Physics for Life Sciences (PHYS*1080)

Code and section: PHYS*1080*01

Term: Fall 2022

Instructor: Xiaorong Qin, Robert Wickham


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.

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.

Course Materials

Textbooks, study guides and the lab-kits are available to order through the campus bookstore.


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

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


  1. Most** B.Sc. students taking PHYS*1080 in the Fall will be required to take a second physics course in the Winter term, PHYS*1070, to complete their Program requirements.  The following textbook can be used for both of these courses.
    This resource is sold as an online eBook; limited physical copies of the book may also be available for purchase. 
  2. 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
  3. The PHYS*1080 Study Guide (Williams text) 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 quizzes.
    **For students who have taken PHYS*1300, the PHYS*1300 textbook can also be used for PHYS*1080 – however, students should purchase the corresponding PHYS*1080 Study Guide (O’Meara text).
  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 Administration

Course Contacts

Role Name Office Email
Course Administrator Cindy Wells SSC 1101A
Lab Technical Support TBA TBA

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 Lab Technical Support if you experience technical issues associated with accessing your lab instructions or uploading/submitting your completed lab work (i.e., NOT questions about physics).
When emailing support staff, include the course code, PHYS*1080, in your subject line

For questions about physics – contact information regarding learning supports and questions related to course content – see “Obtaining Course Help” on p10.


Instructor Office Hours Room  Email
Rob Wickham TBA on Courselink  MACN 302
Xiaorong Qin TBA on Courselink MACN 449
James Howard TBA on Courselink MACN 431

Course Meeting Times and Lecture Schedule

Lecture Sections

Section Day Time Location Instructor
01 Tuesday & Thursday 8:30 am - 9:50 am ROZH 104 Wickham
02  Tuesday & Thursday  11:30 am - 12:50 pm MACN 105 Howard
03  Wednesday  7:00 pm - 9:50 pm ROZH 101 Qin

Tentative Lecture Schedule

Week Lecture Date Topic(s) Study Guide
0 & 1 1-3  Sept 9
Sept 13-17
 -    Kinematics, 
-    Forces 
2 4-5  Sept 20-24 -    Forces
-    Momentum, Work & Energy
3 6-7 Sept 27-Oct 1 -    Energy
-    Rotational Motion
4 8-9 Oct 4-8  -    Rotational Motion 11
5 10 Oct 13-15  -    Elasticity  12
6 11-12  Oct 18-22 -    Scaling
-    Pressure
7 13-14 Oct 25-29 -    Barometric equation, surface tension
-    Non-Viscous Fluid Flow
8 15-16 Nov 1-5  -    Viscous Fluid Flow
-    Pulsatile Flow, Bolus Flow, Turbulence
9 17-18 Nov 8-12 -    Turbulence, Aneurysms
-    Perrin’s Experiment
10 19-20 Nov 15-19 -    Sedimentation
-    Diffusion
16, 17
11 21-22 Nov 22-26 -    Osmotic Pressure
-    Heat
17, 18
12 23-24 Nov 29-Dec 3 -    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!


Lectures will be delivered on-campus, as outlined in the schedule above.  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 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, plus answers to self-tests, and sometimes
  5. 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.

Course Structure


Assessment Weight
Online pretests
10 pretests; equally weighted
In-person Quizzes
5 quizzes; equally weighted
At-home Labs       
5 labs, each worth 3%
In-person Final Exam 35%
TOTAL  100%

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.
  • 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 9  Friday Oct. 7
2 Study Guide 10 Friday Oct. 7
3 Study Guide 11 (Sections 1-3) Friday Oct. 21
4 Study Guide 11 (Sections 4-6)  Friday Oct. 21
5 Study Guide 12 Friday Nov. 4
6 Study Guide 13 Friday Nov. 4
7 Study Guide 14 Friday Nov. 18
8 Study Guide 15 Friday Nov. 18
9 Study Guide 16  Friday Dec. 2
10 Study Guide 17 Friday Dec. 2
  • Note: Pretests will be available well in advance of the posted deadlines.  Students are encouraged to begin and even complete work before the due dates.
  • Study Guide 18 will be tested on the final exam.

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 Study Guides 9 & 10 week ending Friday Oct. 7
2 Study Guide 11 week ending Friday Oct. 21
3 8 Study Guides 12 & 13 week ending Friday Nov. 4
4 10 Study Guides 14 & 15 week ending Friday Nov. 18
5 12 Study Guides 16 & 17 week ending Friday Dec. 2
  • Quiz timeslots will be available throughout the week.
  • Note:  Week 5 is Thanksgiving break – Quiz schedule will be restricted this week to Wednesday-Friday (courses will not run Oct. 10 and 11)
  • Study Guide 18 will be tested on the final exam.

Labs (15% of final grade)

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 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 here: 

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 3 Torque Tues. Sept. 27, 11:59 pm
2a 5 Scaling measurements Wed. Oct. 12, 9:00 am
2b 7 Scaling & elasticity Tues. Oct. 25, 11:59 pm
3 8 Pressure and surface tension Tues. Nov. 1, 11:59 pm
9 Viscous fluid flow Tues. Nov. 8, 11:59 pm
5 11 Thermal motion Tues. Nov. 22, 11:59 pm


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 course formula sheet 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 & Location: Friday December 9, 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Obtaining Course Help

a)    Student learning will be supported by providing access to teaching assistants (TAs) who can answer questions regarding course content.  Both in-person and virtual TA-help will be provided; help hours, location and online access instructions will all be posted on Courselink. 
b)    Your instructor will also have regular office hours posted on Courselink.
c)    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 Statements

Collaboration versus Copying

Scientists work alone or in groups, very often consulting fellow scientists and discussing their research problems with peers. Collaboration is a feature of scientific activity and there are many benefits to working with others. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as his or her own and generally scientists give reference to the appropriate source of ideas or techniques which are not their own.

You are a young scientist and, in this spirit, I encourage you to discuss with others as you learn the material and work on the problem assignments. However, the work that you submit as your assignment must be your own and not a copy of someone else’s work. Identical scripts will be given a mark of zero and plagiarism will be dealt with severely. I encourage you to cite your references, citing books and other articles when they are used and acknowledging discussions with those who have helped you in your understanding and completion of the problem. This is good scientific practice.

Course Evaluation Information

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.

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.

University Statements

COVID-19 Disclaimer

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.  
The University will not normally require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for fall 2020 or winter 2021 semester courses.  However, requests for Academic Consideration may still require medical documentation as appropriate.

Email 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.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate and Graduate Calendars.  

Drop Date

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. The deadline to drop two-semester courses will be the last day of classes in the second semester. This applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and diploma) except for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Diploma in Veterinary Technology (conventional and alternative delivery) students. The regulations and procedures for course registration are available in their respective Academic Calendars. Undergraduate Calendar - Dropping Courses 

Copies of Out-of-class Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student. When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway. Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability. Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance and not later than the 40th Class Day.

Academic Integrity

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity, and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community-faculty, staff, and students-to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff, and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that encourages academic integrity. 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. Undergraduate Calendar - Academic Misconduct 

Recording of Materials

Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs. Academic Calendars