Physics 121 - Electricity, Magnetism, Light & Modern Physics

Instructor: Dr. Chris McCarthy

Class Time & Place: ANY. Class will be taught online, asynchronously.

Office Hours: will be held Monday 10-11 AM and Tuesdays at 1-2 PM, via "Zoom" using the links below:

With the password: Chris

and by appointment,

Email address: Contact me at: (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.

Teaching Method: This course is taught in online format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous semesters, Physics 121 has been taught with 2 lectures per week (eg. on Tues. and Thurs. ) For this semester, the course will be taught asynchronously, meaning that lectures will be recorded by the instructor and can be viewed by students as videos at any time of day. There will be 2 video lectures per week, posted by Tues. and by Thursday each week. Students are required to view these videos, AND all the accompanying videos showing physics demonstrations. The same content will also be made available in .pdf format. ( This format lacks audio, but the file sizes are much smaller.) If you have trouble downloading or accessing course materials, contact the instructor at:

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

Course Website: Course materials are available:

Homework: The best way to learn physics is by solving problems on your own (or 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. Students are required to register at this site during the first week of class, and begin to submit assignments. There is a fee for this service. Please register (using the name by which you are known in university records) for the course identified as::


(If you have not used MasteringPhysics before, please go through the online "Physics Primer" to familiarize yourself with it. But this activity is not required, and not part of your grade.)

Exams: There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. Exams are will be conducted online this semester. Exam details and protocols will be given to students one week prior to each exam.


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.) 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 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 are provided by the instructor and, throughout the week, by lab instructors. >


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:

Accommondation may be made for students wishing to celebrate religious holidays if they give the instructor two weeks notice.

Your health and safety is our paramount concern at SF State. During the COVD-19 pandemic, every member of our Gator community is expected to do their part in keeping fellow students, faculty, and staff safe and well. Feeling well and safe will support you in focusing on your academic success.

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 or your own health during this time, please reach out to Student Health Services:

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are encouraged to connect with our on-campus health professionals in Counseling & Psychological Services: