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.

Note: registering with the Teaching Tools computer is completely independent from registering for the class with the registrar. You need to register in both places ASAP.

If you have never used the Teaching Tools before, go to and create an account. Please use your UT EID for your userID, but for security's sake use a different password.
But if you already have an account from another class which uses the Teaching Tools — even if it's from an earlier semester — you should use it for my class as well.

Once you have an account, go to, log on, register for my class using access code jqp120 (same code for all 4 sections of my class), and log off right away.

After registration, read the instructions for using the system. Then log on again, download homework assignment #1, and try to answer at least one question by the second class day.


There will be 14 homework assignments during the semester. Your grade depends on the 12 best homeworks. The two remaining homeworks are dropped to allow for illness or emergencies — if you miss them or do them poorly, this would not hurt your grade. But if you miss more than two, your grade will suffer.

The deadline for each homework is at 4AM on Wednesday; depending on your sleeping habits, this is late Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning. The solutions become available immediately after the deadline.
The first homework is extended by 48 hours (till late Thursday night = early Friday morning) because of the first lecture cancellation.

You download homework assignments from the Teaching Tools computer, and you turn them in over the web by logging on to the same computer.

All students get different versions of homework assignments; another student's answers will not work for you. Please make sure you do your version and not somebody else's. If you use a library computer or share a computer with other students, please make sure you are logged in as yourself. And log out when you are done.

Please do not delay turning in your homework until you finish all questions. The system accepts answers one question at a time, and you should turn in each answer as soon as you have it. If you make a mistake, the computer will tell you right away, so you can try again. This is particularly important for multi-part problems: if you made a mistake in part 1, you will find that out right away, before the error spoils part 2, etc., of the same problem.

Practice problems

In addition to homeworks, I will assign a practice set of problems every week (except the first). The practice sets are checked by the same computer as the homeworks, but they don't affect your grade. You are not required to do the practice problems, but it's a good way to make sure you understand the material, and it helps you prepare for the exams.

Practice sets are due at 12 noon on Mondays, and the solutions become available a few minutes after that.

If you don't do the practice problems yourself, at least read the solutions. They will help you prepare for homeworks and exams.


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

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.

If you cannot take an exam because of illness or other bona fide emergency, notify me as soon as possible, and I'll decide on an appropriate remedy. But 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 had any other asinine excuses.

All exams are open-book, open-notes. You can bring any paper books and notes you like, but they must fit on your armrest.

Notebook computers, blackberries, cellphones, and other communication devices are forbidden during exams.

Ebook readers and other electronic gadgets must be approved by me before the exam. I will not approve a gadget which can be used for SMS, IM, email, or any other communications during the exam.

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, ID, 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.

Study Suggestions

Read ahead. Check the syllabus, and read the appropriate material in the textbook before I lecture on it. Even if you don't understand everything at first, reading ahead will help you follow the lectures.

After each lecture, read the textbook again. Make sure you understand all the examples and can answer the checkup questions.

Work out the practice problems on the homework server. If you don't know how to do them, read the textbook again. If that does not help, ask me or the TA. Or ask another TA at the coaching tables at the 5th floor of the RLM building.

Finally, do the homework. Again, if you have difficulties, first re-read the textbook, and if that does not help ask me or the TA or go to the coaching tables.

Grading Policy

The grades are based on the combined score comprised of:

The combined score will be adjusted upward according to attendance (tutorial sessions and lectures). The adjustment is non-linear: It is small for high scores but becomes important when the score is low but the attendance is high.


Since most exams (all but the first midterm) turned out to be rather difficult, I am renormalizing their results. The percentage score for each exam are multiplied by the following factors:
Midterm 11.00
Midterm 21.10
Midterm 31.50
Midterm 41.25

The exams are renormalized before dropping the worst exam and averaging the rest.

For technical reasons, the renormalization cannot be done inside the Teaching Tools computer. Instead, I use my own spreadsheet to calculate the grades. The intermediate results such as midterm-averages will not be visible to you — and the midterm averages in in the TTT will be wrong — but I shall post the overall score back to the TTT system soon after the final exam.

Grade Calculation

Here are the exact formulae I use to calculate your net scores.

I start with the data downloaded from the TTT system:

Then I calculate:

Your letter grade is based on the net_score.

Letter Grades

At the befinning of the class I told you that I do not have pre-set brackets for converting the adjusted 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. 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. But most likely I shall use more generous grading brackets (e.g. 85% for an A, 70% for a B, 55% for a C and 40% for a D).

Here are the brackets I've actualy used this year:

net_score grade
100 or more A+
93 to 100 A
86 to 93 A−
74 to 86 B
68 to 74 B−
54 to 68 C
40 to 54 C−
20 to 40 D
less then 20 F

The official grade is just the letter, a plus or a minus is for your information only. On the registrar web page, a plus or a minus (if any) will appear in the comment field, rather than as part of the grade itself.

Last Modified: May 11, 2007.
Vadim Kaplunovsky