Introductory Physics at Mines
Introductory physics involves the study of fundamental principles that underlie all aspects of science and engineering. Physics provides the foundation for every feature of modern technology, from microelectronics to off-shore oil exploration. The basic constraints for geological evolution, chemical reactions, and biological phenomena are established through the laws of physics. It’s important for every Mines graduate to have a sound grasp of these principles, because the guidelines of today will be replaced by new paradigms of thought in tomorrow’s world. Those who lead the way will do so through their understanding of basic concepts such as are encountered in physics.
All students at Mines must complete one semester of introductory calculus-based physics. Nearly all students must also complete a second semester of introductory calculus-based physics. Each of these courses carries 4.5 hours of academic credit. The sequence is designed to provide a solid background on which advanced courses in all departments rely. The course descriptions and prerequisites are published in the Undergraduate Bulletin.
Please note that both of the introductory physics courses at Mines are calculus-based. This classification has a variety of meanings at different institutions. At Mines it means that all students must use the principles and methods of calculus in the analysis of situations that appear in classtime exercises, homework assignments, and exams. It does not mean that calculus is used only in the lectures to justify simple “rule of thumb” equations.
Also note that a primary learning objective in both Physics I and Physics II is for students to acquire a sound understanding of the qualitative aspects of physics. This is taught through an extensive agenda of thought-provoking exercises that promote a robust understanding of how the physical world works.
Advanced Placement strong
If you have completed an AP physics class in high school, and have taken the AP Mechanics Exam, Level C, then one of these policies applies to you.
- You received a score below 4: You must take PHGN100 at Mines
- You received a score of 4: You will be invited to take the Physics I Challenge Exam.
- You received a score of 5: You will receive credit for PHGN100 (4.5 hrs)
If you have completed an AP physics class in high school, and have taken the AP Electricity and Magnetism Exam, Level C, then one of these policies applies to you.
- You received a score below 5: You must take PHGN100 at Mines
- You received a score of 5: You will be invited to take the Physics II Challenge Exam
Physics in the International Baccalaureate Program
If you have completed an IB program in high school, and have completed the Higher Level examination process, then one of these policies applies to you.
- You received a score below 5: You must take PHGN100 at Mines
- You received a score of 5, 6, or 7: You will be invited to take the Physics I Challenge Exam
Transfers from Another College or University
Colorado Public Institutions
If you have taken a gtPathways calculus-based Physics I or II course with a lab at another Colorado institution, you will receive transfer credit for that course when you enroll at Mines.
Private and Out-of-State Institutions
If you took a calculus-based course at another college or univerisity before enrolling at Mines you may apply for transfer credit by submitting a written request. As part of your request, please include a packet of information that describes the course(s) that you took at the other institution.
We will evaluate the transfer course(s) and provide you with advice about whether your preparation is adequate. We may require that you take the Challenge Exam(s), to verify that you have learned introductory physics at the appropriate level. Alternatively, we may require that you take our introductory physics course(s).
Please understand that we are not trying to make your college life difficult. On the contrary, we are trying to ensure that you have the highest probablilty for success at Mines.
Current Mines Students
The Undergraduate Bulletin contains the following language dealing with transfer of courses taken by students after they are already enrolled at Mines:
Students who are currently enrolled at Mines may transfer credit in required courses only in extenuating circumstances, upon the advance approval of the Registrar, the department head of the appropriate course, and the department head of the student’s option. Upon return, credit will be received subject to review by the appropriate department head.
Monetary issues, including the difference in tuition between Mines and another institution, are not extenuating. If you fall into this category, then you should discuss your situation with the Office of Financial Aid.
Students who are living in the Denver metropolitan region (including Boulder) are expected to attend classes at Mines. This includes classes during the summer session. However, if you are going to be living outside of the Denver metropolitan region during the summer, and need to take an introductory physics course to catch up (for example) you can submit a request for prior approval.
“Scheduling conflicts” are generally not considered extenuating circumstances. You, in conjunction with your advisor, are responsible for planning your academic career. Every program at Mines has a flowchart or spreadsheet in which Physics I and Physics II are accommodated. Both Physics I and II are offered with at least two lecture times and four studio times each semester, in addition to being offered during the summer session. It is anticipated that Mines students can work within the schedule of classes provided.
Requests for course substitution based upon unusual personal hardship or individual handicaps will always be reviewed.
Examples of extenuating circumstances that have been approved in the past include:
- Personal injury resulting in withdrawal from school for a semester, and wanting to catch up while living with parents out of state for the summer
- Student did not pass the first semester of Calculus, passed in the second semester, and wants to catch up. Student will be living with parents out of state for the summer, but there is an appropriate course taught at an institution fairly close to parent’s house.
Physics Challenge Exams
In cases where a student has completed a calculus-based course in physics which covers most of the topics taught in the same course at Mines, but in which there is some question about the technical rigor, mathematical level, or extent of individual assessment, then the student may be required to demonstrate their understanding and competence by passing a Challenge Exam.
The Challenge Exam is not an option for students who have not received an invitation to take it. Invitations are automatic for entering Freshmen who qualify, or are issued as part of the review of a formal application for transfer credit.
Physics I Challenge Exam
This sheet of equations will be supplied as part of the exam packet during the Physics I Challenge Exam. You will also be provided with a TI-30XIIS scientific calculator. Personally-owned calculators or hand-held computers are not allowed. You need only bring a pencil (or pencils), and an eraser.
To give you an idea of the level of our course, we have made available a set of actual 2-hour exams from a recent semester. The challenge exam covers the same material in a multiple-choice format. The challenge exam is 2 hours long, and is equivalent to a comprehensive final exam. While a conceptual understanding is essential to doing well on the exam, the exam does emphasize the application of calculus to physical situations.
Physics II Challenge Exam
This sheet of equations will be supplied as part of the exam packet during the Physics II Challenge Exam. You will also be provided with a TI-30XIIS scientific calculator. Personally-owned calculators or hand-held computers are not allowed. You need only bring a pencil (or pencils), and an eraser.
The challenge exam covers the same material in a multiple-choice format. The challenge exam is two hours long, and is equivalent to a comprehensive final exam. While a conceptual understanding is essential to doing well on the exam, the exam does emphasize the application of calculus to physical situations.