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Cambridge Centre for Physical Biology


Investigating the interplay between motility and adhesion in biofilm development

Lead Supervisor: Dr. Diana Fusco, Department of Physics

Co-Supervisor: Nikhil Krishnan, Department of Physics



Bacterial biofilms are among the most ubiquitous and resilient life form on the planet having adapted to survive in a wide range of heterogeneous environmental conditions. One of the most remarkable features of these populations is their ability to display complex and coordinated behaviour across thousands of cells giving rise to macroscopic morphological patterns. Biofilms dwelling at solid-air interfaces are, in particular, characterised by the emergence of "wrinkles", which are hypothesised to serve as a primitive vascular system to allow nutrients to reach the biofilm core. The formation and propagation of these wrinkles is often, at a course level, described using stress propagation in homogeneous viscoelastic materials. However, recent experiments in our lab on B. subtilis suggest that the interplay between cell adhesion and cell motility, and thus cell heterogeneity, is necessary to capture wrinkle development. The proposed project combines microbial experiments, time-lapse microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations to understand the coordination between these two phenotypes in wrinkle formation.


Eligibility criteria

  • Some coding experience is essential. Previous experience in handling microbial systems is desirable, but not essential.
  • Only Cambridge students who have at least one year to study before graduation are eligible to apply.
  • The project is funded for 10 weeks full-time, with start date around end of June/early July.
  • To apply, please send your CV and a brief statement of interest to Diana ( by March 18th.