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Email Prof. Tobin

Tufts Physics Dept.
Tufts Condensed Matter Physics
Fulcrum Institute

 Research and other interests

Surface Science

UHV ChamberMy primary area of research is experimental surface science, focusing  on the interactions of small molecules and atoms (such as oxygen, sulfur, and carbon monoxide) with metal surfaces, typically copper and platinum.  These phenomena are important to a range of technologies including heterogeneous catalysis, chemical sensing, pollution control, and thin-film growth.  Experimental techniques include surface resistivity, infrared spectroscopy, temperature-programmed desorption, and Auger electron spectroscopy.

Areas of interest include:

For more details, see list of publications.


Physics of Baseball

Baseball talkI have a longstanding interest in the physics of baseball, and frequently give talks on the subject.
In 2008 I published an analysis of the possible effects of steroid use on home-run production, which was reported in the Washington Post, Boston GlobeScience Daily, Physics World, Athletic Business,  and numerous other publications.

After the 2007 World Series, I was interviewed on Canadian television about the effects of the high altitude at Coors Field in Denver.


Science and Math Education

The Fulcrum Institute is an innovative NSF-funded program for improving elementary and middle-school science instruction by giving in-service K-8 teachers an intensive set of courses to enhance both their science knowledge and their expertise in effective science pedagogy.  Physicists, education researchers and curriculum developers work closely with each other and with the teacher/learners to make sure that the science, educational methods, and coursework are at the highest possible level.  Click here to see a short video used in the course to help show the existence of "light" beyond the spectrum that we can see.   

I am also involved in the Inquiry Project, an NSF-supported curriculum development and educational research project focused on new curricula for grades 3-5, aimed at investigating the properties of materials and laying the groundwork for students' later exposure to the atomic model of matter.

In my teaching at Tufts I work to incorporate the insights of Physics Education Research by promoting active student engagement in classes at all levels.  In the introductory classes that includes the use of the Peer Instruction technique pioneered by Eric Mazur, and interactive lecture demonstrations developed at the Tufts Center for Science and Math Teaching.

Click here to read some letters to the editor relating to science education.


Energy and Climate Change

I am convinced that over the next several decades the world will need to make an dramatic transition from an economy based on the extraction and consumption of abundant and inexpensive fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy sources.  This transition poses extraordinary technical, economic, social and political challenges that are only beginning to be fully recognized.

I regularly offer a seminar for my freshman advisees, focusing on issues of energy and climate change, mainly from a scientific and technical perspective.

Click here to read some letters to the editor relating to energy and climate change.