Awarded in 2020
Home Department: Biophysics
Faculty Advisors: KC Huang (Bioengineering and Microbiology & Immunology) and Elizabeth Sattely (Chemical Engineering)
Research Title: Regulation of Bacterial Growth in Fluctuating Temperatures
Research Description: While fluctuations in cells’ environmental parameters, such as nutrients, have been studied in detail, temperature has typically only been investigated for its deleterious effects at extreme values, despite the natural transitions that most cells face. As a result, the responses of multispecies communities like the gut and soil microbiota to temperature shifts are largely unknown. Benjamin will develop a pipeline for quantifying single-cell temperature responses, using E. coli under genetic and chemical perturbations to determine the molecular mechanisms of temperature responses. He will then extend these approaches to gut and soil communities in vitro to understand how they are affected by temperature shocks and climate change. This work will integrate device engineering, high-throughput imaging, and human gut communities with soil ecology to provide insight into the general principles underlying growth optimization over temperatures across a wide range of species.