Winner Profile: Baljyot Parmar

Trainee Paper Award Profile

Baljyot Parmar

2021 Award Recipient

Baljyot Parmar is a PhD student at McGill University studying under Dr. Stephanie Weber. His research is focused on phase separation in cellular systems in which he studies the phase behaviour of proteins in bacteria using single-molecule tracking. His interest in biophysics comes from the many avenues it offers to be explored describing it as “a new field [where] everybody’s doing a random walk to [find] what niches they can fill.”

Baljyot is a recipient of the 2021 Trainee Paper Award for his paper Clusters of bacterial RNA polymerase are biomolecular condensates that assemble through liquid-liquid phase separation.” This paper presents evidence of liquid-liquid phase separation occurring in E. coli through analysis of biochemical interactions and diffusion profiles. It is a shared first-author paper with Baljyot’s contributions involving performing single-molecule tracking to “quantify diffusion profiles of the proteins in different phases.” Baljyot describes a big challenge in this field is being able to definitively quantify phase separation in cellular systems experimentally. He compares the process of identifying phase separation to a checklist and feels that this paper has successfully identified examining diffusion profiles across phase boundaries as a necessary criterion to be added to the list.

Prior to Graduate school, Baljyot’s research experience was mainly focused on theoretical biophysics. He describes the shift to experimental research as a culture shock taking time to overcome. He is thankful for the diverse backgrounds within the Weber lab group as it provides an environment for biologists and physicists to collaborate and learn from each other emulating the true nature of biophysics.

When asked what advice he has for other trainees Baljyot recommends following what you find interesting. Returning to the checklist analogy, he feels there is no set of criteria that must be followed to guarantee groundbreaking research.

Receiving the Trainee Paper award was a surprise for Baljyot, “I didn’t even know [I was nominated] until I got accepted for the award” he said. He describes being nominated as a nice gesture for supervisors to take time from their busy schedules to encourage trainees and the work they are doing. It is this recognition that made receiving the award meaningful to him.