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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.

Faculty research to be published in Mexican Math. Society journal

Dr. Michael Kelly is currently working on research in the area of topology known as Fixed Point Theory.  A collaboration with Professor D. Goncalves of the University of Sao Paulo, Brasil has lead to a research article which will appear in the journal Bulletin of the Mexican Math. Society.   This collaboration is ongoing and also involves a research project which is related to the graphic on the left. 


Student research project exploring idempotents

Second year mathematics major Linda Hexter is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Kelly.  She is working on a project exploring idempotent matrices and implications to a problem in fixed point theory regarding homotopy idempotents.

Professor and Student Collaborate on Mathematics Investigation

Professor Thibodeaux and senior student Savannah Logan '14, worked on a project to investigate relationships between derivatives and algebraic structures called zero divisors. They first derived a formula for the number of zero divisors in the set of upper triangular matrices whose entries are from some subset of the whole numbers. They then determined the rate at which this number grows as a function of the size of the matrices and the size of the subset of whole numbers. Those rates were then compared with the derivatives of those functions, as is done with marginal cost and revenue in economics. Finally, using Gronwall’s inequality, a result was presented concerning when it is appropriate to use derivatives to approximate these discrete quantities.

Humor in the Bible, a textbook for undergraduates

Having recently obtained a publisher’s contract for her manuscript “Humor in the Gospels: A Compendium of Scholarly Research on Humor Rhetoric (1863-2014)” Dr. Bednarz is planning to develop a textbook to be titled, “Humor in the Bible” with the assistance and input of her Honors students in a class of the same name. Under her guidance, students will be producing chapter materials, discussion questions, bibliographies, art, and digital quizzes. Dr. Bednarz already has a publisher interested in the results of the collaborative research project. The students will be acknowledged as authors and contributors in this work.

The Intentional Troubadour: Woody Guthrie's Travels Through the Twentieth Century

Woody Guthrie bore witness to most of the significant historical changes of the twentieth century. Born in 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma, he entered a world where most people got around on foot or on horseback. His parents, Charley and Nora Belle, however, brought the first automobile to the tiny western town launching Guthrie along the way to becoming, like most Americans of the century, a fully mobile human being. By the end of his life Guthrie had travelled on just about every type of conveyance available from the horse and buggy to the airplane. Through his art, his songwriting, poetry, narrative prose, fiction, drawings, and paintings, Guthrie chronicled this history in some of the most memorable imagery in the history of American art. What child raised in the United States hasn't sung those memorable words about the "redwood forests" and the "gulfstream waters" in school or camp? Guthrie's approach to his art is best described in his own motto "All you can write is what you see." And he saw everything. As a young man in the 1930s, Guthrie, like many residents of the Great Dustbowl, pulled up stakes and travelled around the country like any good hobo searching for opportunities and honing his songwriting and musical skills. He walked, hitch hiked, and hopped trains weaving his way through the highways and byways of a rapidly changing country. When World War II broke out he shipped out with the Merchant Marine for several tours crossing the Atlantic in an adventure that brought him to the beachheads of Africa, Italy, France, and the British Isles. He was drafted in 1945 and served the final months of the war in the United States Army Air  Corps, the precursor to the United States Air Force. His wanderings allowed him to visit all of the lower forty-eight, Europe, and Africa. And he wrote about what he saw. Guthrie's collection at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma alone contains over ten thousand manuscript pages of his writing including drafts of plays, novels, works of art, and the lyrics to over three thousand songs. I am mining this and other archival sources to write a history of the United States through the latter twentieth century using Guthrie's lens to look out on the people, places, political, historical, and technological changes that he witnessed firsthand and chronicled in his art. My research also includes interdisciplinary analyses of his art, and the how the themes of movement, motion, and travel infused his work and made it one of the best historical representations of twentieth-century America. From his writings about
hobos, Dustbowl refugees, workers, unions, and the vast vistas "From California to the New York Island" Guthrie's songs, poems, novels, opinion columns, drawings, and paintings depict an America (indeed a world) in transition.  Generous support from the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences, Loyola's Marquette Fellowship, and the Woody Guthrie/BMI Foundation Fellowship has allowed me to begin this painstaking research. Support from the Loyola University Collaborative Scholarship Fellowship, a joint effort between the College and the University Honors Program has allowed me to invite students to collaborate with me own my project and,
in one instance, develop their own. Continued support from the O'Keefe Professorship will allow that work to continue.

Zero Divisor Graphs for Commutative and Noncommutative Rings

Zero divisors are objects that arise in one of the most abstract areas of mathematics. Surprisingly, investigators are able to study zero divisors using computational and geometric techniques. One of the geometric techniques involves diagrams called zero divisor graphs. Since 1988 there has been a plethora of articles on this topic. Dr. Thibodeaux and Dr. Tucci have published a joint paper in Communications in Algebra (Volume 42, Issue 9, 2014), “Zero Divisor Graphs of Finite Direct Products of Finite Rings,” which adds the continuing discussion on Zero divisors, and they are completing a second. Both of them are submitting papers which are co-authored with students. 

zero divisor graphs

MRGO-ing, Going, Gone

Documentary film, MRGO-ING, GOING, GONE, a decade in the making, reveals the backstory of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet—the infamous and now closed 76-mile shipping channel implicated in the catastrophic flooding following Hurricane Katrina. Produced by the Loyola University New Orleans Center for Environmental Communication and e/Prime Media, it’s a story of wetlands destruction, coastal erosion, flooding, political wrangling and mismanaged public resources. A free, public screening of the documentary was held on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Chalmette Cinema located at 8700 W. Judge Perez Dr. The documentary premiered on New Orleans public television station WYES on October 20 and has since aired several times.

