Megan Sousa

Characterizing Single Cell Motility in Bacterial Biofilms

Research on bacterial antibiotic resistance evolution has primarily been carried out in liquid culture; however, many infections are in the form of biofilms. Biofilms are composed of bacteria embedded in a complex matrix that protects pathogenic bacteria making them highly virulent, much more difficult to treat in patients, and an important focus of medical research. One interesting characteristic of biofilm growth is that genetically-identical cells can differentiate into multiple cell types, such as motile cells, which can swim within the biofilm. It is unclear how much these swimming cells can disrupt the spatial organization within the biofilm and change the evolutionary outcome for antibiotic-resistant mutants that arise. I will be characterizing single cell motility in the model biofilm Bacillus subtilis. I will use fluorescence microscopy and genetics to quantify the lengthscale of passive motion due to diffusion and active movement due to swimming exhibited by single cells in the biofilm. Quantifying the movement of single cells will allow us to create better predictive models of evolutionary dynamics of antibiotic resistance in biofilms.

Message to Sponsor

I had such a wonderful and rewarding experience as a SURF fellow this summer. Even with the obstacles that virtual research created, I was able to explore impactful questions and practice the incredibly important research skills of flexibility and adaptability. Thanks to your support, my skills in literature review were strengthened and my knowledge of the field that I am working in was expanded. I am honored to have received this funding and the confidence I gained and the work I accomplished this summer will help me continue to work with the important research being done in my lab.
  • Major: Physics
  • Sponsor: Kay & Shaw Fund
  • Mentor: Oskar Hallatschek and QinQin Yu (Grad Student)