USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Living in a World of Microbes

i-c10ef7492a246f3bf77123a474ad94f7-Roberto Guillermo Kolter Photo.jpgi-aae29498130019274feafc7d42863e6c-Harvard's Microbial Sciences Initiative Logo.jpg

Roberto Kolter, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard’s
Medical School, believes that microbes, bacteria in particular, have gotten a bad
rap. “Oh sure, occasionally a nasty one like Salmonella or E. coli gets through
and causes trouble,” he says, “but for the most part bacteria are quite beneficial,
helping us to digest our food, for example, and aiding in the maintenance of the
ecology.”

Microbes are also ubiquitous – living practically everywhere – but for the most
part, scientists still know little about them, Roberto adds. To illustrate this point,
Roberto likes to quote one of his heroes, famous naturalist and ecologist E.O.
Wilson, who once said: “…Ten billion bacteria live in a gram of ordinary soil, a
mere pinch held between thumb and forefinger. They represent thousands of
species, almost none of which are known to science…”

It is in this world of microbial investigation that Roberto’s passions lie. His
research interests are broad, but these days his laboratory’s eclectic endeavors
are primarily focused on studying the ecology and evolution of microbes
(particularly bacteria) at the molecular level.

To this end, the Kolter Lab at Harvard Medical School has become especially
known for its research into a highly evolved and complex type of microbial
community called biofilm, and how an important non-pathogenic bacterium
known as Bacillus subtilis functions in that environment.

How do microbes impact your world today?

Read more about Roberto Kolter here

Comments

  1. #1 JB
    April 21, 2011

    I like to talk to my students about my colonial existence. Not just my colon, but inside and out, I seethe with ‘my’ inhuman life, which works constantly to help keep me healthy.
    I estimate that by weight, they constitute only about 10% of my walking-around body, but by count (vs human cells) I’m only about 10% human, and 90% germs (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other misc. & mysterious microbes)! I’m sometimes pleased when the curious ones do the math of size.

    Perhaps I could paraphrase you as, ‘A Living World of Microbes’?

    BTW, does your Molecular Genetics interest include epigenetics or ‘acquired genetics’?

  2. #2 orjin krem
    April 22, 2011

    I estimate that by weight, they constitute only about 10% of my walking-around body, but by count (vs human cells) I’m only about 10% human, and 90% germs (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other misc. & mysterious microbes)! I’m sometimes pleased when the curious ones do the math of size.

    Perhaps I could paraphrase you as, ‘A Living World of Microbes’?

    BTW, does your Molecular Genetics interest include epigenetics or ‘acquired