Biofilms are architecturally complex assemblages of microbial cells that form on surfaces that are on and within our bodies and exist on almost every natural and man-made surface. From dental plaque to the “slime” on the hulls of ships, biofilms contain cells that individually and collectively interact with one another and the environment. Such interactions can make biofilm cells 10-1000x more resistant to antimicrobials than their free-floating counterparts, allowing them to cause debilitating diseases, and damage machinery and equipment.
While projects studying changes in biofilm ecology (the human microbiome) are receiving significant attention, it is also important to study changes in biofilm architecture. Differences in biofilm architecture will alter how constituent cells dynamically interact with each other and how they interact with their environment. Unfortunately, the techniques of most current microscope-based biofilm research do not yield spatiotemporal information on how a biofilm developed or how different environmental conditions will change the biofilm architecture over time. This project will focus on the computational analysis of time-lapse collected image stacks (i.e. optical sections) of single-species biofilms to study their architectural development.