Ben Baylis awarded the Ross Hallett Memorial Scholarship in Biophysics

Posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017


Ben Baylis receives the Ross Hallett Memorial Scholarship from Barbara Hallett
Ben Baylis receives the Ross Hallett Memorial
Scholarship from Barbara Hallett

Congratulations to Ben Baylis on being awarded the Ross Hallett Memorial Scholarship in Biophysics.  Ben was selected based on his academic achievements and ability in the biophysics research as demonstrated through publications, presentations, and the mastery of his research area.

Ben Baylis obtained his Honours BSc in Nanoscience from the University of Guelph in 2014, with minors in both Physics and Math. In his honours undergraduate research project, Ben worked in Professor John Dutcher’s laboratory, confining E. coli bacteria into small microfluidic channels and using fluorescence microscopy to measure the oscillations in MinD proteins inside the bacterial cells. Ben began his MSc in the Dutcher laboratory in January 2015, using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to image phytoglycogen nanoparticles. Phytoglycogen is a highly-branched polysaccharide produced in the form of compact nanoparticles by sweet corn with many applications in personal care, food and nutrition, and biomedicine. Ben’s AFM measurements have resolved a large discrepancy between particle size determination using dynamic light scattering and small angle neutron scattering: he found that the neutron scattering result was correct, indicating that the light scattering from the particles is anomalous. Dr. Hallett, an expert in dynamic light scattering, would have been very interested in this result!

After one year in the MSc program, Ben’s advisory committee recommended his direct transfer into the PhD program. He is now measuring the swelling of native and chemically-modified phytoglycogen particles by comparing AFM images collected in air and in water. These are challenging measurements, especially in water, since the glucose-based nanoparticles adhere strongly to the AFM tip. To overcome this problem, Ben has pioneered the use of a new mode of AFM imaging, HyperDrive, that minimizes the interaction between the AFM tip and the particles. Based on this work, Ben is a co-author on publications in two ACS journals, Biomacromolecules and Langmuir, and a co-author on a review paper on phytoglycogen nanoparticles that will be published in 2017 as part of a special issue of Physics in Canada on Nanoscale Approaches to Biological Systems. Ben is currently writing a manuscript that is focused on his AFM measurements, and he will be the lead author. Ben is also very talented at presenting his research work, and has given presentations at the American Physical Society March Meetings in Baltimore and New Orleans, and the Chemical Biophysics Symposium in Toronto. In May 2017, Ben will present his work at the Biophysical Society of Canada meeting in Montreal and participate in a small, invitation-only workshop in the Leslie Lab at McGill University to learn about Convex Lens-induced Confinement (CLiC) microscopy.

Ben’s skills in AFM imaging have allowed him to make key contributions to a collaboration with the group of Professor Alejandro Marangoni in Food Science, providing outstanding AFM images of olegel samples that provide a healthy alternative to trans fats in food.

Ben has been very successful academically, receiving Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS) for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. Outside of the lab and the classroom, Ben served as a member of the Organizing Committee for the 2016 Nano Ontario Conference, and has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. He relaxes by pursuing his other real passion, fishing.

About the Scholarship

The Ross Hallett Memorial Scholarship was established in memory of Professor Ross Hallett to honour his contributions to research in biophysics, as well as the academic life of the Department of Physics, the College of Physical and Engineering Science, and the University of Guelph.

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