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Biophysicist Vernita Gordon awarded Human Frontier Science Program grant

In Vernita Gordon’s lab, physical approaches for experimental manipulation and analysis of multicellular systems will be combined with expertise from theoretical physics and different branches of microbiology to address fundamental questions about how spatial structure develops in systems of many bacteria, and how spatial structure allows inter-bacterial cooperation to persist even when some bacteria cheat.

Biophysicist Vernita Gordon is the principal investigator on a three-year, $400,000 Young Investigator grant from the Human Frontier Science Program, an international organization funded by the governments of the G7 nations. The grant will enable Gordon and her colleagues to study how cells of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa self-assemble into 3-D spatially organized structures, and how the different structures impact cooperation within the assembly.

In order to explore self-assembly in P. aeruginosa, a human pathogen that readily forms biofilms, Gordon and her colleagues will manipulate the initial cell configuration of their samples and then track how the biofilms form over time. Gordon says they hope to uncover some of the “design rules” of the bacteria. One long-term goal is use that knowledge to engineer targeted 3D cell assemblies for biotechnological and clinical applications.

“We are very excited to get this grant,” says Gordon, “because it will allow us to combine very different fields of expertise to ask questions, and find answers, that we wouldn’t be able to address on our own.”

For additional information, visit: http://web5.cns.utexas.edu/news/2012/04/biophysicist-vernita-gordon-awarded-human-frontier-science-program-grant/

Originally published Monday, April 9, 2012

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