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PHY117, Physics for Life Sciences 1


Lecturer : Prof. Ben Kilminster
Lectures ( PHY117.1 ):

Tuesday 15:00 - 16:45,   Y04-G-30 (live broadcast to Y15-G-60)
Wednesday 15:00 - 16:45, Y04-G-30 (live broadcast Y03-G-95)

Webcasts will be available on OLAT.  (Unfortunately, the smell of gunpowder is not rendered.)

Exercise sessions ( PHY117.2 ):

You will be assigned to one of these sessions : 

Thursday 8:00-10:00, 13:00-15:00, 15:00-17:00

Friday 8:00-10:00, 13:00-15:00

Monday 13:00-15:00, 15:00-17:00

First exercise sessions : Sept. 28th, 29th, Oct. 2nd.

Professor's office hours Tuesday 12:00-13:00, or by appointment


Course information sheet

References & texts

German-English helper sheet 

PHY117 helper sheet (PDF, 95 KB)(key terms, units, basic units in physics with german/english translation)

The script for the class is based on a 2-semester physics course.  In class, we will have to go quickly through the material, and skip some things.   The first script covers mechanics, waves, and fluid dynamics. The second script covers electricity, magnetism, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics.  (May update, check version number)


  • Paul A. Tipler, Gene Mosca: Physics for scientists and engineers.  
  • Halliday & Resnick : Fundamentals of Physics. 

Additional resources to help with mathematics. 

  • MHP: Mathematische Hilfsmittel (PDF, 587 KB) (in german) derivatives, integrals, series expansions, statistics, vector algebra, coordinate transformations, tensors, ... )
  • C.B. Lang und N. Pucker: Mathematische Methoden der Physik, Spektrum Verlag, Heidelberg und Berlin.

Formelsammlung Mittelschulphysik (PDF, 396 KB) is also useful for usage of basic formulas.


Exercises are posted weekly on OLAT on Monday/Tuesday.

Exercise sessions in the following weeks will help you understand the terms and concepts of the exercises and will explain the solutions.  It is expected that you will attempt the exercises before the exercise session.  This will help your brain develop the neural circuitry necessry for problem solving. 

There will be no webcasts of exercise classes. 

Exam schedule

Exam guidelines  :
Exams will be similar in style to the exercises. A formula sheet with all needed equations will be provided to you in the exams.  The formula sheet will be sent to you by the end of the semester to help you study.  We will provide you with paper and a calculator ( TI-30 ECO RS ).  The final exam will be printed in english and in german.   The following are forbidden in exams : 

  • Any means of communication (mobile phones, smart watches, etc.)
  • Any kind of calculator, laptop, or electronic storage device
  • Any additional formula sheets or written notes. 

Exam date: 17.01.2023, 13:00-15:00
Exam review : Monday, February 5, 2024 (for students who have not passed the exam)

Repeat exam date: 11.09.2023, 10:00-12:00


Your grade is based on the following assessments : 

  • 100%  final examination

Attendance is expected and recorded for exercise sessions.  The final examination will be composed of questions similar to those presented in the lectures and the weekly exercises. 

Outline of course

The course will cover introductory physics material in the subjects of mechanics, waves, fluid dynamics, electricity, magnetism, electromagnetism, optics, and thermodynamics.  These will allow you to understand basic phenomena, and provide the foundations for modern physics and modern experimental technique that can be useful in your future research.

If you take PHY127, you will also learn modern physics topics such as relativity, quantum physics, atomic, nuclear, and particle physics, radiation, particle-wave duality, particles interacting in matter, particle detection.  These ideas will be used to explain the basics of modern radiation techniques for diagnostics and treatment, and instruments such as X-rays, CT scanners, PET scanners, NMR, MRI, synchrotrons,  free electron lasers, which can be used for molecular and biological research studies. 



