Physics for Life Sciences II (PHYS*1070)

Code and section: PHYS*1070*01

Term: Winter 2023

Instructor: James Howard, Mike Massa, Carl Svensson


Course Information


Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via Courselink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website.


Physics underpins most aspects of modern technology and medicine. For example, the development of the field of atomic physics resulted in sub-fields such as electronics, microchips and computers, nuclear medicine, and radiation treatment of cancers. This course provides an overview of topics in physics that are of particular importance to the life and biological sciences. The specific topics chosen for PHYS*1070 make it particularly suited for students in the biological sciences or environmental science.

Credit Weighting: 0.50 credits

Course Objectives

  1. Expansion of breadth of knowledge, particularly in the application of physics to life sciences
  2. Improvement of skills in quantitative analysis and problem solving
  3. Ability to communicate (in writing) a logical problem solution
  4. Development of experimental and data collection techniques by participation in hands-on tasks (at-home labs)
  5. Develop time-management and self-motivation skills through the self-study format of this course
  6. Growth in physical understanding of everyday phenomena

Learning Outcomes

This is not a complete list of all you will be asked to study and encouraged to learn. However, after successfully completing this lecture and laboratory course you should at least be able to:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to think critically and to use appropriate concepts to qualitatively analyze situations involving the fundamental principles of physics.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to use appropriate mathematical techniques and concepts to obtain quantitative solutions to problems in physics.

Required Course Materials


There are four distinct resources that are required for students for this course:
1. Textbook
2. Study Guide
3. Lab Kit
4. This Course Outline

  1. B.Sc. Program requirements typically include two first-year physics courses. For students in life sciences who have taken 4U physics (high school or equivalent) PHYS*1070 is taken along with PHYS*1080 to meet this requirement. The same textbook is used for both courses:
    The textbook is sold as an online eBook; limited physical copies of the book may also be available for purchase.
  2. The PHYS*1070 Study Guide provides suggested textbook readings to guide you through course content. It also provides additional practice questions in the form of “Self-Tests”, with answers provided at the end of each Guide. Additional Textbook questions are also suggested to prepare students for quizzes.
  3. The Lab Kit will provide materials needed to complete your at-home labs. The same Lab Kit is used in the following courses (1070, 1080, 1300) so you will only need to purchase the kit once for both of your first-year physics courses.
    Lab Kit: Available for purchase through the Campus Bookstore
  4. This course outline includes important dates and deadlines – you should read this document in its entirety.

Course Access

Students in this course are required to access Courselink to complete some of the course evaluations. As soon as possible, you should log-in to Courselink and establish a course profile:

  • Use a web browser to go to the Courselink website
  • Follow the Courselink login instructions.


Course Contacts

Course Administration

Role Name Office Email
Course Administrator Cindy Wells SSC 1101A

Contact the Course Administrator for inquiries/issues related to:

  • illness
  • errors in your posted grades in your Courselink record
  • all situations related to course administration (i.e. NOT questions about physics)

Always include “PHYS*1070” in your email subject line contacting support staff.

For questions about physics – contact information regarding learning supports and questions related to course content – see “Obtaining Course Help” below, on p 9.


Instructor Officd Hours Room Email
Mike Massa TBA on Courselink MACN 328
Carl Svensson TBA on Courselink MACN 221
James Howard TBA on Courselink MACN 431

Meeting Times

Lecture Sections

Section Day Time Location Instructor
01 Mon/Wed/Fri 1:30 pm – 2:20 pm ROZH 104 Massa/Svensson
02 Mon/Wed/Fri 11:30 am - 12:20 pm MACN 105 Massa/Svensson
03 Tuesday 7:00 pm - 9:50 pm MACN 105 Howard

Tentative Lecture Schedule

Week Date Topic(s) Study Guide
1 Jan 9-13 - Introduction to waves
- Waves and traveling waves
- Superposition and standing waves
2 Jan 16-20 - Acoustic resonance
- Energy, power and intensity of sound
- The ear
3 Jan 23-27 - Snell’s Law
- The visual process
- Refraction at a spherical surface
4 Jan 30-Feb 3 - Lenses
- General object-image concepts
- The human eye; defects and their correction
5 Feb 6-10 - Electromagnetic waves
- Diffraction and interference
- Resolution
6 Feb 13-17 - Wave properties of particles
- Orbitals; the wave equation
7 Feb 27-Mar 3 - Energy levels and light absorption
- Fluorescence, phosphorescence (concepts) & Spectrophotometer
- Linear molecules
8 Mar 6-10 - Ring molecules
- Beer’s law
- Rotation and vibration
- Fluorescence & phosphorescence (calculations)
9 Mar 13-17 - Radioactive decay, half-life
- Absorption of radiation
- Radiation dose
10 Mar 20-24 - Coulomb’s law
- Fields and potentials
11 Mar 27-31 - Current, voltage and circuits
- Ohm’s law
- Simple circuits
12 Apr 3-6, 10 - Final exam info
- Problems and review

Note: The information in the “Lecture Topic” column is provided as a rough guide for the term. Future announcements about changes to the table or of any kind will be made in class and posted on CourseLink; these announcements take precedence over the original course outline!


