Congratulations to Carley Miki, the 2022 Ross Hallett Memorial Scholarship in Biophysics Winner!

Posted on Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

Carley Miki obtained her Honours BSc in Nanoscience from the University of Guelph in 2012, with a Minor in Physics. In her honours project, Carley used rheology to measure the viscosity of water-based dispersions of phytoglycogen (PG) nanoparticles that are produced in the kernels of sweet corn. She observed a very large increase in the zero-shear viscosity as the PG concentration was increased. A graduate student built on her initial results, and this led to a 2018 Soft Matter paper on which Carley was a co-author. Carley completed her MSc degree in Condensed Matter Physics at McMaster University, studying semiconductor heterostructures.

After she completed her MSc, Carley was one of the first employees hired at Mirexus Biotechnologies, a spin-off company from the Dutcher Lab that is commercializing the use of PG nanoparticles as a unique additive for cosmetics formulations. At Mirexus, she took on different roles as a Research Associate, Technical Product Specialist and Research Scientist, expanding her skill set, and leading several important projects. Her work at Mirexus resulted in two more papers and a patent. Carley also helped to establish Veriphy Skincare, serving as a co-founder of this spinoff company of Mirexus.

In September 2020, Carley joined the Dutcher Lab to pursue her PhD degree, focusing on the properties of PG nanoparticles that have been modified with carboxymethyl (CM) groups that confer a negative charge to the PG particles. Preliminary results in the Dutcher Lab showed that the physical properties, e.g., hydration and stiffness, of CM-PG particles are dramatically different from those of the native particles. We do not yet understand this result, and Carley’s PhD project focuses on uncovering the underlying mechanism.

In her research, she has used infrared spectroscopy and ellipsometry to compare water uptake and water structuring in native PG and anionically modified CM-PG, as well as cationically modified glycidyltrimethylammonium chloride-phytoglycogen (GTAC-PG) and hyaluronic acid (HA). Both charged modifications of PG resulted in a lower degree of water ordering and increased water uptake compared to native PG. Interestingly, she observed large differences in water structuring between anionic (CM-PG) and cationic (GTAC-PG) modifications, despite having similar water uptake.  This may be due to differences in the ability of the charged groups to form a hydrogen bond network with water. She has begun to investigate the effect of salt addition (monovalent and divalent) on the hydration properties of CM-PG and GTAC-PG, and this is producing some interesting results.

Carley is an exceptional communicator - very skilled at scientific writing, and very talented at giving presentations of her results to various industrial and academic audiences. She has already presented her PhD research results at the American Physical Society March Meeting and the Canadian Association of Physicists Annual Congress, and her talks were very well received. She is also very involved with physics and nanoscience outreach and promotion.

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