Biofilms, Microbiology, molecular bacteriology, genomics, the evolution of multicellularity and complexity
I am particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary costs and benefits of bacterial behaviors, particularly social behaviors that are advantageous when carried out as a group and not when carried out only by individual cells. This includes biofilm formation, sporulation, social forms of motility, and natural product production.
Members of my laboratory work with laboratory-adapted and wild strains of soil bacteria. Using a variety of microbiological, molecular, and genetic techniques, we seek to understand the effects of specific genes and mutations on biological processes and social behaviors like biofilm formation and swarming motility. My main research program makes use of the model organism Bacillus subtilis. However, in conjunction with students in my microbiology laboratory course, we are also working to identify, characterize, and sequence the genomes of unusual endospore-forming bacteria isolated from our own campus’ soil, to increase our understanding of microbial diversity and the diversity of bacterial social processes.