Douglas B. Weibel
Microbial Biochemistry and Ecology
We study the molecular basis of behavior and physiology of microorganisms. To carry out this research we fuse techniques from the biological and physical sciences and engineering. We are interdisciplinary scientists looking for new angles to tackle microbiological research. Our short-term goals are focused on understanding several phenomena in bacteria, including:
- Cell motility in fluids and on surfaces
- Spatial organization and intracellular structures
- Development and behavior of multicellular structures
- Mechanisms that cells use to sense their environment
- Cell-cell, cell-surface, and cell-liquid interactions
This research extends to the investigation of developmental cues in bacteria and the emergence, dynamics, and organization of multicellular behavior in populations of microbial cells. Bacteria display a remarkable degree of complexity across a wide range of length scales--our understanding of this area of science is just beginning to emerge. At the nanometer scale, 'cytoskeletal' proteins assemble into dynamic intracellular polymers that play physiological roles. At the micrometer scale, cells interact with other cells and with their environment. Multicellular structures assemble at the mesoscale (in the millimeter range) that cooperatively colonize surfaces, form biofilms, and play a role in pathogenesis.
Our long-range goal is to understand the cell as an out-of-equilibrium system of biochemical pathways and networks. To approach this aim, we focus our attention on Escherichia coli--it is a model bacterium for which a wealth of behavioral, biochemical, and genetic information is available. We take advantage of the rich history of E. coli research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the active community of scientists on campus that study this organism that span the Departments of Biochemistry, Bacteriology, Biomolecular Chemistry, Chemistry, Genetics, and Medical Microbiology and Immunology,
Our research is sharpening our understanding of microbial ecology and beginning to find application in agriculture, biological engineering, and biomedicine. Our research is also having an impact on local science education. By combining our interest in educational outreach with the strong culture of outreach on campus, we are developing programs and participating in scientific programs on campus that introduce scientific concepts to adults and children in the local community.
2010 Sloan Research Fellow, Sloan Foundation
2009 DARPA Young Faculty Award, Department of Defense
2009 Research-Service Grant Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2008 ICAAC Young Investigator Award, American Society for Microbiology
2008 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award, 3M Corporation