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Email Prof. Tobin

Tufts Physics Dept.
Tufts Condensed Matter Physics

 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, including metallic nanoparticles.  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:
In 2013 I was named a Fellow of the AVS (formerly American Vacuum Society) "for outstanding contributions to understanding the dynamics of energy transfer between adsorbates and metal substrates, and chemical reactions and electronic effects on stepped surfaces."

For more details, see list of publications.


Science and Math Education

Energy cubesIn collaboration with colleagues at TERC and elsewhere, I have also been involved in efforts to improve science curricula and teacher preparation in the elementary grades. Currently I am active in the Focus on Energy project to develop and implement a learning progression for the teaching and learning of energy concepts in elementary and middle school.

The Inquiry Project, an NSF-supported curriculum developm
ent and educational research project, developed a new curriculum 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.

I am currently Program Director for the Listening Project, an initiative funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Inclusive Excellence Initiative. We seek to improve participation and persistence in science among underrepresented groups by transforming the culture of science instruction to one that elicits, welcomes, attends closely to, and responds effectively to the nascent science ideas of all students. 

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.  You can view a brief interview about student engagement here .

On this page you will find some interactive tools I've developed for teaching various concepts in math and physics.

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


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 Globe,  Science Daily, Physics World,  and numerous other publications.

You can see a video of one version of my talk on steroids and home runs here.


Energy and Climate Change

No Planet BI 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 have offered 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.