Understanding the social behavior of cells

May 24, 2023

Plant and Microbial Biology professor Karine Gibbs is intrigued by the complex behavior of some of our smallest organisms: bacteria.

Whether living in the human body or accumulating as a pink film on your shower wall, bacteria are capable of recognizing themselves from other closely-related types. This ability allows bacteria to interact, coordinate, and communicate with each other resulting in everything from growth, changes in behavior, and even movement.

Gibbs researches how bacteria use signals to form structural units (like communities) capable of impacting larger organisms like plants and animals. Specifically, her lab studies the gut-dwelling Proteus mirabilis, a bacteria capable of causing disease in humans after migrating to the bladder. 

Gibbs recently spoke to the Energy and Biosciences Institute regarding her research and journey to UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in microbiology and immunology from Stanford University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington. Prior to joining the faculty at Rausser College of Natural Resources in 2020, Gibbs was a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University.

Watch her full conversation below