Jan Tobochnik

Dow Distinguished Professor in the Natural Sciences

Departments of Physics and Computer Science

Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 337-7098
Email: jant@kzoo.edu

B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Physics, Amherst College, 1975
Ph.D., Cornell University, Physics, 1980



My research involves using computer simulations to understand a wide variety of systems, particularly near phase transitions. At present I am working on modeling three dimensional melting of colloid suspensions, network analysis of the U.S. patent citation database, asset exchange models of wealth distributions (see for example our work on the Asset Exchange Model), lattice models of earthquakes, and models relevant to neuroscience.

Previous research has included simulations of the glass transition, granular matter, diffusion in porous media, lattice models of lipid bilayers, quantum Monte Carlo simulations of disordered superconductors, and two dimensional melting. Funding for much of this research has come from the Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) of the American Chemical Society.


Physics Education

I have been particularly interested in teaching students how to write and use computer simulations to do physics. My colleague, Harvey Gould at Clark University, and I have written the text An Introduction to Computer Simulation Methods on this subject. Along with a new author, Wolfgang Christian of Davidson College, we have published the third edition which uses Java. We have also developed a set of open source Java classes which can be used in conjunction with our text ( open source physics or osp on github). Check out comPADRE or the simulations in physics web site to find out more. This latter site also includes links to other relevant sites and information on a column previously edited by Harvey Gould and myself for over 10 years in the journals Computing in Science and Engineering and Computers in Physics. Currently, we edit the Computational Physics Section of the American Journal of Physics

I have been working on a project originally funded by an NSF grant to improve the teaching of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and statistical physics at the undergraduate level. Harvey Gould and I edited the December 1999 theme issue of the American Journal of Physics on these topics. We also started a new series of Gordon Conferences on Physics Education and Research and co-chaired the first one on statistical and thermal physics in June 2000. Later conferences in this series have been on quantum mechanics(2002), classical mechanics and nonlinear dynamics(2004), electrodynamics(2006), computational physics(2008), experimental physics(2010), astrophysics(2012), biological physics(2014), and general relativity and gravitation(2016); and energy(2018). Currently, I continue to write Java and Python programs and curricular material for computational and statistical and thermal physics, and our text Statistical and Thermal Physics With Computer Applications, was published by Princeton University Press in 2010. The 2021 second edition is now available. Javascript versions of our open source physics (OSP) Java programs can be found at comPADRE. Source code for the Java and Python versions of the programs can be downloaded from links at this site.

Other Professional Activities

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Preprints on Physics Archive