Experimental biophysics

In their natural habitats bacteria often live in small pores and cracks. For example, in soil and bedrocks bacteria live typically in small pores of few micrometer diameters. In fact, this is no small habitat at all, bacteria in these small cracks make up a considerable portion of Earth’s biomass. Besides soil microbiology, bacterial movement and growth is also important in biomedical research and in water purification. While movement and dispersal of bacteria plays important role in these diverse fields there is lack of understanding and observations how bacteria live in such environment and what physical effects confinement has to bacteria.

Questions our research aims to answer:



In how small constrictions are bacteria able to move and grow?

What effect has confinement to bacterial growth and cellular functions?
How do cells determine and control cell-shape and division? How plastic are they?

To answer these questions we use microfluidic chips where differently sized and shaped channels are made. We label bacteria with fluorescent markers such as GFP and image these bacteria at single cell level in such chips. This microstructured habitat supports bacterial growth over time period of several weeks and at the same time allows to use a high resolution optical microscopy to image the bacteria.

This program is the experimental counterpart to our theoretical efforts to understand Moleclar autopoiesis, aging, and morphology.