Course Structure

Assessment Details Weight
Online pretests 10 pretests; equally weighted 10%
In-person Quizzes 5 quizzes; equally weighted 40%
At-home Labs 5 labs, each worth 3% 15%
In-person Final Exam Wednesday, April 19
07:00PM - 09:00PM
TOTAL N/A 100%


Lectures will be primarily delivered in-person, as outlined in the schedule above. There may be some lecture content that is presented via pre-recorded lecture videos which will complement or supplement the in-person lectures. Students will be notified well in advance when such materials are made available and how they fit into the lecture schedule.

Students must adhere to the health and safety measures put in place by the University when attending lectures. Lecture notes are often posted on Courselink following the lectures – ask your instructor for details.

The course is designed so that it can be completed independently by the student, as a self-study. The Study Guides are meant to guide students through the entire course; lectures will support and reinforce content in the study guides. Lecture attendance is not mandatory; however, you are strongly advised to attend your lecture section until you are sure that a self-study method works for you. Whether you join lectures or not, it is your responsibility to check CourseLink for important weekly notices regarding the course.

Study Guide

The Study Guide (SG) contains the eight modules (Study Guides 1 to 8) for this course, which are summarized in this outline. These ten modules cover the entire course and are designed so that you need never actually join a lecture if you follow their advice scrupulously. You must however complete labs. Each module provides you with:

  1. a brief introductory discussion of what the module is about,
  2. the educational objectives of the module,
  3. a detailed study guide (reading and problem lists, etc.)
  4. **self-tests, plus answers to self-tests, and sometimes
  5. extra problems.

These study guide modules are your chief help; the Study Guide is a teacher at your side constantly and should be studied with care.

Online Pretests (10% of final grade)

The purpose of the online pretests is to provide students with the opportunity to test their understanding of course concepts, prior to taking their in-person Quizzes (see below for Quiz details). By identifying any questions that were answered incorrectly, this feedback highlights areas that may require additional study prior to attempting the corresponding Quiz.

  • Pretests will be available on Courselink under the Pretests & Labs section
  • Each 20-minute pretest consists of five questions of equal value, in multiple-choice and short calculation formats.
  • Students can attempt pretests at any time prior to the scheduled deadline.
    o Students should attempt the pretests before attempting the in-person Quiz
  • Upon submission, students can review their attempt to see questions that were answered incorrectly.
  • Students may take TWO attempts at each pretest; the higher scoring attempt will count towards their grade.
  • The pretest mark is awarded for scores of 3/5 or better on an attempt; scores less than 3/5 will receive a mark of zero.
Pretest Content Due Date
1 Study Guide 1 Tuesday Jan 24
2 Study Guide 2 Tuesday Jan 24
3 Study Guide 3 (Sections 1-3) Tuesday Feb 7
4 Study Guide 3 (Sections 4-5) Tuesday Feb 7
5 Study Guide 4 (Sections 1-2) Tuesday Feb 28
6 Study Guide 4 (Sections 3-5) Tuesday Feb 28
7 Study Guide 5 Tuesday Mar 14
8 Study Guide 6 Tuesday Mar 14
9 Study Guide 7 Tuesday Mar 28
10 Study Guide 8 (Sections 1-2) Tuesday Mar 28

Note: Pretests will be available well in advance of the posted deadlines. You are encouraged to begin and even complete work before the due dates.

Evaluation of Quizzes (40% of final grade)

Regardless of the combination of lectures and/or self-study you use to acquire knowledge in the course, the question is "how do you demonstrate this knowledge and receive credit for it?" You will complete in-person diagnostic quizzes; there are 5 quizzes designed to test your mastery of the material.

Quizzes will be administered in the Quizroom facility, SSC room 1101. Students complete five quizzes throughout the semester, according to the schedule shown below.

  • Students sign up in advance for a 1-hour timeslot. Several timeslots will be available throughout the week of the quiz, so that students can book their quiz around their individual class schedule. A booking tool will be available through Courselink.
  • Students must arrive at the beginning of their timeslot and will be given 20 minutes to complete their quiz.
  • Upon completion, students may choose to stay and have their quiz graded in front of them by a Teaching Assistant.
  • Grades will be posted on Courselink by the following week.

The scope of each quiz usually includes two pretests (one or two Study Guides).

