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Thesis Advisor: Will Harcombe
Year entered: 2013
B.S., University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 2013
Honors and awards:
Although most bacteria in nature live in multispecies, metabolically interdependent communities, most bacterial research is performed on single species in isolation.
Our lab uses a model community of Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and Methylobacterium extorquens to study how community living impacts selection and evolution in bacteria. Each species in our community has been engineered to require a metabolite produced by the other community members such that they must obligately cross-feed in order to survive. My research involves examining how this obligate cross-feeding impacts bacterial evolution and resistance to external selection pressures such as antibiotics. Specifically, I am testing whether cross-feeding protects sensitive species or sensitizes resistant species to varying concentrations of antibiotics. I amalso looking at how community living impacts species’ abilities to evolve antibiotic resistance over time. Other research projects designed to investigate the effect of species interactions on selection include using Tn-seq (transposon sequencing) to knock out every gene in each species’ genome to determine which genes in each species are required for community growth, and studying the genetic mechanisms behind the obligate cross-feeding in our community. As well as identifying the evolutionary forces in community growth, our work will potentially lead to applications such as developing microbial communities for more efficient biofuel production, and more efficient and effective antibiotic use.