Maria Procopio

Maria Procopio

Senior Lecturer & Associate Research Scientist

Contact Information

Research Interests: Weak magnetic field effects in biology, magnetoreception, quantum biology

Education: PhD, University of Bologna

Dr. Procopio received her BS and Ph.D in Physics from the University of Bologna, Italy. During the first three years of her Ph.D, she worked in the lab of Prof. Ferdinando Bersani, where she focused on the biophysical mechanisms of interaction between Extremely Low Electromagnetic Fields and biological systems, particularly ion channels. Maria then won the Marco Polo fellowship and moved to the University of California, Irvine, where she focused on developing quantum models of photo-induced radical pair-based magnetoreception with Prof. Thorsten Ritz. She continued her postdoctoral training in Photobiology, studying the photocycle of Cryptochrome photoreceptors, which are suggested to mediate magnetoreception, with Dr. Margaret Ahmad at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 2016, Maria moved to Johns Hopkins University, where, in addition to enjoying teaching, she has been working on magnetic sensing in biology.

Maria Procopio is interested in understanding how biological systems detect, transduce, and respond to weak static and alternating magnetic fields, with a particular emphasis on magnetoreception.

Magnetoreception refers to the ability of certain organisms to sense the Earth's magnetic field and utilize it for various purposes. Many animals, including birds, turtles, and salmon, have been found to utilize the Earth's magnetic field for orientation and navigation. While experimental studies have provided compelling evidence for magnetoreception, the biophysical mechanisms responsible for detecting and transducing weak magnetic fields remain largely unclear.

Maria uses theoretical and computational tools to develop biophysical models for magnetoreception. Currently, her research focuses on modeling magnetically sensitive radical-pair reactions relevant to magnetoreception. Radical-pair reactions involve coherent spin dynamics, placing the study of radical pair-based magnetoreception within the field of quantum biology.

Introduction to Computing AS.250.205 (04,05,06)

This course is useful for many disciplines, not only the life sciences. It will introduce students to basic computing concepts and tools useful in many applications. Students will learn to work in the Unix environment and write bash shells scripts. They will learn to program using the Python programming language, including Python libraries for graphing, fitting and for numerical and statistical computing, such as NumPy, SciPy, pandas and Matplotlib. At the end of the semester, students will complete a project coupling all components of the semester together. Brief lectures followed by extensive hands-on computer laboratories with examples from many disciplines. No prerequisites. Course offered every semester.


Science and Film AS.250.105

In collaboration with Linda DeLibero and Annette Porter (Film and Media Studies at JHU)

From the origins of cinema to the present, science and technology have remained the most reliably popular subjects for filmmakers and audiences alike. This course will address that enduring fascination, exploring the meanings and uses of science and technology in film through guest lectures and discussion of cinematic examples both recent and historic. Lectures and discussion will focus on a range of questions: How does film both reflect and shape our understanding of scientific concepts and technologies, from artificial intelligence to genetic engineering? How does science fiction reveal contemporary cultural anxieties and address ethical questions? How “fictional” is the science in science fiction film, and how have science fiction films inspired science and technology? What can we learn about “real” science from the movies?

In addition to exploring science through film, students will learn the tools of film analysis through lecture, close viewing, and completion of a series of short written responses. Students will also learn tools of film making through completion of a short movie.