Course Syllabus


Course Overview

Course Code and Semester: Physics 4C, Class Number 20242, Spring 2018
Course Description
: Comprehensive study of major topics of physics: Light, interference, relativity, quantum physics, atoms, molecules, and nuclei. (Satisfies COA AA/AS area 1; CSU area B1 and B3; IGETC area 5A and 5C; transferable to CSU and UC)
Prerequisites: Physics 4B and Math 3C

Who should take this course?

  • Intended physics, astronomy, and engineering major students needing the third semester of calculus-based physics.
  • Interested students who wish to learn mathematical treatments of special relativity and quantum mechanics (we also cover optics).

If you are taking Physics 4C to meet a transfer requirement, please check with your transfer institution and department. Not all engineering and physical science majors require Physics 4C. Nearly all physics and astronomy majors do require Physics 4C.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students discuss and apply the concepts of physics.
  2. Students develop descriptions of physical systems using mathematics and calculate measurable quantities.
  3. Students set up laboratory equipment safely, plan and carry out experimental procedures, identify possible sources of error, reduce and interpret data, and prepare clear written reports.

Instructor Information


Hi! My name is Andrew Park. The best way to contact me is by email. My Peralta email address is (if necessary, you can also contact me by my personal address, In addition to our time in class, you will hear from me regularly throughout the semester through the Course Announcements (or if I haven't seen you in a while, even Conversations tool). Please see office hour information below for questions or 1-on-1 instruction.

Office Hours

Office hours are held in Room 100 at Peralta Science Annex (street address: 860 Atlantic Ave., Alameda, CA). The hours are (tentatively): Monday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 6 to 7 p.m., and Friday 1 to 3 p.m. 

I am also available online during my office hours through ConferZoom. You can find me in my personal meeting room during my office hours. In addition, I will be available on workspace set up for College of Alameda physics students on Sign up at using your Peralta email address (I will be available for chat at various hours, but in particular during the office hours).

Course Materials

Great News! Your textbook for this class is free(Or about $50, if you want to purchase a hardcover copy.)

Required Textbook

University Physics Volume 3 LogoUniversity Physics, Volume 3 from OpenStax (ISBN 1-947172-03-4) is the required textbook for this class. You can view this textbook online on OpenStax website or download a PDF. Print copies are also available for purchase at the COA bookstore and for checkout at the COA library reserve desk.

Visit for all the different ways you can access this textbook.

You will also see sections of the textbook embedded into Canvas.

Additional Resources

Additional learning resources will be posted throughout the semester. For a quick overview of all the resources available for this class, look at Textbook and Additional Resources.

Important Notes


There will be three midterm exams (Exams 1, 2, and 3) and one comprehensive, cumulative final exam. Exams account for 60% of your grade. Note the days for midterm exams (held in class during a lecture or lab section) and the date and time for the final exam (held during the final exams week) in the Course Calendar. Talk to me as soon as possible about any potential, unavoidable schedule conflicts.

ADA Accommodation

Students who may need accommodation for their disabilities are encouraged to contact Disabled Students Program and Services (available in Room D-117 or by phone, 510-748-2328) as soon as possible in the semester so that reasonable (and legally-mandated) accommodations may be made. Usual accommodations made include extended exam time and/or transcription service. Most students with a diagnosed learning disability (such as ADHD or ADD) are eligible. If you are not sure whether you are eligible, please check with a DSPS counselor. The details regarding the nature of your disability are confidential and not shared with your instructor.

Instructor's personal note: In my experience, many students who should have utilized DSPS service do not use them and suffer consequences academically. The goal of DSPS (and ADA in general) is that you should be judged on your ability, not disability. For those students who are eligible, DSPS accommodation is what will help you express your full potential (not a special treatment or something to be stigmatized against).
Talk to a DSPS counselor today; the worst that can happen is they will tell you you are not eligible and you wasted a little bit of time.

Tutoring and Academic Support

Physics tutors are usually available in Tutorial Center in the Math Lab on the 2nd floor of the Learning Resources Center (LRC). Register for the free COA course, Learning Resources LRNRE 501, 24 hours in advance of using any tutoring services. Physics tutoring is also available at MESA center in Room 125 in 860 Atlantic Ave., or online through UpSwing.

Tips for Success in Physics 4C

Follow these advices to maximize your chance of success in this class.

First, here's a little bit on my grading approach. My goal in grading is to reward two things: (1) the effort you put into this class, and (2) your understanding of laws of physics. If you want to just pass this class, I have a good news: my goal is to pass every student who stays engaged with the course to the end of the semester, and so far, I have not failed. But most of you will want to do better than a C.
So, how do you get a B or an A in this class?

The only way to do that is to demonstrate that you can solve problems involving a physical situation, like an engineer or a scientist might. In some sense, it’s the same thing you had to do since your first semester of engineering physics, and the same problem-solving techniques you have been using will continue to apply (if you feel like you are missing a solid, foundational understanding of physics problem-solving, make sure you come to the “Crash Course in Physics Problem Solving”!). Physics 4C is best approached as a continuation of Physics 4B: you are learning new laws of physics (optics, waves, special relativity, quantum mechanics, etc.), while continuing to apply problem-solving techniques from previous physics courses and continuing to develop new intuition for new laws of physics.

