Common classroom attire for many chemistry professors typically includes khaki slacks and a button up shirt under a lab coat. However, St. Thomas now has a professor who oversees experiments wearing different attire: a habit.
Since his arrival at St. Thomas this semester, Friar Patrick Daniel Tobin has held two positions: one with campus ministry, and one as a chemistry professor. He’s worn his habit, a long white robe distinguishing his religious position, for both.
Tobin admitted that the habit does make him stand out.
“I would say that (my habit) is a bit like being a fish in a fishbowl,” Tobin said. “People aren’t used to seeing a guy walk around in a white robe, so it attracts a lot of attention.”
Tobin’s previous position was at the University of Missouri where he worked in campus ministry.
“It is quite different (working at St. Thomas),” Tobin said. “It really focused on the pastoral needs of the students, celebrating the sacraments and putting time toward student activities that we were hosting on campus.”
Tobin said he’s had to transition into his dual role of teaching science and providing ministry.
“Here, I am now doing that, but I’m also a professor and so that’s using a different skill set. I am very grateful to St. Thomas to have this opportunity to combine the two great loves of my life: chemistry and campus ministry,” Tobin said.
Senior Jimmy Altendahl said he enjoys having Tobin as a lab instructor.
“He’s a great teacher,” Altendahl said. “I think he knows a lot about biochemistry and what he’s teaching us in lab. I haven’t seen him make any mistakes yet.”
Some may find his two jobs contradictory, but Tobin asserts that there really is not much of a difference between the world of science and the world of faith.
“When people ask me how do I reconcile them, the honest truth is that I’ve never had to reconcile them because they’ve never been opposed to one another,” Tobin said.
Junior Brooke Capelle said she thinks Tobin’s dual titles give him a well-rounded persona.
‘“He doesn’t have just one perspective,” Capelle said. “Some may not have a lot of knowledge of science, and then maybe don’t know what to say when somebody asks them ‘well, what do you think of evolution?’”
Senior Sarah Larson said Tobin is an example of how God really can call you to do anything.
“Seeing him in Mass showed me that God can call you to be a scientist and He can call you to be a priest too,” Larson said. “People can have multiple purposes for their lives and live them out well.”
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.