My biophysics research explores the physicochemical interactions at the organic-inorganic interface. Currently, my group focuses on the physical properties of biofilms, a community of microorganisms attached to a substrate. Research into biofilms is relatively new but very important in the era of super bacteria. In these sessile collaborative structures, the bacteria become more resistant to standard antibiotics. My research involves monitoring the physical reactions of the biofilm in stressful liquid environments. Better understanding of these robust structures will help lead to more effective antibacterial treatments.
Central to our investigations is the atomic force microscope (AFM). Rather than using light waves to image samples, the AFM uses a sharp tip to physically touch the sample’s surface. By tracking the movement of the tip, we can obtain a large amount of information about the bacteria, such as the height, width, elasticity, and surface chemistry. We can then link these measurements back to the biochemistry of the cells. These are highly interdisciplinary studies requiring understanding of physics, biology, and chemistry. Liberal Arts students, with their board interests and appreciation for other subjects, are uniquely suited to my lab.
Students are involved in every aspect of my research from the maintenance of the bacteria cultures to the preparation of the final manuscript. Most students become involved over a summer via the Student Faculty Collaborative Research Scholarship Program. I especially encourage students to continue researching during the academic year as part of an independent study. Typically, they will go on to present their research at a national conference, such as the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting.
Department of Physics
1000 Holt Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789-4499