So, how do you excel in this class? Here's what you need to do:

  • First, attend and fully participate in every class (7 hours every week), and organize your life so that you have about 8 hours of study time each week---that’s over 2.5 hours for every day you don’t have class. A total of 15 hours per week is what you are expected to spend for a 5-unit class.
  • Second, get your reading done early. We move at a pace of about one chapter each week. This is about 20 pages per week of dense, technical reading. Some of you might get this done in 30 minutes; some may need 2 hours. After you are done reading, you still have about 6 hours of studying outside the class to do.
  • Third, practice solving problems. This is where you should spend those 6 hours/week of study time. For your problem-solving practice, the most important resource available to you are the homework problems. The homework problems represent the topics covered and emphasized in this class, as well as the difficulty level of the problems you should be able to do after studying. I am available online and in person during office hours to help when you get stuck.

That’s enough advice to start with. Attend every lecture and lab. I will emphasize key physical laws you need to know, point out common conceptual mistakes, and problem-solving techniques to simplify problems---alongside the examples of physical intuition you should continue to develop as an engineer or a scientist.

Calendar and Assignments

This course syllabus is hosted on Canvas which makes the calendar and upcoming assignment available to you at one glance (as well as schedule of topics for the whole semester). Please look on your right for the calendar of assignments and course events (or go to your Canvas Calendar), as well as weighting of assignments for your course grade. Please look below for summary of course assignments. Fine-letter details are below---I encourage you to read through them (this is our contract for the semester), but I will remind you of anything that is important.

The Fine Letter - Course Policies

Please read on for the full listing of course policy. If you would rather skip it, that is fine; I will remind you of anything that is important.

  • Registration: After the last day to register for classes (see Course Calendar), you must be registered in the class in order for you to receive credit. No students can be added after this date.
  • Attendance: Please come ready to work at the beginning of every class. Instructor may drop a student if the number of unexcused absences exceeds 6 (number of times the class meets in two weeks; refer to pg. 31 of College of Alameda 2017-2019 catalog for the college policy on attendance)
  • Participation: Asking questions is encouraged during lecture (please direct them to me, not your neighbors). Answering my questions is even more encouraged (I try not to ask rhetorical questions). Also, please come ready to participate in occasional group discussions and work. Taking notes is good, but participating is better.
  • Disruptions: Please take care of your personal needs before class, or during scheduled breaks. Also, please turn off cell phones and other communication devices and put them in your bag. If you must arrive late or leave early, or take other breaks, please do so quietly without disrupting other students. See pg. 237-238 of College of Alameda 2017-2019 catalog for student standards of conduct. (In short, please act like an adult.)
  • Academic Integrity: Everything you turn in must be your own work. If you use sources other than the textbook, please clearly cite it and give credit where it is due. Allowing another student to copy your own work also constitutes academic dishonesty. Please refer to pg. 237-246 of College of Alameda 2017-2019 catalog for the college policy on academic dishonesty and possible disciplinary measures.
  • Schedule Subject to Change: Assignment and exam schedules are subject to change. Any changes will be announced through Canvas.
  • Late Assignments: All assignments are due on the date noted on Canvas. Contact the instructor for any extensions on assignments. Please note that peer-graded assignments on Canvas cannot be extended (for logistic reasons); Exams will be extended only in rare circumstances arising out of a situation beyond the student's control.
  • Allowed/Prohibited Items During Exams:
    • Allowed: calculators without communication capability, limited notes (usually an index card for midterms and a letter-size page for final), paper-bound foreign language dictionaries, writing instruments (pencil and pen), and a water bottle.
    • Prohibited: communication devices of any kind (cell phones, pagers, etc.), electronic devices other than a calculator, English-to-English dictionaries or any other books including the textbook.
  • Holistic Grading Rubric: A holistic grading scale is used for grading an essay or freeform-answer questions.
    • 5 (out of 5 points possible): "Excellent understading." The student clearly understands how to solve the problems; one or two minor mistakes can appear on a “5” solution, if they don’t lead to larger conceptual errors.
    • 4: "Good understanding." The student understands the main concepts and problem-solving techniques but is missing one major concept, or made one major mistake that may involve conceptual misunderstanding.
    • 3: "Fair understanding." The student started to set up the solution and is on the right track of applying the problem-solving techniques but is several major steps (or mistakes) away from being able to solve it.
    • 2: "Poor understanding." The student jots down some formulas from memory that may be relevant to the problem but shows little conceptual understanding of how they should be used.
    • 1: "No understanding." The student writes down something that has something to do with the problem.
    • 0: "Blank." Blank answers.
    Any requests for consideration of grade change must be submitted in writing.
  • Course Assignment Weights: assignments (including exams) count for your overall course grade in following proportions:
    • Homework Assignments (20%): weekly problem sets completed online on Canvas, and some peer-graded essay questions.
    • Labs (20%): write-ups for about 7 labs assigned throughout the semester, completed in class.
    • Midterm Exams (40%): three (3) midterm exams throughout the semester
    • Final Exam (20%): one (1) comprehensive final exam during the finals week
  • Course Grading Scale: The letter grades are assigned following this course grade scale:
    • A: 85 to 100%
    • B: 70 to 85%
    • C: 50 to 70%
    • D: 40 to 50%
    • F: below 40%
    The instructor reserves the right to exercise discretion on the margins around this scale.

Course Summary:

Date Details