PHYSICS 160 : Physics for the Life Sciences


2024 Semester Two (1245) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Designed for students intending to advance in the biomedical and life sciences, this course is focused on physical principles relevant to biological systems. Key topics are motion, waves, thermal physics, electricity and instrumentation. The course is primarily algebra-based and includes lectures, laboratories and tutorials. Recommended preparation is NCEA Level 2 Physics and Mathematics, or equivalent.

Course Overview

 This course is for students who wish to advance their studies in the Life Sciences including Medicine or for any student interested in the underlying Physics behind Biological processes.  The course covers five subject areas: Mechanics, Thermal Physics and Fluids, Optics and Waves, Electricity, and Medical Physics. The Medical Physics topics (lectured by staff from the School of Medicine) include Biomechanics, Fluid Mechanics, Audiology, Vision Correction and Medical Imaging.
The course has a laboratory component, but also makes use of in-class demonstrations and experiments distributed through the lectures.

Course Requirements

Restriction: PHYSICS 120

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain the Physics behind many Biological systems using physical concepts from Mechanics, Optics and Waves, Thermal Physics and Electricity. (Capability 3 and 6)
  2. Apply specific skills and methods used in Physics to solve problems. (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Apply the laws of Physics taught in this course to algebra based problems (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Contribute to group-based problem solving and experimental work (Capability 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 10% Individual Coursework
Test 1 10% Individual Test
Test 2 10% Individual Test
Laboratories 20% Group & Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Test 1
Test 2
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

For more information and to find contact details for the Physics Department Tuākana coordinator, please see:

Special Requirements

The lab is compulsory and you must pass the lab component of this course in order to be eligible to pass the course.
There are two evening tests in this course. These tests run from 6:30pm till 7:30pm.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, a typical weekly workload includes:

  • 4 hours of lectures
  • 2-3 hours of reviewing the course content
  • 2-3 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs and tests to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including tutorials.
Attendance on campus is required for tests, laboratories and the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

  • Provided by the course
  • Physics (1st Australian and NZ edition) by Cutnell and Johnson

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

More word examples will be gone over in lecture to help the Covid lockdown affected students understand how to approach these types of questions.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2023 10:53 a.m.