Physics 121 - Electricity, Magnetism, Light & Modern Physics

Instructor: Dr. Chris McCarthy

Lecture: Tuesday & Thursday 12:34:56 PM - 1:50 PM in TH 327
Office: Thornton Hall 520. Telephone: 338.1880
Office Hours & Help Session: Thursday 3:10 - 5:00 PM in Trailer O-3
Email address: (IMPORTANT: please include "Physics 121" in the subject of emails, and don't forget to sign your name!)

Course: Physics 121 is the second of a two semester course. We begin with an introduction to electricity and magnetism. We then combine these subjects to consider various aspects of electromagnetic radiation, such as optics and the doppler effect. Finally we investigate topics of modern physics, including Einstein's theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and nuclear reactions.

Text: Walker, J.S. Physics, 5th Edition required.

Course Website: provides lecture notes, syllabi and exam reviews.

Homework: The best way to learn physics is by solving problems on your own and in small groups. Students who do not invest their own time and effort on homework problems have done poorly on exams. Feel free to discuss the homework with other students and with the instructor, but in the end you must work the problems yourself. Homework problems make up 15% of your grade. Assignments will be given every week or two, with a total of 10 for the semester. Please note the homework due dates, found on the course schedule, carefully, as late homework is not accepted. However, students' lowest homework score will not be counted toward their grade.

Homework is submitted online at the site. All students must register at this site (cost ~ $30/course) during the first week of class, and begin to submit assignments. Please register (using the name by which you are known in university records) with this key code: sfsu 9035 6550

Exams: There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. Exams are closed book and closed notes. At each exam, students should bring a calculator, and one 8.5 x 11" piece of paper per exam containing formulas and notes written by the student. Formula sheets from previous exams in this class may be brought to later exams, for a total of three such sheets at the final exam.

Important dates:

  • Last day to DROP classes: Wed. Sept.13
  • Midterm #1: Sept. 26
  • Last day to Change Credit/NoCredit: Wed. Oct. 18
  • Midterm #2: Oct. 31
  • Fall Break: November 20-24
  • Last day to withdraw for serious & compelling reasons: Nov. 17
  • Final Exam: Tuesday December 19 10:45 AM - 1:15 in TH 327

    GRADES Course will be graded on a curve. Course grades will be determined according to these weightings:

    Lab: The accompanying laboratory course, Physics 122 must be taken concurrently (unless you have already taken it and passed.) Labs meet in Trailer N. Enrollment in labs is managed by lab instructors and the Lab Coordinator. Be sure to attend the first lab meeting to secure your place.

    Learning objectives: Students successfully completing this course will, among other things, be able to:

    Study Tips: If you read the recommended portion of the textbook before coming to class, you will be at a great advantage. Course topics build on what has been covered before, so do not get behind in reading. Interact with other students in small study groups or on-line. To study for exams, work through some additional problems beyond those assigned. Feel free to ask questions in class and during office hours/help sessions.


    Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for accommodations. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC, in the Student Service Building) is available to facilitate this process. Contact DPRC at: or or by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472.)

    SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination. If you disclose a personal experience of such violence, the instructor is required to notify the Dean of Students. To disclose confidentially, contact either The SAFE Place (415-338-2208; ) OR Counseling and Psychological Services Center (415-338-2208; )
    For more information on your rights and available resources: