The big picture of my research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that control biofilm formation and disassembly in Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis. Biofilms are defined as a community of cells that are attached to a surface and encased in an extracellular matrix. Living as a biofilm protects the community from a myriad of onslaughts including antibiotics, the immune system, and mechanical disruption. Because of this resilience, biofilms are a major problem in recalcitrant infections. My research focuses on understanding how bacteria decide when to form biofilms and the downstream pathways that result in the release of extracellular matrix components. As biofilms form, a subset of cells undergo cell lysis releasing proteins and DNA to the community which the remaining viable cells to form a biofilm. We are currently investigating novel intracellular signaling pathways which may decide which cells lyse and which cells live. Characterization of this pathway could lead to novel therapeutic targets for inhibiting biofilm formation.
In addition to research, I am the president of the FAS postdoctoral association (FASPDA) and an organizer of the Gene Expression and RNA series (GEARS) in the greater Boston area.