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.
All living cells in order to survive and to perform their physiological functions continuously exchange various atoms and molecules with the extracellular medium. Of particular importance are ions such as sodium, potassium, or calcium. Their controlled exchange with the extracellular medium is crucial to action potentials in neurons, muscle contraction, etc. Since the cellular membrane is normally impermeable to ions, their exchange is facilitated by special proteins called the ion channels, which are embedded in the membrane and form gated microscopic pores.
The focus of our research is to better understand the function of these proteins and their nonequilibrium properties. We know they can detect certain environmental factors, such as changes in electric field, presence of cer
tain ligands or even mechanical stress, and can open or close in response to these factors (ion channel gating). This way they can control and regulate various physiological processes. We use the experimental technique of patch-clamping and recent advances in mathematics and statistical physics to better characterize and control the process of channel gating. We also look at the interaction of inorganic nanoparticles, e.g. multiferroic nanoparticles, with biological cells.
- Remote control of voltage-sensing biological macromolecules using multiferroic nanoparticles - with L. Malkinski (University of New Orleans)
- Conductance hysteresis in ion channels
- Experimental detection of nonequilibrium kinetic focusing in voltage-gated ion channels
- Optimization of wavelet-based voltage protocols for ion channel electrophysiology
- Quantum biology - modeling photosynthesizing complexes in plants - with L. Celardo (University of Puebla, MX)
Biophysics research combines experiments, computations, and theoretical analysis. Student researchers in the Biophysics lab can choose between doing experiments (preparing biological samples, performing patch-clamping experiments) and computational work (analysis of raw experimental data generated from patch-clamping experiments, simulation of ionic currents, and building models of channel gating kinetics). Our experiments use modern ion channel electrophysiology methods, such as the patch clamping technique. The lab is equipped with two patch-clamping stations, one of which is devoted to student training. Most of the numerical simulations are done using MATLAB.
Current student members of the lab:
- Ariel Hall (Physics'20)
- Cole Green (Physics'20)
- Megan Adamson (Physics'21)
- Kimiasadat Mirlohi (Physics'22)
Former lab members include:
- Kaough Baggett (Physics'18)
- Ilyes Benslimane (Physics'17)
- Antonio Ayala (Physics'17)
- Dustin Lindberg (Physics'14)
- Douglas Alexander (Physics'14)
- Michael Kammer (Physics'12)
- David Vumbaco (Physics'12)
- Warner Sevin (Physics'11)
- Stella von Meer (Physics'09)
- Meagan Relle (Biology'08)
Recent publications from the Lab:
- A. Kargol: "Introduction to Cellular Biophysics. Vol. II. From membrane transport to neural signaling". IOP Concise Physics, Morgan & Claypool Publishers 2019
- A. Kargol: "Introduction to Cellular Biophysics. Vol. I. Membrane transport mechanisms". IOP Concise Physics, Morgan & Claypool Publishers 2018
- A. Kargol, L. Malkinski, R. Eskandari, M. Carter, D. Livingston: “Cellular Defibrillation”: Interaction of Microscale Electric Field with Voltage Gated Ion Channels. J. Biol. Phys. (2015)
- A. Ayala, J.D. Alexander, A.U. Kargol, L. Malkinski, A. Kargol: Piezoelectric micro- and nanoparticles do not affect growth rates of mammalian cells in vitro. J. Bionanosci. 8 (2014) 309-312
- L. Ponzoni, G.L. Celardo, F. Borgonovi, L. Kaplan, A. Kargol: Focusing in Multiwell Potentials: Applications to Ion Channels. Phys. Rev. E 87 (2013) 852137
- A. Kargol: Wavelet-based protocols for ion channel electrophysiology. BMC Biophysics 6:3 (2013)
- A. Kargol, L. Malkinski, G. Caruntu: Biomedical applications of multiferroic particles. In: Advanced Magnetic Materials, InTech (2012)
- A. Kargol, M. Kargol: Passive transport processes in cellular membranes. In: Porous media: Applications in biological systems and biotechnology, Taylor and Francis Group, LLC (2011)
Experiments using light quanta – photons – have proven to be very effective probes of a large range of phenomena, including quantum entanglement. This phenomenon has long fascinated scientists, and exemplifies the mystery and ‘weirdness’ of quantum physics. It also points the way towards the possibility in the future of extremely powerful quantum computers.