Filmmakers Bob Thomas, Ph.D., director of the Loyola Center for Environmental Communication, and Kevin McCaffrey, executive producer of e/Prime Media, interviewed more than 30 experts, including many who witnessed some of the most distressing environmental consequences of the shipping channel in St. Bernard Parish. The film also features The Lens reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental journalist Bob Marshall. Though the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was closed in 2009, the nation could potentially spend billions of dollars repairing the damage caused by it, according to experts interviewed in the documentary. 

Elucidating the mechanisms and physiological significance of rapid changes in epidermal UV-shielding in plants

Anne Barkley (Environmental Studies Minor) was awarded a Louisiana Board of Regents S.U.R.E. grant which allowed her to work under faculty mentorship of Professor Paul Barnes (Biological Sciences) to conduct a study on the effects of UV light on plant growth during the 2013-2014 academic year.  

United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Effects Assessment Panel

Biological Sciences Professor Paul Barnes joined an elite team of scientists from around the world on the United Nations Environment Programme’s Environmental Effects Assessment Panel to investigate the latest effects of stratospheric ozone depletion, which will culminate in a report published once every four years. In Feb. 23-March 3, 2014 the committee met in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to detail how additional UV rays seeping through the Earth’s atmosphere affect human health, manufactured materials, ecological systems, climate change and other areas. The group will meet again this August in Zhengzhou, China. Barnes’ contribution to the international research effort focuses on what happens to plants and ecosystems under the diminished ozone layer. Ozone depletion and the resulting increased UV could affect things like how fast dead plant material decomposes—ultimately affecting the availability of vital nutrients for plants and soil. Plants exposed to more of the sun’s harmful rays also react by adding more “sunscreen” chemicals to their leaves for protection, according to Barnes. Those consequences have a complicated domino effect on the entire ecosystem, disruptively flowing through the entire food chain. For example, when plants change chemically for sun protection, it can affect the herbivores that eat the plants, according to Barnes. Barnes also lent his expertise to the European Union March 30 in Bled, Slovenia. He acted as an outside evaluator, providing feedback on UV and climate change research funded by the EU. Barnes will work with the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, which coordinates nationally funded research for Europe.

Relevant web sites:

Associated publications and presentations by Dr. Barnes include:

Barnes, P.W., H.L. Throop, S.R. Archer, D. D. Breshears, R.L. McCulley, and M.A. Tobler.  2014.  Sunlight and soil-litter mixing:  drivers of litter decomposition in drylands.  Progress in Botany (In Press).

Wargent, J.J., B.C.W. Nelson, T.K. McGhie, and P.W. Barnes.  2014.  Acclimation to UV-B radiation and visible light in Lactuca sativa involves up regulation of photosynthetic performance and orchestration of metabolome-wide responses.  Plant, Cell & Environment (In Press).

Barnes, P.W., A.R. Kersting, S.D. Flint, W. Beyschlag, and R.J. Ryel.  2013.  Adjustments in epidermal UV-transmittance in sun-shade transitions.  Physiologia Plantarum 149: 200-213.  DOI: 10.1111/ppl.12025.    

Barnes, P.W., M.A. Tobler, A.E. Barkley, S.D. Flint, R.J. Ryel, K.M. Keefover-Ring, R.L. Lindroth.  2014.  Rapid changes in UV-shielding in plants:  mechanisms, species patterns and physiological significance.  European Union COST Action UV4growth Final Meeting, Bled, Slovenia. (Invited Presentation) A.E. Barkley was an Environmental Studies Minor.

Levi, E.M., S.R. Archer, H.L. Throop, K.I. Predick, P.W. Barnes, and M.A. Tobler.  2013.  Soil deposition and UV radiation influence litter decomposition in a shrub-invaded dryland ecosystem.  RISE Conference, Tucson, AZ (poster).

Barnes, Paul. W., Mark A Tobler, Stephan D. Flint, Ronald J. Ryel, Kenneth Keefover-Ring, and Richard L. Lindroth.  2013.  Diurnal changes in leaf UV-absorbing compounds and epidermal UV-transmittance.  Ecological Society of America, Minneapolis, MN, August 2013.  Oral presentation.

Blue crab larvae into the Lake Pontchartrain estuary

Mallory Hirschler (ENVB major) was awarded a Louisiana Board of Regents S.U.R.E. grant which allows her to work under faculty mentorship of Professor Frank Jordan (Biological Sciences) to conduct a study of recruitment of blue crab larvae into the Lake Pontchartrain estuary. A goal of the Louisiana Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (LAEPSCoR) project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to increase the participation of women and other underrepresented minorities and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. The Supervised Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) program seeks to further this goal by fostering opportunities for such students to conduct supervised research with a faculty mentor.