Our laboratory is interested in how microorganisms co-evolve with their environment (i.e. how microbial metabolic activities change the environment, and how the environment shapes these activities), with a focus on understanding how electron transfer reactions support energy conservation in the absence of oxygen. We are particularly interested in the physiological strategies taken by bacteria when they are growing slowly–the dominant pace of life on the planet, yet one that is poorly understood.
Much of our research involves the study of colorful, redox-active metabolites (RAMs) called phenazines, molecules produced by many different types of bacteria. We are interested in how RAMs help structure microbial populations and communities in various contexts, including biofilm aggregates found within human chronic infections or near the roots of plants. Yet the problems we most care about are local: a bacterium in the middle of a biofilm doesn't know whether a human cell or a plant cell exists a few microns away; its goal is to survive within its intimate setting, which itself poses a variety of challenges. To understanding how diverse bacteria solve this existential puzzle, we strive to characterize their microenvironments at small spatial scales and understand what they are doing at the single-cell level using tractable model organisms. Towards this end, we employ a variety of approaches, blending tools from bacterial physiology and genetics with powerful chemical methods (analytical, biochemical, electrochemical) and cutting-edge imaging technologies. Ultimately, we are driven by the long-term goal of contributing new approaches to promoting both human and environmental health.
We are an interdisciplinary lab, and seek help from talented scientists of all types to explore these topics. We are committed to training and enabling young scientists with diverse backgrounds (country of origin, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual-orientation, 1st-gen. college, etc.) to make discoveries during their time in our laboratory and to prepare for a variety of impactful STEM careers. If you are someone who finds bacteria fascinating, aims high, is willing to work hard to attain your goals and is collegial, you are our type of person!
Please explore our site and contact us if you are interested. Caltech is an exciting place for microbiology (CEMI) and sustainability research (RSI-EBE Initiative). One of the great allures of studying bacterial metabolism is that it is relevant to just about everything. Truly.