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Academic Research

As a Loyola student, you have the opportunity to work alongside our talented professors to partner in collaborative research. Learn more about some recent research and projects currently underway.

Biochemistry

Dr. Walkenhorst is a physical biochemist whose research involves studying the structure, function, and stability of peptides and proteins in solution.  He uses chemical, biological, and instrumental techniques to study several classes of proteins.  His most recent project involves studying the effect of environmental factors such as pH, ionic strength, toxic ions, and surface type on the activity of a new class of membrane active antibiotics called antimicrobial peptides.  He conducts research with undergraduate students interested in careers in biochemistry and medicine.  Dr. Walkenhorst is a founding member of the New Orleans Protein Folding Intergroup (NOProFIG) which began in January 1999 and meets every two weeks to discuss research results of local researchers in related fields.

Dr. Walkenhorst's work has been published in journals such as Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Biochemica Biophysica Acta: Biomembranes, Biochemistry, Journal of Molecular Biology, Protein Science, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Analytical Chemistry, and Protein Engineering.

For more information, contact William Walkenhorst, Ph.D., at walken@loyno.edu

 

Research in the Schoeffler Lab centers on exploring the sequence-structure-function paradigm as it relates to enzyme specialization. This means we're interested in understanding how changes at the genetic level lead to functional changes in proteins, optimizing them for particular jobs or particular environments. We study “interesting systems with hidden differences”: DNA modification enzymes that work at either near-boiling or near-freezing conditions, RNA modification enzymes that have the same shape but recognize dramatically different biochemical targets. In studying these systems, we ask: What small differences at the atomic level are driving these big differences in the macromolecule, and thus the organism? To interrogate these relationships, we use tools from computational biochemistry and bioinformatics, biochemistry, and structural biology. Our work is basic in nature but has implications for big problems like antibiotic resistance, bioengineering, and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Find out more about our work at the Schoeffler Lab website (Loyola login required):

https://sites.google.com/loyno.edu/schoefflerlab/home

Students interested in working in the lab should contact Dr. Schoeffler by email (ajschoef@loyno.edu). Some of our lab meetings are open-attendance; any interested Loyola student can ask for and receive an invitation to “sit in” and learn more about the lab by contacting Dr. Schoeffler.

Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Dr. Stephenson focuses on the synthesis of sensors based on supermolecular interactions, utilizing synthetic organic chemistry to form useful new materials; in other words, his main interest is in studying the interaction of molecules in order to make biocompatible sensing materials. Specifically, Dr. Stephenson's projects work to synthesize and study new sensors based on xanthene dyes such as rhodamine B.  The sensors are formed by modifying existing dyes to have specific functions.  

 

Organic Superconductor Synthesis

Students working under Dr. Qin will have the opportunity to synthesize novel charge transfer complexes based on sulfur-rich, aromatic, heterocyclic molecules; students will then test these compounds as new organic conductors and superconductors that could help form the basis for superconducting power grids.

Nearly one-tenth of all electrical power is lost as it travels from the electric generators to the final consumers. A superconducting power grid would eliminate this wastage and have tremendous economic and environmental benefits. The best intermetallic superconductors have achieved Tc’s (the temperature at which superconductivity occurs) as high as 100 K, which allows them to operate at liquid nitrogen temperatures, but they are brittle, dense solids—a serious shortcoming for power cables. In contrast, organic materials tend to be lighter in weight and more pliable than inorganics, making them promising components of superconducting power grids.

Although inorganic chemists and physicists have dominated the field of superconductor discovery, superconductivity was first observed in organic molecules in the late 1980s. Despite this fact, this field is under explored, and there are very few classes of organic superconductors. Dr. Qin hopes to further the field and help solve the problem of energy waste.

Nanomaterial Synthesis

Dr. Heinecke’s research interests focus on nanomaterials synthesis and their applications in biomedicine and electronic devices. She is interested in 1) developing cationic nanomaterials as a platform for multivalent display of host defense peptides as novel antibiotic agents and 2) building defined molecular assemblies of these small materials for electron transport properties. This type of multidisciplinary research will afford students the opportunity to learn a wide variety of scientific techniques.