  • Students will be provided with a copy of the course formula sheet in the Quizroom.
  • Quizzes typically consist of 3-4 questions
  • Questions are more in depth than the pretest, however: part marks will be given for demonstrating the correct process and intermediate steps. Be sure to clearly show your work!
  • Quizzes will be scored out of 10; all five quizzes are equally weighted.
Quiz Week Content Due Date
1 3 Study Guides 1 & 2 week ending Friday Jan 27
2 5 Study Guide 3 week ending Friday Feb 10
3 7 Study Guide 4 week ending Friday Mar 3
4 9 Study Guides 5 & 6 week ending Friday Mar 17
5 11 Study Guides 7 & 8 (sections 1 & 2) week ending Friday Mar 31
  • Quiz timeslots will be available throughout the week.
  • Study Guide 8 sections 3-5 will be tested on the final exam.

Labs (15% of final grade)

There are 5 labs to be completed, associated with Study Guides 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. Experiments have been designed to be completed ‘at-home’, using equipment provided in the Lab Kit, as well as some additional materials that students should be able to easily obtain on their own – for example, paper, water, sugar, coins. These labs are designed specifically to connect the physics concepts in the course to the everyday world around you, making use of real data that students will obtain themselves.

The labs will also make use a free smart-phone/tablet applet called PhyPhox, which can be downloaded.

Detailed instructions for each lab will be posted on Courselink. Students submit their results directly within the lab instructions. Support for students will be provided by teaching assistants through drop-in virtual and in-person help hours throughout the semester.

There is no scheduled lab time; students will be given at least one week to complete experiments.

Lab Week Topic Due Date
1 4 Acoustics Wed. Feb 1, 2:00 pm
2 6 Optics Wed. Feb 15, 2:00 pm
3 8 Diffraction & Spectroscopy Wed. Mar 8, 2:00 pm
4 10 Radiation Wed. Mar 22, 2:00 pm
5 12 Circuits Wed. Apr 5, 2:00 pm


There are no midterms for this course

Final Examination

The final exam for PHYS*1070 will be administered in-person, on campus. The final exam typically consists of 18 - 25 multiple-choice questions of equal weight. Usually there are 2-3 questions from each of the Study Guide modules. Sample final exams are available through Courselink. The course formula sheet will be provided for the exam.

It should be noted that many students have found the final examination difficult, even with a perfect mark on the Quizzes.

Final Exam Date & Location: Wednesday APRIL 19, 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Obtaining Course Help

  1. Student learning will be supported by providing access to teaching assistants (TAs) who can answer questions regarding course content. Drop-in TA help sessions will be provided to support student learning :
  2. Your instructor will also have regular office hours posted on Courselink.
    Dates & locations of TA help and Instructor office hours will all be posted on Courselink.
  3. Courselink contains a considerable number of resources to support student learning, including:
    • Previous final examination.
    • Complete solutions to all Study Guide Self Tests.
    • Complete solutions for all the textbook problems on mechanics (Chapters 7-10) and for selected problems in the remaining chapters.
    • Errata for the textbook.
    • Several online tutorials are also available, which contain explanations, examples and self-check questions.
    i. Vectors
    ii. Exponential growth and decay
    iii. Logarithms
    iv. Trigonometry
    v. Free body diagrams
    vi. Graphing log paper
    vii. Graphing simple functions
    viii. Dimensional analysis
    ix. Torque and rotational motion

Course and University Policies

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph takes a serious view of academic misconduct and will severely penalize students, faculty and staff who are found guilty of offences associated with misappropriation of others' work, misrepresentation of personal performance and fraud, improper access to scholarly resources, and obstructing others in pursuit of their academic endeavors. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor. Each student is assumed to be familiar with the regulations surrounding academic misconducts, as spelled out in the Undergraduate Calendar academic misconduct section.

Accuracy of Records

It is your responsibility to use Courselink to check that your marks are recorded correctly. Please check your record often and report any discrepancies immediately to the Course Administrator Cindy Wells (


If you are away for brief periods of time due to medical, psychological or compassionate reasons, email the Course Administrator Cindy Wells ( immediately. If you miss the final examination because of illness or for other reasons, consult regulations in the current Undergraduate Calendar.

Course Notices

Notices pertaining to the course will be posted on Courselink or given in lectures. It is your responsibility to keep yourself informed regarding these special announcements.

E-mail Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their <> e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

Drop Date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is Monday, April 10, 2023. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar “Dropping Courses” section.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. SAS councillors will email me (Cindy Wells) stating your approved accommodations which will be incorporated into quizzes and the final exam.

For more information, contact SAS at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email or refer to the SAS website.

Recording of Materials

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer.

Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.

Live (Zoom) lectures may be recorded by the instructor and posted in Courselink; you will be notified of this at the beginning of the lecture.

Use of Personal Information

Personal information is used by university officials in order to carry out their authorized academic and administrative responsibilities and also to establish a relationship for alumni and development purposes. The University of Guelph’s policy on the Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Final Examination Conflicts

The University’s policy regarding examination conflicts, as stated in the Undergraduate Calendar, is as follows: “Students who drop and add courses are required to consult the examination timetable to avoid conflicts in examination times. Written approval must be obtained from the dean or director and the instructor-in-charge of the course to register in courses that have conflicting examination times.”

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students. Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.