Our lab studies how bacteria employ electrical charges to carry out several key processes such as respiration, cell-to-cell communication and attachment to host surfaces to cause infections. We have found out that soil bacteria Geobacter use hair-like appendages called pili as “microbial nanowires” to export electrons outside their cell body for extracellular respiration (Nature Nano 2011) and to share nutrients and energy (Science 2010). We have also recently developed a new charge imaging technique to visualize electron exchange among bacteria (Nature Nano 2014).
Our research employs a broad range of imaging and measurement methods (e.g. scanning probe microscopy, nanofabrication, electron microscopy, low-level electrical signal measurements) to identify biophysical principles underlying key microbial processes. Current projects include quantitative imaging of electron transfer among bacterial proteins during respiration and cell-to-cell communication as well as measurements of forces involved in bacterial adhesion to the host surfaces during infection.