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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

Biophysics (Prof. A. Kargol)

Biophysics is an emerging subfield in physical sciences. While many different areas fall into that category, the Biophysics Lab in the Physics Department at Loyola University is devoted to cellular biophysics, and specifically to physical mechanisms of membrane transport, such as ion channels. Ion channels are proteins in cellular membranes that control the exchange of ions between a cell and its surroundings. It is known that ions such as potassium, sodium, or calcium play a fundamental role in important physiological processes, e.g. neuron signaling or muscle contraction.

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).

For more information on Biophysics research click here.

Cosmology (Prof. T. Biswas)

Both theoretically and observationally cosmology gas grownin stature over the last decade or so. Still several puzzling questions remain: How did it all start, did our universe emerge from a singularity? Was there a beginning of time, or can one trace time all the way back to –infinity? What about dark matter and dark energy, what are they made of? My research tries to address these questions. One of my current project involves looking at cyclic cosmologies where the universe undergoes periodic phases of expansions and contractions. I have found that exchange of energy between different forms of matter can lead to such oscillatory behavior and they may provide viable cosmological paradigms. However, to make sure that we are consistent with all the known observations, one needs to study in more details the dynamics of the universe along with how the different matter densities evolve in time. This would involve numerical calculations. In essence, one would need to solve differential equations involving the relevant variables. This part of the project should therefore be definitely accessible to any student majoring in Physics, Math, or Chemistry.

In another project I am starting to look at thermal fluctuations in the early universe (that is when the universe was really really hot , around 1028 degree Kelvin). Could these tiny fluctuations in the early universe ultimately become the galaxies and galaxy clusters that we see in the sky today? It is clear that with conventional matter or radiation this idea does not work, but in the early universe we may have had more exotic particles. This project will involve exploring these different options. It will connect usual thermodynamical analysis with cosmology and possibly involve some numerical work, again readily accessible to science students. So, if you are interested in any of the projects, you are welcome to join the band wagon:)

Relativity (Prof. C. Brans)

My research is concerned primarily withstudies of mathematical models of spacetime and its various structures. This is closely related to Einstein's theory of general relativity, its presently known inadequacies leading to speculation on various alternatives to the standard Einstein equations. The participation of most undergraduates is generally centered on learning the necessary mathematical tools to enter and make contributions to this field.