Bio-X SIGF Graduate Student Fellow

Awarded in 2022
Home Department: Bioengineering
Faculty Advisors: Kerwyn Huang (Bioengineering and Microbiology & Immunology), Denise Monack (Microbiology & Immunology), and Naima Sharaf (Biology)

Research Title: Exploiting the Physical Properties of the Bacterial Cell Envelope to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

Research Description: The rapid rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a global health challenge, with the Gram-negative outer membrane (OM) of the bacterial cell wall representing an especially tough barrier. The recently discovered unique physical properties of the OM offer emerging opportunities to manipulate membrane permeability and destabilize pathogens. Jiawei will screen libraries of bacterial genes whose expression has been repressed using the gene editing tool (CRISPR interference) for essential proteins affecting OM permeability and mechanical integrity, and he will determine the molecular mechanisms linking OM permeability to physical properties including stiffness and fluidity. Finally, he will characterize the impact of diverse cell-surface layers on mechanics and antibiotic sensitivity. These studies will provide novel insights into the structural basis of antibiotic sensitivity and potential targets for antibiotic development to help combat antibiotic resistance diseases.