Congratulations Hurmiz Shamana, 2021 winner of the F.R. Hallett Memorial Scholarship in Biophysics

Posted on Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Congratulations to Hurmiz Shamana on being awarded the F.R. Hallett Memorial Scholarship in Biophysics for 2021.  Hurmiz was selected based on his academic achievements and ability in biophysics research as demonstrated through publications, presentations, and the mastery of his research area.  This graduate scholarship was established in memory of Professor Ross Hallett to honour his contributions to research in biophysics, as well as his academic life in the Department of Physics, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and the University of Guelph.  

Hurmiz Shamana obtained his BSc in Physics from McMaster University. During his undergraduate degree, he held research assistant positions in both experimental and computational polymer physics. Hurmiz joined the Dutcher Lab at the University of Guelph as a summer student in May 2015, transitioning into his MSc degree in September 2015.  

Hurmiz’s arrival in the Dutcher Lab coincided with the arrival of a new state-of-the-art rheometer. Hurmiz has been the primary user on this instrument, responsible setting up the instrument and developing procedures for sample preparation and rheology measurements. He showed excellent initiative to get this instrument working properly and he has been successful in obtaining very high-quality measurements of the rheology of aqueous dispersions of phytoglycogen nanoparticles. Phytoglycogen is an important biological macromolecule that is produced in the form of compact nanoparticles by sweet corn with many applications in personal care, food and nutrition, and biomedicine.  

Hurmiz’s rheology measurements on native phytoglycogen nanoparticles revealed that they interact very weakly for concentrations less than 20% w/w, with significant increases in the zero-shear viscosity only for larger concentrations. Hurmiz showed that the increase in viscosity with concentration was well described as a glass transition of the soft, deformable nanoparticles and provided a direct indication of their softness. Hurmiz is the first author of a 2018 Soft Matter paper on this work that has already received 20 citations (Google Scholar). Hurmiz is also a co-author on a 2020 Biomacromolecules paper on small angle neutron scattering measurements of native and hydrophobically modified phytoglycogen nanoparticles for which Hurmiz’s rheology results provided a crucial piece of information for the interpretation of these results. In addition, Hurmiz is also a co-author on a review article on the physical properties of phytoglycogen nanoparticles in a special issue of Physics in Canada. 

Hurmiz has since focused his rheology measurements on chemically modified phytoglycogen nanoparticles. By chemically modifying the particles, they effectively become new nanomaterials with very different physical properties. The first modification that he considered involved acid hydrolysis, which randomly breaks the bonds between the glucose repeat units, reducing the size and density of the nanoparticles. Hurmiz performed a detailed rheology study of acid hydrolyzed particles, showing that these particles are even softer than the native particles and demonstrating the tunability of the particle softness, which is a key advantage in drug delivery and personal care applications. He is the first author of a manuscript on this work that will be submitted soon.  

Hurmiz has given many talks at research conferences such as the American Physical Society March Meeting, Soft Matter Canada and the Canadian Association of Physicists Annual Congress. Hurmiz has a real talent for presenting his results clearly and pedagogically. 

Hurmiz has been awarded several major scholarships for his academic and research excellence: Alexander Graham Bell Canada Scholarships for both his MSc and PhD degrees, as well as a NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship and a University of Guelph Graduate Excellence Entrance Scholarship.  

Outside the lab and the classroom, Hurmiz served as a member of the Organizing Committee for the 2016 Nano Ontario Conference and he relaxes by pursuing his other real passion, rock climbing. 

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