University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Elizabeth Adamowicz

Thesis Advisor: Will Harcombe

Year entered: 2013

Degrees received:
B.S., University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 2013

Honors and awards:

  • Septemer 2013: NSERC CGSM research scholarship
  • January 2016: selected to participate in the national competition for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Award (not awarded).
  • June 2016: selected to run a small-group discussion at ASM on women in STEM academic positions; FEMS Microbiology Letters has since commissioned a commentary on this subject from me, which I am working on writing now.
  • July 2016: GWIS Agnes Hansen Travel Award for attending ASM
  • March 2017: BTI Travel Grant $500 to attend ASM conference
  • March 2017: MPGI Travel Grant $800 to attend ASM conference
  • March 2017: Agnes Hansen Travel Award from Xi Chapter of Graduate Women in Science $500 to attend ASM conference
  • 2017: Colonial Dames of American Scholarship $800, and title of Colonial Dame for one year

Most bacteria in nature, including in infection contexts, live in multispecies, metabolically interdependent communities. However, little is known about the impact of these metabolic interactions on how bacteria respond to antibiotics.  Our lab uses a model community of Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and Methylobacterium extorquens to study how community living impacts ecology 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 obligate cross-feeding impacts bacterial response to antibiotics and the evolution of resistance. Specifically, I am testing whether cross-feeding protects sensitive species or sensitizes resistant species to varying concentrations of antibiotics. I am also 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 evaluating whether genetic-based predictions of individual bacterial species’ resistance profiles can be used to predict the resistance of a metabolically interacting community, examining how antibiotics with different modes of action affect cross-feeding communities, 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 more efficient, precise, and effective antibiotic use.


  • Adamowicz EM. 2017. Why aren’t women choosing STEM academic jobs? Observations from a small-group discussion at the 2016 American Society for Microbiology annual meeting. FEMS Microbiol Lett 364.