Unraveling Bacterial Biofilm Development

To watch the talk, click on the photo.

For December 13, 2017

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Coming into biology forty years ago, for me bacteria were bitty things that grew on agar gels in Petri plates or in swirling Erlenmeyer flasks.  On plates you could see the colony morphology and you could count the colonies and you could isolate a pure culture from a single isolated colony.

In the whirling flask you could see what a lurid fog a bazillion bacteria could make in Luria liquid culture; plus you could get a whiff of the fruits of their physiology.

You could almost think that bacteria always grew on plates or in flasks.  But alas, in nature bacteria tend to stick.  They stick to one another. They stick to surfaces. They stick to other living things. If bacteria grow in colonies on Mr. Petri’s plates, they grow as communities on nature’s substrates.

Getting a better grip on biofilms and how bacteria grow in communities is one of the big insights in microbiology since I first took bacteriology in Marilyn Tufte’s class at UW-Platteville in 1977.

This week (Dec 13) we get to hear about “Unraveling Bacterial Biofilm Development from the Outside In” from Julia Nepper of the Biophysics program and the Department of Biochemistry.

Here’s how Julia describes her talk:

“Bacteria are everywhere — in our guts, in the oceans, even on the International Space Station. Though we think of them as single-celled organisms, bacteria often unite to operate as a single community, known as a biofilm. For many bacteria, their natural state is as part of a biofilm.

“Research on biofilms is only a few decades old, and there is still much left to learn. This presentation will address what we know now, then share information about some relatively recent developments on the function of the cellular envelope in biofilm formation.”

About the Speaker

Julia Nepper earned her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, where she majored in biology and chemistry; and she recently completed her PhD in biophysics in Doug Weibel’s lab at UW–Madison. Her work focused on the effects of cell-membrane composition on biofilm development in the model organism E. coli. Early in her PhD work, Nepper traveled to Kenya as part of a project to develop tools for veterinary diagnostics. She has also created science activities for K–12 classrooms and implemented them in local science classrooms and at science festivals in collaboration with other groups, including the Morgridge Institute for Research, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.


Next week:  Smart Buildings. With Alexas and Nests we’re already getting a taste of what it might be like to have voice-responding, data-gathering Hals in the halls and rooms of our homes and workplaces.  Come hear from Raj Gopal about the confluence of IT and oikos.  I’m guessing it’ll be better than the Jetsons, and different.

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Thanks again,

Tom Zinnen
UW-Madison and UW-Extension

UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant research university.

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at science.wisc.edu for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round.