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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.

Materials for Spintronic Devices

Spintronics (spin+electronics) is a multidisciplinary research field that uses the magnetic (spin) and electronic properties of magnetic materials to develop devices. Spintronic devices are used in magnetic memories and sensors such as hard disk drive, STT-MRAM, and digital compass (used in navigation systems). Physicists work with engineers (electrical, mechanical, mechanical, chemical engineers) and material scientists in designing and developing such devices and improving their performance. Moreover, the demand for smaller, faster, more reliable, and more energy-efficient devices is only increasing, emphasizing the importance of this research. 
Dr. Beik Mohammadi and her research group use numerical and experimental techniques to investigate magnetic systems for spintronics applications. Currently, a GPU accelerated simulation package (called Mumax) is used to perform micromagnetic simulations. In addition, experimental research is performed in collaboration with the University of New Orleans. These studies aim to understand the interplay of magnetic properties and how they affect the performance, speed, and energy consumption of spintronic devices.

Current student researchers working on this project:

Elliott Clay, 2019-present

Former student researchers working on this project:

Jonathan Andino, 2020

Related publications:

J. Beik Mohammadi and A. D. Kent: Spin-torque switching mechanisms of perpendicular magnetic tunnel junction nanopillars, Applied Physics Letters 118, 132407 (2021)

N Statuto, J Beik  Mohammadi, AD Kent: Micromagnetic instabilities in spin-transfer switching of perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions, Physical Review B 103 (1), 014409 (2021)

Reduced Exchange Interactions in Magnetic Tunnel Junction Free Layers with Insertion Layers, ACS Applied Electronic Materials 1 (10), 2025-2029 (2019)

J. Beik Mohammadi, K. Cole, T. Mewes, C. K. A. Mewes: Inhomogeneous perpendicular magnetic anisotropy as a source of higher-order quasistatic and dynamic anisotropies, Physical Review B 97 (1), 014434 (2018)

Biophysics

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.

Current Projects:

  • 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)

Undergraduate Research:

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 members of the lab are:

  • Brad Kerkhof

Former lab members:​​

  • Kimiasadat Mirlohi (Physics'22)
  • Megan Adamson (Physics'21)
  • Ariel Hall (Physics'20)
  • Cole Green (Physics'20)
  • 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)

Forensic Chemistry

Dr. Duggar’s research emphasizes the use of traditional tools and techniques to yield more discriminating scientific data, and the determination of the pragmatic applicability of research-laboratory-based results on real-world samples. Particular areas include SEM-EDS analysis of particulate transfer evidence and the study of the persistence and significance of trace evidence in an urban environment.

Making a better world: A project examining motivation to improve collective well-being

Dr. Chuck Nichols' project seeks to better understand the correlates, causes, and effects of wanting and working toward collective betterment.  Caring about and helping close others and even complete strangers can provide strong psychological benefits for the helper as well as the helped. However, some surveys suggest that individuals may be becoming more selfish and less other-focused in recent decades, potentially undermining overall well-being. This project employs survey and experimental methodology to explore what leads people to care about and act to help others.

Virtual Reality Research

Dr. Erin Dupuis conducts research examining the effects of gaming and virtual reality on social behaviors including interpersonal violence and attitudes toward women. Her students have used virtual reality to examine concepts such as street harassment, sexism, embodiment, and aggression.

Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Research

Dr. Elin Grissom's research focuses on understanding sex differences in stress and anxiety across the lifespan, and how these differences impact learning and memory.  Elevations in stress hormones at different critical developmental timepoints impact learning and memory in males and females differently.  Increased anxiety resulting from stress exposure impacts learning style in a sex-specific manner as well. Dr. Grissom's current work uses rodent models to examine how elevations in stress hormones at different critical developmental periods impact measures of anxiety, and how this, in turn, alters learning and memory in males and females via changes in cell structure and function in related brain areas.

Social and Biological Influences on Primate Behavior and Reproduction

Dr. Evan Zucker, Professor of Psychology, studies the social and biological influences on the behavior and reproductive outcomes of nonhuman primates, as well as studying naturally-occurring patterns of human behavior (human ethology) and other aspects of social phenomena. His recent research has focused on the relationship between familial social status and life-history variables, as well as how indices of health in black howling monkeys are related to ecological factors, group composition factors, and reproductive status.

Mental Health Risk and Resilience in Service Members Deployed to Combat Zones

Dr. Kate Yurgil, Assistant Professor of Psychology, pursues multidisciplinary research that integrates measures of human behavior, cognition, and neurophysiology. Her most recent work, to be funded through a Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research (CDMR) Program Neurosensory and Rehabilitation Research Award, focuses on tinnitus (i.e. ringing of the ears) and hearing loss in relation to blast injuries, which have been deemed the signature wounds of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 12-23% of returning service members attest to a traumatic brain injury, and among those exposed to explosions, up to 77% sustain permanent hearing loss and 60-75% report tinnitus. Dr. Yurgil will collaborate with Dr. Dewleen Baker, Research Director at Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health in San Diego, CA and Professor of Psychiatry at University of California San Diego, the PI, who directs multiple research programs on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Drs. Yurgil and Baker, together with a team of physicians, scientists, and clinicians, integrate biological, physiological, psycho-social, and neuroimaging techniques to investigate predictors of mental health risk and resilience in service members deployed to combat zones.

Conservation of imperiled Okaloosa Darters

Since 1992, Professor Frank Jordan and students from the Department of Biological Sciences and the Environment Program have been collaborating with stakeholders from the US Geological Survey, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Air Force to study the biology, ecology, and conservation of imperiled Okaloosa Darters. This species of small fish is geographically limited to six small streams that are located primarily on Eglin Air Force Base in northwestern Florida. These studies included annual population monitoring surveys at a network of about 20 sites; periodic range-wide surveys at over 50 sites; development of sampling statistics and evaluation of visual sampling methods; characterization of microhabitat abundance and use; restoration of impounded stream sections; analysis of population genetic structure; analysis of movement and longevity; and most recently quantifying effects of canopy removal. Collectively, results of these studies largely informed the decision to “downlist” the species from Endangered to Threatened status in 2011 and more recently to the proposal by the USFWS to remove Okaloosa Darters from the Endangered Species List altogether. This will be a significant conservation milestone because – once listed – few species are recovered enough to come off the List. Read more about this study here.

Biology Research Seminar Series

The Department of Biological Sciences holds a series of seminars each Fall and Spring semester in which Loyola faculty and guest speakers from around the country present their latest research findings. A list of this semester's lineup and an archive of past research seminars is provided here. Seminars are at 12:30 in Monroe Hall 610 unless noted otherwise.

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