Faculty Spotlight: Gary Lorigan

photo of Gary Lorigan

  • professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Scholar Award
  • interested in solving important biological problems using unique instrumentation and biophysical approaches
  • enjoys interacting and having fun with family, barbecuing, and golfing


"I got my undergraduate degree in Chemistry at California State University, Sacramento. I then went to the University of California in Davis and received a Ph.D in chemistry and biophysics. Later, I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I did a biophysics postdoctoral research. I chose these fields because I like being in an area that mixes together both biochemistry, chemistry and physics."


"In 1998, I joined Miami as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I later became an associate professor in 2003 and a professor in 2006. Applying my background in biophysical chemistry, I use magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the structure of membrane protein systems.

"I like that there's an emphasis on undergraduate education at Miami, while allowing me to do research. Currently I teach an upper division physical chemistry laboratory course for chemistry students, and a course in biophysical chemistry. My favorite aspect of teaching is being able to interact with the students. I enjoy being able to show them things that fall within my area of expertise while teaching them new concepts, especially in biophysics. This is an area of study that is newer to the students, and it is very interesting to see how they react.

"I try to do a good job of providing the basic concepts of what students need to know in biophysics, and then attempting to go off and really exploring how these concepts are applied from a research perspective. I provide students with real-world examples of how these concepts are used on a day-to-day basis in the laboratory, which makes them more applicable and not theoretical. Students are therefore able to see the value of these concepts within a career setting."


"Science is very expensive, so as long as you have funds, it allows you to try interesting projects based on fascinating ideas. I have published several papers and secured funds from the federal government to support my research.

"As an active researcher, I also review a lot of grant proposals for funding for the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). I recently traveled to Washington DC to take part in a study panel, where we reviewed approximately 90 grant proposals for the NIH.

"I use my research funding from the NIH and NSF to focus on studying the structure of membrane proteins and how they coincide with heart disease. Through this research, we have developed new biophysical techniques to study their structure and dynamics of proteins in a membrane.

"My students, both undergraduate and graduate, are very involved in my research. After they go through training, the students are completely immersed within the research and do most of the work. My primary responsibilities are to raise funds to continue the research and to observe and mentor the students. One of their tasks is to make the protein samples through biochemistry and other various perspectives.

"From this research, I received one of the 2014 Distinguished Scholar Awards. This award was quite an honor because it was recognition for all the hard work that I and my students put into the research. It's very rewarding and exciting when great results are produced from the laboratory, and it gives me motivation to continue doing the things I do!"

Outside the Classroom

"Teaching keeps me motivated because it's fun and I enjoy learning new things. I also enjoy spending time with my family and doing fun activities, such as barbecuing and golfing when the weather permits.

"My profession as a professor keeps me motivated because it allows me to explore my interests, develop my own projects, and delve into the science that I find most fascinating."

[December 2014]