Biofilms Stream

In this stream, research focuses on microbial biofilms, which are living, microbial communities that develop and persist at interfaces in aqueous environments. Biofilms are composed of cells immobilized at a surface or interface that is embedded in an organic polymer matrix of microbial origin. Biofilm cells differ from their planktonic, free-swimming counterparts in the genes and proteins they express, resulting in distinct phenotypes that include altered resistance to antimicrobial agents, antibiotics, and host immune systems. Biofilms occur naturally in open environments, such as in Yellowstone National Park’s hot springs, and in closed environments. In fact, 99% of all microbial activity in the open environment is in multi-species biofilms. Biofilms can be beneficial, including use in waste-water and toxic sites, where bacteria are selected for ability to utilize or detoxify contaminants and then introduced to contaminated sites. Biofilms also occur in closed systems. For example, biofilms can occur as contaminants in industrial systems and as pathogens in organisms.

The stream works hand in hand with the core faculty members of the Binghamton Biofilm Research Center (BBRC) to investigate the basic biology of microbial biofilms in ways that inform a better understanding of how to address the problems that these biofilms can create and how to use biofilms to solve problems. Thus, FRI students can easily comprehend the relevance of basic research on biofilms and visualize the importance of collaboration in tackling real world problems.

Microbial Biofilms in Human Health is cross-disciplinary in nature

Microbial Biofilms in Human Health

Molecular Biology
Infectious Disease
Public Health

The Microbial Biofilms in Human Health research stream utilizes a strong interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to microbial biofilms research. In addition to the foundational background of microbiology, students learn basic skills and techniques in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, and microbial ecology. Successful research in microbial biofilms requires collaborations with faculty both inside and outside of the biofilm-research group to bring together the specific expertise required to tackle each unique research question.

Microbial Biofilms Research Educator

Image: Dr. Caitlin Light showing students how to grow biofilms using a tube reactor.
Dr. Caitlin Light showing students how to grow biofilms using a tube reactor.
Dr. Caitlin Light is the Research Educator for Microbial Biofilms in Human Health research stream and assistant director of Summer Research Immersion (SRI). Her research focuses on better understanding how antibiotic resistant, bacterial biofilms can be a source for infection spread. Additionally, Dr. Light is researching the importance of failure and persistence in undergraduate research training and the impact of mentorship on undergraduate and graduate research experiences. Dr. Light has been part of the FRI program for 4 years and has mentored more than 150 students. She believes the most important key to training these students for future success is to be a present, engaged, enthusiastic mentor who is invested in each student as an individual both within and beyond their courses.