Physics for Life Sciences (PHYS*1080)

Code and section: PHYS*1080*01

Term: Winter 2022

Instructor: Robert Wickham, James Howard


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 and circulated by email.


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*1080 (mechanics with an emphasis on fluid mechanics) make it particularly suited for students in the biological sciences or environmental science.

Course Prerequisite: (1 of 4U Physics, OAC Physics, PHYS*1020, PHYS*1300), one 4U or OAC Mathematics course 
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 problems or 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 Material (Two Options)

There are four distinct required resources that students will need for this course:

  1. Textbook
  2. Lab Kit
  3. Study Guide
  4. This Course Outline

1.    B.Sc. Program requirements typically include two first-year physics courses.  In the biological sciences, students take one of two paths (subject to having taken 4U physics).

To minimize student costs, a single physics textbook can be used for each path.  Each textbook has a distinct PHYS*1080 study guide (with problems associated to one textbook).  Please ensure that you purchase the correct textbook and study guide based on the courses you plan on taking.

Path A:  Students take PHYS*1300, followed by PHYS*1080
Textbook:  You can continue using your PHYS*1300 text “Physics: An Algebra-based Approach”, 2nd edition, O’Meara, et al.

Path B:  Students take PHYS*1080, followed by PHYS*1070
Textbook:  Physics for the Biological Sciences, 5th edition, Williams M.L, et al.
Both are available in the Campus Bookstore (see link above)

2.    The Lab Kit will provide materials needed to complete your at-home labs.  The same Lab Kit is used in all three courses (1070, 1080, 1300) so you will only need to purchase the kit once for both physics courses.  


Lab Kit:  Available for purchase through the Campus Bookstore

3.    The Study Guide provides suggested textbook readings to guide you through course content.  The Study Guide also contains 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 weekly quizzes.

There is a different Study Guide for each Textbook – be sure to choose the one with the correct textbook listed on the bottom-right of the cover page:

Path A:  PHYS*1300 – 1080 sequence (Yellow emblem on cover page)
Path B:  PHYS*1080 – 1070 sequence (Blue emblem on cover page)
Both are available in the Campus Bookstore (see link above)

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 all course evaluations. As soon as possible, you should log-in to CourseLink and establish a course profile:

In addition, the following items are also available via CourseLink:

a.    Solutions to Self-Tests in the Study Guides
b.    Two Sample Final Examinations
c.    Textbook Problem Solutions for all the mechanics problems (Chapters 7-10) and for selected problems in the remaining chapters.
d.    Computer Tutorials on various topics
e.    Errata for the textbook.
f.    Sample quiz questions for each Study Guide.

Course Administration

Course Contacts

Role Name Office Email
Course Administrator Cindy Wells Off campus
Quiz Technical Support JP East Off campus

Contact the Course Administrator for inquiries/issues related to:

  • Illness
  • errors in your posted grades in your CourseLink record
  • situations related to course administration (i.e. not questions about physics)

Contact Quiz Technical Support if you experience issues accessing your quiz/lab or uploading/submitting your quiz/lab solutions
When emailing support staff, include the course code, PHYS*1080, in your subject line (and attach your quiz solutions if experiencing upload issues).


Instructor Office Hours Email
Rob Wickham TBA on CourseLink
James Howard  TBA on CourseLink


Lecture Sections

Additional details for lectures can be found below in the “Course Structure” section.

Section Day Time Location
01 Tuesday & Thursday  10:00 am – 11:20 am MACN 105
02 Tuesday & Thursday  5:30 pm - 6:50 pm ALEX 200
03 Wednesday 7:00 pm - 9:50 pm MACN105

Tentative Lecture Schedule

Week Lecture Week of Topic(s) Study Guide
1 1-2 Jan 10-14
  • Kinematics 
  • Forces
2 3-4 Jan 17-21
  • Forces
  • Momentum, Work & Energy
3 5-6 Jan 24-28
  • Energy
  • Rotational Motion
4 7-8 Jan 31-Feb 4
  • Rotational Motion
5 9-10 Feb 7-11
  • Rotational Motion
  • Elasticity
6 11-12 Feb 14-18
  • Scaling
  • Pressure
    Feb 21-25 Winter Break  
7 13-14 Feb 28-Mar 4
  • Barometric equation, surface tension
  • Non-Viscous Fluid Flow
8 15-16 Mar 7-11
  • Viscous Fluid Flow
  • Pulsatile Flow, Bolus Flow, Turbulence
9 17-18 Mar 14-18
  • Turbulence, Aneurysms
  • Perrin’s Experiment 
10 19-20 Mar 21-25
  • Sedimentation
  • Diffusion
16, 17
11 21-22 Mar 28-Apr 1
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Heat
17, 18
12 23-24 Apr 4-8
  • Heat
  • Review, Info re Final Exams

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 Weight
Quizzes 10 quizzes available; best 8 quiz grades x 5% each (excluding Quiz #0) 40%
At-home Labs 5 labs, each worth 3% 15%
Final Exam 45%
TOTAL 100%


Lectures will be delivered virtually during weeks 1 and 2 and on-campus beginning in week 3 following the schedule above adhering to the health and safety measures put in place by the University.  Should this necessitate a change to lecture delivery at that time an announcement will be made.  Students must adhere to the health and safety measures put in place by the University when attending lectures.

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 ten modules (Study Guides 9 to 18) 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,
  5. answers to self-tests, and sometimes
  6. extra problems.

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

Evaluation of Quizzes

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 then complete the on-line Diagnostic Quiz. There are 10 quizzes to be completed and they are designed to test your mastery of the material. 

