University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Rebecca Breuer

Thesis Advisor: Gary Dunny

Year entered: 2013

Degrees received:
B.S., University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 2012

Honors and Awards:

  • 2014: Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute Travel Grant to the 2014 Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages Meeting in Madison, WI
  • 2014- 2016: NIGMS BioTechnology Trainee
  • 2015- 2016: Biofilm Club Planning Committee
  • 2015: BioTechnology Exchange Student to NAIST in Ikoma, Nara, Japan
  • 2016: ASM Streptococcal Genetics Travel Grant
  • 2016: Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute Travel Grant to the 2016 ASM Conference on Streptococcal Genetics in Washington, D.C.

I study Enterococcus faecalis, a gram positive microbe that is normally a commensal organism in the human gastrointestinal tract but can also be an opportunistic pathogen. E. faecalis is particularly interesting due to its ability to grow in a biofilm, transfer genetic elements through conjugation, and assess its surroundings via quorum sensing. These features help E. faecalis evade antibiotics and rapidly transfer antibiotic resistance genes. In my thesis work under advisement of Gary Dunny and Wei-Shou Hu, I seek to better understand the mechanics of gene transfer and the process by which E. faecalis forms a robust biofilm matrix.  On the front of horizontal antibiotic resistance gene transfer, I am working to further understand the mechanisms surrounding conjugative transfer: intercellular communication, the pheromone response, and gene regulation on the single cell level. With respect to biofilms, I am working to characterize the extracellular matrix material and especially the extracellular DNA (eDNA) that contributes to the ability of E. faecalis to form a productive biofilm.


  • Breuer, R. J., A. Bandyopadhyay, S. O’Brien, A. Barnes, R. Hunter, W. Hu, G. Dunny. 2016, Single cell analysis of transcription reveals heterogeneity in the Enterococcal pheromone response. In preparation.