Biophysics Seminar - Roman Stocker (MIT) "Spying on the lives of marine microbes: From biophysics to ecology "

Mon, Mar 25, 2013, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Joseph Henry Room
Physics faculty, post docs, grads
At a time when microbial ecology is largely traveling along genomic roads, we cannot forget that the functions and services of microbes depend greatly on their behaviors, encounters, and interactions with their environment. New technologies, including microfluidics and high-speed video microscopy, provide a powerful opportunity to spy on the lives of microbes, directly observing their behaviors at the spatiotemporal resolution most relevant to their ecology, and enabling a deeper understanding of the biophysical mechanisms underpinning these behaviors. I will illustrate this 'quantitative natural history approach' to microbial ecology by focusing on marine bacteria, unveiling striking adaptations in their motility and chemotaxis and describing how these are connected to their incredibly dynamic, gradient-rich microenvironments. Specifically, I will present (i) sub-micrometer imaging of single cells at up to thousand frames per second, demonstrating that marine bacteria have a unique mode of swimming, exploiting a mechanical buckling instability of their flagellum to reorient; and (ii) microfluidic experiments that capture the dramatic chemotactic abilities of marine bacteria, including bacterial pathogens storming towards the roiling surface of their coral hosts. Through these examples, I aim to illustrate how we can use direct visualization to learn about the biophysical mechanisms and the ecological implications of the behaviors of the smallest of life forms.
Lunch @ 11:45, talk @ 12-1:00