Quizzes will be administered through Courselink from week 3 to week 12, and occur Mondays, either at 2:30 pm-3:20 pm or 3:30 pm-4:20pm (consult Webadvisor to find which time you are scheduled for your quiz – this is noted as your “seminar” time).  The quiz time is not adjustable, so make sure that the registered time fits your schedule.

The format will typically be scored out of 8 marks, with question formats:

  • 2-3 multiple choice questions
  • 1-2 calculation-based questions in which only the final answer is submitted and, 
  • 1 worked problem worth 4 marks, that students will complete work on paper, then upload a picture of their work into the CourseLink quiz. This question will be hand marked by the graduate teaching assistants with part marks being awarded when solutions clearly show detailed and correct steps

Students can access their quiz within the first 10 minutes of their period and will be given 40 minutes to complete their quiz from the moment their attempt begins.  This includes the time taken to upload their quiz solution into CourseLink, so ensure that your uploaded solution file is not too large – you may wish to adjust the resolution of your phone/laptop camera to balance image quality with file size.  

A practice quiz, Quiz #0 (not for marks), will be provided at the beginning of the course, for students to familiarize themselves with the submission process.  Quiz #0 must be completed by all students prior to Quiz #1.

10 Quizzes will be offered during the course; however, only 8 of the quizzes will count for marks in the course – this is to accommodate for students who miss a quiz due to illness or unforeseen circumstances.  If you complete more than 8 quizzes, your best 8 quiz grades will be used for the quiz evaluation portion of your final grade. Each quiz then is worth 5% of your final grade i.e. 8 quizzes x 5% = 40%.

Alternate attempts will not be provided for missed quiz attempts, so ensure that you are prepared to begin each quiz within the 10-minute access time each week.

Quizzes begin in week 3 – Mondays 2:30-3:20 pm and 3:30-4:20 pm

Week Date Quiz Study Guide
Wk 3 Monday Jan. 24 Quiz #1 Study Guide 9
Wk 4 Monday Jan. 31 Quiz #2 Study Guide 10
Wk 5 Monday Feb. 7 Quiz #3 Study Guide 11 (Sections 1-3)
Wk 6 Monday Feb 14 Quiz #4 Study Guide 11 (Sections 4-6)
Wk 7 Monday Feb. 28 Quiz #5 Study Guide 12
Wk 8 Monday Mar. 7 Quiz #6 Study Guide 13
Wk 9 Monday Mar. 14 Quiz #7 Study Guide 14
Wk 10 Monday Mar. 21 Quiz #8 Study Guide 15
Wk 11 Monday Mar. 28 Quiz #9 Study Guide 16
Wk 12 Monday **see below** Quiz #10 Study Guide 17

(Content from Study Guide 18 will be on the final exam)

Quiz #10 Students will be given 48 hours (Apr 4 & 5) to complete Quiz #10.  Students will be allowed to complete up to 3 attempts of Quiz #10 during this period (best attempt score counts).  To provide immediate feedback to students, the quiz format will not include a worked problem, and will instead be comprised of multiple choice and calculation-based questions.


There are 5 labs to be completed, associated with Study Guides 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17.  Experiments have been designed to be completed ‘at-home’, using equipment provided in the Lab Kit, as well some additional materials that students should be able to easily obtain on their own – including paper, water, sugar, coins.  A complete materials checklist for all labs will be provided on Courselink.  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 here: 

Detailed instructions for each lab will be posted on CourseLink, and support will be provided through TA virtual help hours.  Labs must be completed by 6:00 pm on the due dates listed below.

Lab Topic Due Date
Lab #1 Torque and Rotational Equilibrium due wk4 Thursday Feb.3
Lab #2 Young’s Modulus and Allometric Scaling of Trees  
  Part A – initial tree measurements due wk 3 Thursday Jan. 27
  Part B – analysis & additional lab work due wk 6 Thursday Feb.17
Lab #3 Barometric pressure and surface tension due wk 8 Thursday Mar.10
Lab #4 Viscosity and Poiseuille’s Law due wk 10 Thursday Mar.24
Lab #5 Thermal Motion of Molecules due wk 11 Thursday Mar. 31



There are no midterms for this course

Final Examination

The final exam for PHYS*1080 is intended to be administered on campus.  However, if the situation with COVID-19 dictates remote delivery of the exam, it will be offered online via CourseLink, using the Respondus Lockdown Browser system.  Students will be notified well in advance of the final exam details.
The final examination 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 copy of the formula sheet used for writing quizzes and is also found in your Study Guide, on CourseLink and will be provided for the final 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: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20 8:30-10:30AM

Obtaining Course Help

  1. Student learning will be supported by providing access to teaching assistants (TAs) who can answer questions regarding course content.  Virtual TA-help sessions will run using; access to sessions, and a schedule of office hours will be posted on CourseLink. 
  2. Your instructor will also have regular office hours posted on CourseLink.
  3. CourseLink contains a considerable number of resources to support student learning, including:
    a.    A set of 2 final examinations from previous semesters.
    b.    Complete solutions to all Study Guide Self Tests.
    c.    Complete solutions for all the textbook problems on mechanics (Chapters 7-10) and for selected problems in the remaining chapters
    d.    Errata for the textbook.
    e.    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 Quiz Room Supervisor Cindy Wells ( ONLY. 


If you are away for brief periods of time due to medical, psychological or compassionate reasons, email the Quiz Room Supervisor Cindy Wells ( immediately.  There are no quiz extensions provided as the course offers 10 quizzes counting your best 8 to accommodate students who have circumstances arise throughout the semester.  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 Friday April 8. 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.

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.