In the Quantum Optics Lab in the Physics Department at Loyola University we are in the process of setting up an experiment to explore quantum entanglement, in particular by testing something known as Bell’s theorem.
Students are involved in all aspects of the work, from putting together and aligning optical components to building electronics, to using computers to acquire, analyze and model the data.
Here are some current projects in cosmology involving undergraduate students.
Cyclic Inflation Model: Cyclic models envisage a universe that periodically expands and contracts, where time is endless not only in the future, but also in the past. The universe literally existed forever and there was never any beginning. If the cycles are asymmetric, that is in each the cycle the universe grows a bit more than it contracts, then over many-many such cycles the universe appears to "inflate" (grow exponentially). Below is a picture of the cyclic inflation phase followed by the usual slow power-law growth, a(t), represents the size of the universe.
That the universe once underwent an inflationary near-exponential growth has been pivotal to the success of the modern cosmological theory in explaining (and in some cases predicting) what one sees in our universe today. The cyclic inflation model, not only provides a viable mechanism to realize inflation but also comes with distinctive predictions for the cosmic microwave background radiation that our satellites are currently measuring. Here is a recent power point presentation on the subject.
Cyclic cosmologies in general provide an enigmatic alternative to the conventional monotonically expanding universe. There are quite a few interesting research projects in this direction that Dr. Biswas is planning to work on in the near future. If you are a physics or a math student who likes theoretical or computational work, you may want to explore the opportunity!
The Dark energy problem: Is the Dark energy just the Cosmological Constant as introduced by Einstein who later famously retracted it by saying that it was his “Biggest blunder”, or is there more to Dark energy than meets the “eye”? Cosmologists introduced dark energy to explain the cosmic speed-up, the fact that the expansion of our universe is speeding up rather than slowing down due to the gravitational attraction that exists between all "known" matter. In order to overcome gravity, dark energy has to have rather strange properties, such as having negative pressure and being impervious to dilution as the universe expands. This has lead many cosmologists to consider alternatives to the dark energy paradigm.
With collaborators and students, Dr. Biswas is currently looking into viable modifications of Einstein's theory of gravity that may be able to produce accelerating cosmologies without invoking dark energy. This is a follow up of his paper on viable gravitational theories on Minkowski background, including "non-local" (going beyond the paradigm that particles interact with each other at a given space-time point) modifications to Einstein's General theory of Relativity. Here is powerpoint presentation on the subject.
Martin McHugh has for more than 10 years worked on the experimental search for gravitational waves – most recently as part of the large international collaboration known as LIGO. The goal of LIGO is first to make a direct verification of the existence of these waves, which are a prediction of Einstein’s theory of gravity – General Relativity. But probably more importantly, these waves, once discovered, will be a tool to study astrophysics, cosmology, and as a probe to a better understanding of the gravitational interaction.
Professor McHugh’s current research is somewhat of a departure from this previous work. He is working on a history of physics, more specifically a biography of Robert H. Dicke. Dicke made significant contributions in many areas of physics over the second half of the twentieth century. A short list of his accomplishments include the invention of the microwave radiometer, work in atomic physics on the narrowing of spectral lines by use of a buffer gas (sometimes referred to as ‘Dicke narrowing’), and foundational work on the theory of superradiance. But Dicke is best known for his work in gravitational physics – both his pioneering experiments, and his role in the development of the Brans-Dicke theory. The latter done with Loyola emeritus professor of physics Carl Brans when he was a graduate student at Princeton. Dicke also played a pivotal role in the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background.