Comments from former undergraduate research students


Travis Lau

BS 2002 (Biology)

Tufts Medical School



During my research experience with Professor Tobin, I was given an incredible opportunity to engage in hands-on learning and the responsibility to complete tasks on my own.  These tasks included:

  • Disassembly of an ultra high vacuum chamber for cleaning.
  • Re-assembly of an ultra high vacuum chamber.
  • Designing and assembly of small electrical equipment for the laboratory.
  • Designing and assembly of a heater control panel.
  • Designing and assembly of a laser diode control mechanism.
  • Designing and assembly of a system to identify the index of refraction of certain liquids and solids.
  • Electropolishing.
  • And working directly with the Building & Machine Shop and AutoCAD.


The physics that I learned during the four years working in the lab is substantial, but I also learned a lot of other skills.  I learned to use common sense in the lab, especially when working with electrical equipment.  I also gained the belief in myself that I can complete tasks independently and efficiently.  I learned to think out-of-the-box when faced with difficult situations.  And a little bit of presentation skills.


While working in a physics laboratory is important for improving physics knowledge, much of what I learned can be applied to experiences outside of the lab.  During the project on refractive index, I learned the importance of trial and error and persistence to try to find a solution.  Working independently and with confidence is important in any field.  And presentation skills are always important to get information across.


Working as a student researcher has been extremely helpful to me and was an invaluable experience.  As a Biology major, working in the physics lab allowed me to have a more well-rounded understanding of science, and may have also helped with medical school applications and interviews. 



Daron Kurkjian

B.S. 2004 (Engineering)

Gordon Institute, Tufts University

            The theme of my undergraduate research experience was the gaining of real experience. The experience I gained was predominantly in how to problem solve, research, collaborate, and balance work demands with other time demands.


            The benefit of hands-on research was being able to create a solution to a problem you could see functioning day after day and if not, correcting the malfunction. Working in real 3D space forced me to use skills developed in EN-2 to draw diagrams for parts that the machine shop would then read. These parts would have to match up to one another making careful and accurate measurements a must.

            In the design of parts I learned a greater lesson in professionalism. Professor Tobin made sure he reviewed the diagrams before I brought them to the machine shop. The fact that a PhD holding professor would spend the time reviewing an undergraduate's diagrams to save retooling time for the shop machinists was evidence of mutual respect that as a freshman was more than I imagined a faculty member to hold. Professor Tobin explained the busy schedules of the machinists and critical work they did and I learned to be more thoughtful in my work as a result.


            The importance of collaborating was essential throughout my time in Professor Tobin's lab. Even after gaining a few years of experience in the lab, being able to ask questions directly related to the lab-work was critical in making progress in the diverse projects in the lab. Speaking with other undergraduate researchers, graduate students, and post-docs in addition to Professor Tobin himself, opened my eyes to the spectrum of research in academia. Exposure to the grant-writing process was great for when my own senior design (capstone) project group needed to secure the funds for international research.


            Overall, undergraduate research is a great way to see the other side to Tufts professors. Without my lab experience I would be oblivious to a huge part of the highly specialized research going on at Tufts. Without my lab-work starting my freshman year, I only now in my senior year would have begun researching closely with professors and would not have utilized the benefits of the research university Tufts is.


            As an engineering student, being confident of technical skills doesn’t come from understanding theory alone. The application of physics, such as torque tests on stepper motors I performed, made equations meaningful and much more useful than just for answering question on a test. The application of science and technology made a big difference in my confidence of my technical skills. Having a purpose above gaining lab experience for the sake of lab experience, such as in classroom labs, made labwork exciting because the work was on the cutting edge of science. Undergraduate research gave me a deeper appreciation for the work professors are engaged in and also was very helpful job experience for future internship and job application.