Lecture information


Lecture schedule (13 lectures) Topics          Lecture notes Additional resources

Week 1  Sept.19-20, 2023)

Intro, units, principles of motion

PHY117_HS2023_Week1_L1.v2.pdf (PDF, 12 MB)

PHY117_HS2023_Week1_L2-template.pdf (PDF, 8 MB)

PHY117_HS2023_Week1_L2-template.key (KEY, 32 MB)

PHY117_HS2023_Week1_L2.pdf (PDF, 10 MB)

Physics 1 script: chapters 1-5

Week 2 (Sept.26-27, 2023)

  • Integrals and x, v, a
  • Newton's 3 laws
  • Forces
  • Exercises with F = ma 

PHY117-HS2023-Week2-L1-final.pdf (PDF, 3 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week2-L2-final.v2.pdf (PDF, 3 MB)

Script 1, chapters 4, 5, and 6. 
Week 3 (Oct. 3-4, 2023)
  • Types of energy, energy: potential, kinetic, work, ...
  •  conservation of energy
  • conservation of momentum
  • elastic & inelastic collisions
  • relationship of momentum to force & impulse 

PHY117-HS2023-Week3-L1-final.pdf (PDF, 3 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week3-L2-final.pdf (PDF, 9 MB)

See relevant parts of script 1, chapter 7 & 8.

ballistic pendulum video

Week 4 (Oct.10-11, 2023)

rotations, angular momentum, torque, moment of inertia

hydrostatics, pressure, bulk modulus

PHY117-HS2023-Week4-L1-notes.pdf (PDF, 4 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week4-L2-notes.pdf (PDF, 6 MB)

Rotations: Chapter 9: primarily 9.1, 9.2, first page of 9.3, and  9.7, 9.8, 9.10, 9.11

Fluids: 16.1-16.4

Week 5 (Oct.17-18, 2023)

fluids, hydrodynamics

PHY117-HS2023-Week5-L1-notes.pdf (PDF, 11 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week5-L2-template.pdf (PDF, 7 MB) (PDF, 12 MB) (PDF, 7 MB)

Script: chapters 16,17,18

(If you are interested, more information on centrifugal force in chapter 10)

Week 6 (Oct.24-25, 2023)

Thermodynamics: ideal gas law, Van der Waals equation, heat, 0th and 1st law of thermodynamics, heat flow, heat expansion

PHY117-HS2023-Week6-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 15 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week6-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 15 MB) (PDF, 12 MB) (PDF, 16 MB)


See script 2 for relevant parts.
Week 7 (Oct.31 - Nov.1, 2023)

Thermodynamics: heat conduction, thermal expansion, phase changes, Cv, Cp, adiabatic processes

Mechanics: Stress/strain

PHY117-HS2023-Week7-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 7 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week7-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 2 MB) (PDF, 8 MB) (PDF, 4 MB)


Script 2
Week 8 ( Nov.7-8, 2023) Heat pumps;  Electric charge, Coulomb force vs. Gravitational force, Electric fields

PHY117-HS2023-Week8-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 8 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week8-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 9 MB) (PDF, 5 MB) (PDF, 7 MB)

Script 2, chapter 1

Week 9 (Nov.14-15, 2023)

Electric potential, capacitance, current, resistance

PHY117-HS2023-Week9-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 15 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week9-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 6 MB) (PDF, 16 MB) (PDF, 8 MB)


Week 10 (Nov.21-22, 2023)


Resistors in circuits, magnetic field, Lorentz force, Ampere's law, magnetic moments, magnetic flux, Faraday's law, Lenz's law

PHY117-HS2023-Week10-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 9 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week10-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 6 MB) (PDF, 10 MB) (PDF, 8 MB)


Week 11 (Nov.28-29, 2023)


Magnetization, paramagnets, diamagnets, ferromagnets.

Waves:  definition of wave, wave function, wave equation, standing waves, energy transmission in wave 

PHY117-HS2023-Week11-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 10 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week11-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 5 MB) (PDF, 13 MB) (PDF, 6 MB)


Week 12 (Dec.5-6,2023)

Waves, Standing waves, sound waves, sound intensity, interference, 

PHY117-HS2023-Week12-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 8 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week12-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 5 MB) (PDF, 10 MB) (PDF, 6 MB)

Week 13 (Dec.12-13, 2023) Electromagnetic waves, reflection, refraction, polarization

PHY117-HS2023-Week13-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 18 MB)

PHY117-HS2023-Week13-L2.notes.pdf (PDF, 28 MB) (PDF, 27 MB) (PDF, 29 MB)

Week 14 (Dec.19-20, 2023) geometric optics: lenses, mirrors, images

PHY117-HS2023-Week14-L1.notes.pdf (PDF, 18 MB) (PDF, 19 MB)



Slide ExamStart (PDF, 745 KB)                                                      Clock 

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