Physics for Life Sciences (PHYS*1080)

Code and section: PHYS*1080*01

Term: Fall 2023


General Information 

PHYS*1080 Physics for Life Sciences
Fall 2023 Course Outline
University of Guelph
Department of Physics
Credit Weighting: 0.50 credits

For Course Instructor, Class Time and Location, please check CourseLink.

Calendar Description

PHYS*1080  Physics for Life Sciences  Fall and Winter  (LEC: 3, LAB: 3)  [0.50]  
This course discusses aspects of classical physics with particular emphasis on topics of importance in the biological and environmental sciences. Topics include mechanics and applications to anatomical problems, fluid statics and dynamics, molecular motion, diffusion, osmosis, and heat.

Prerequisite(s): (1 of 4U Physics, PHYS*1020, PHYS*1300 ), 4U Mathematics  
Restriction(s): IPS*1500, PHYS*1000. This is a Priority Access Course. Enrolment may be restricted to particular programs, specializations or semester levels during certain periods. Please see the departmental website for more information.  
Department(s): Department of Physics  
Location(s): Guelph 


Course Information


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 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 using the following link:


  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 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.
    **If you took PHYS*1300, that textbook can instead 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 Contact

Students can contact Course Administration through Courselink by completing the Online Student Request Form (found in the Content section).

Contact the Course Administrator for inquiries/issues related to:

  • Illness
  • errors in your posted grades in your Courselink record
  • technical issues associated with accessing/submitting your lab in Courselink
  • situations related to course administration (i.e. NOT questions about physics)

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

For Course Instructor, Class Time and Location, please check CourseLink.


Tentative Lecture Schedule

Week Lecture Week of Topic(s) Study Guide
0 & 1 1-3  Sept 7
Sept 11-15 
-    Kinematics 
-    Forces
4-5 Sept 18-22  -    Forces
-    Momentum, Work & Energy
3 6-7 Sept 25-29 -    Energy
-    Rotational Motion
4 8-9 Oct 2-6  -    Rotational Motion 11
5 10 Oct 11-13 -    Elasticity 12
6 11-12 Oct 16-20 -    Scaling
-    Pressure
7 13-14 Oct 23-27 -    Barometric equation, surface tension
-    Non-Viscous Fluid Flow
8 15-16 Oct 30-Nov 3 -    Viscous Fluid Flow
-    Pulsatile Flow, Bolus Flow, Turbulence
9 17-18 Nov 6-10 -    Turbulence, Aneurysms
-    Perrin’s Experiment
10 19-20 Nov 13-17 -    Sedimentation
-    Diffusion
16, 17
11 21-22 Nov 20-24 -    Osmotic Pressure
-    Heat
17, 18
12  23-24 Nov 27-Dec 1 -    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
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 35%
TOTAL 100%


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.

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 Tuesday Oct. 3
2 Study Guide 10 Tuesday Oct. 3
3 Study Guide 11 (Part A) Tuesday Oct. 17
4 Study Guide 11 (Part B) Tuesday Oct. 17
5 Study Guide 12 Tuesday Oct. 31
6 Study Guide 13 Tuesday Oct. 31
7 Study Guide 14 Tuesday Nov. 14
8 Study Guide 15 Tuesday Nov. 14
Study Guide 16 Tuesday Nov. 28
10 Study Guide 17  Tuesday Nov. 28
  • 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 11 is covered in two pretests:
    o    Part A:  Uniform Circular Motion, Torque and Rotational Equilibrium, Rotational Kinematics
    o    Part B:  Moment of Inertia, Rotational Dynamics, Kinetic Energy, Angular Momentum
  • 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 are written in-person, in the Quizroom facility, SSC room 1101.

Sign-up for Quiz

  • Students sign up for a 1-hour timeslot on Courselink (booking tool becomes available the week before each quiz)
  • Several timeslots will be available over multiple days; students can book their quiz around their individual class schedule.

Writing the Quiz

  • Students must arrive at the beginning of their timeslot and will be given 20 minutes to complete their quiz.
  • Students will be provided with a copy of the course formula sheet in the Quizroom.
  • Upon completion, students may choose to stay and have their quiz graded in front of them by a Teaching Assistant.
  • Quizzes will be scored out of 10; all five quizzes are equally weighted.
  • Grades will be posted on Courselink (typically the next day).

Scope of the Quiz

  • Each quiz typically covers content from two pretests (one or two Study Guides).  
  • Quizzes typically consist of 3-4 questions.
  • Questions are more in depth than the pretest; part marks will be given for demonstrating the correct process and intermediate steps.  Be sure to clearly show your work!
Quiz Week Content Due Date
1 4 Study Guides 9 & 10 week ending Friday Oct. 6
2 6 Study Guide 11 week ending Friday Oct. 20
3 8 Study Guides 12 & 13 week ending Friday Nov. 3
4 10 Study Guides 14 & 15 week ending Friday Nov. 17
12  Study Guides 16 & 17 week ending Friday Dec. 1
  • Quiz timeslots will be available throughout the week.
  • 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
0 3 Pre-measurements for Lab 2 Wed. Sept. 27, 2:00 pm
1 5 Torque  Wed. Oct. 11, 2:00 pm
2 7 Scaling & elasticity Wed. Oct. 25, 2:00 pm
3 8 Pressure and surface tension Wed. Nov. 1, 2:00 pm
4 9 Viscous fluid flow Wed. Nov. 8, 2:00 pm
5 11 Thermal motion Wed. Nov. 22, 2:00 pm


There are no midterms for this course

Final Examination

The final examination is two-hours and will be held in-person; it 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.

A 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.


Obtaining Course Help

  1. Drop-in help sessions, run by teaching assistants (TAs) will be provided throughout the semester. Help hours, location and online access instructions will all 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:
    •    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

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 through the Online Student Request Form.

If you are away for brief periods of time due to medical, psychological, or compassionate reasons, immediately contact the Course Administrator through the Online Student Request Form.  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.

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.”


University Statements

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for academic consideration.

Academic Misconduct

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 discourages misconduct. 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.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.


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 (SAS) as soon as possible.

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.

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 areas of improvement. In addition, student assessments provide part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member’s contributions in the area of teaching. You are therefore encouraged to take the evaluation procedures seriously, and to provide feedback about this course and its instructor.

Drop date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is 1 December 2023. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.