Fall 2015

Instructor: Dr. David R. Burgess
Schedule: Office hours are posted on my door.
Office: ST239 (Near the front door, across the road from the Dion Center.)
Phone: 603-897-8264 (office)
Internet: PHY101 Homepage (

If you think of scientists as odd-balls hovering over bubbling beakers while wearing white lab coats and funny looking spectacles, then this is the course for you! If you don't think any such thing, then this is really the course for you!

By the end of the course you should understand that scientists are ordinary people who are curious about the world around them. (You realize that ordinary people of all walks of life can be pretty odd!) They often systematically model events, in several different ways, to better understand why or how the events occur. They may want to understand better in order to make new materials, improve products, or to accomplish other goals where an understanding of these events is important. You will learn what kinds of models they might use and the main characteristics of these models. You will also gain some skill in building models of your own.

This course is required for those wishing to teach in the Elementary school and every attempt will be made to keep the course relevant to those students. This will include some discussions and homework assignments directed toward that field of study and activities that can be easily adapted to the elementary classroom. This is first, however, a college course taken to satisfy part of the science requirement in the core curriculum. All assignments will be evaluated according to the college standards associated with the core curriculum.

As a core course satisfying general education requirements, a significant amount of integration of basic skills from other areas will be done. You will need to draw on basic communication skills, basic reasoning skills, and basic mathematical skills. The core curriculum is established by the college and is an important part of your education, independent of your major, and this course can help develop those skills that are emphasized in the core curriculum. The physical sciences also provide an excellent opportunity to develop the college-wide competencies listed on the page titled Academic Assessment at Rivier University that go hand-in-hand with the core curriculum. These are basic and should be kept in mind as the course develops. In addition, you should acknowledge that whether the class is interesting or not depends mostly on you and that the class provides the framework for your own learning, not a substitute for it.

Although a theory course in the physical sciences, this course will not introduce you to all of the principles associated with the physical sciences. That would be impossible. This course will be mostly hands-on and activity based where selected concepts and principles will be used to illustrate the methods that scientists use, to introduce some of the most fundamental areas of physical science, and to develop better reasoning skills. The activities will be drawn from physics, chemistry, earth science and space science. As indicated before, however, equal attention to each area will be impossible.

The real purpose of this course is to help you like science and enjoy looking at the world around you. I believe you will like science if you understand what science is about, know some basic background material, and are curious about the world around you. This course will attempt to address these three areas, realizing that ultimately the responsibility for accomplishing this will rest upon each individual student.

The course will cover the general areas outlined below:

The philosophy of science.
The composition of matter.
Charges and charged particle interactions.
Acids and bases.
Partial charges and intermolecular forces.
Graphs, charts, and equations.
Gravitational potential energy.
Conservation of energy.
Other areas of interest as time allows.

The class will generally follow an order of presentation as suggested by this list of areas to cover. A more detailed list of class activities can be found through the class homepage. This resource is in development and will improve with time.

Each student will be required to make a presentation to the class on a topic of individual interest that will expand the list of topics beyond what is presented by the instructor. A concept outline of the presentation will be due at least two weeks before the presentation is to be given and will count as a double homework assignment (10 points). The presentations will be given during the last couple of weeks of class and graded according to specific criteria for the oral presentation that can be found through the class homepage.

Homework assignments will be given and graded on a regular basis. Many of the homework assignments are listed on the class homepage, but others will be given from time to time. Each student is individually responsible to get, understand and complete the assignments on time, even when working in groups or when absent. You are encouraged to help each other understand the material covered in class, but don't hand in identical answers to homework problems. This is a form of plagiarism and cheating and will be handled according to the academic honesty policy. Late assignments will be penalized 20% after three instances of being late (all late assignments, including the original three will be penalized). All written assignments should be done on a word processor.

Attendance is expected and has been proven crucial to understanding the topics presented in this course. When a class is missed the student is still responsible for the material that was covered in class and it is expected that the student will get notes and help from classmates. If there are still questions after going over the material with another student Dr. Burgess will be available during office hours and at other times as arranged by the student.

The class homepage also has other resources to help clarify the topics covered in class as well as a link to Academic Policies at Rivier and for this class. On our class policy page ( specific statements have been extracted, from the policies common to all undergraduate courses at Rivier University (, on Attendance, Habitual Non-Attendance, Academic Assessment, Academic Honesty, Classroom Behavior, Electronic Devices and Students With Disabilities. You are expected to be familiar with these policies and adhere to them.

There will be a cumulative final exam. The final grade will be determined as follows:

Homework 65%
Writing Assignment 10%
Oral Presentation 10%
Final Exam 15%

A student who earned 85% for homework, 83% for the writing assignment, 80% for the oral presentation, and 75% on the final would calculate their grade to be:

(.65)(85) + (.1)(83) + (.1)(80) + (.15)(75) = 83

and they would receive a B for the final grade.