HMC Physics Colloquium

Tuesdays at 16:30 in Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, Room B460

Gerard C. L. Wong

University of California at Los Angeles

Condensed Matter Physics and Bacteria

March 8, 2011

One of the unsolved problems in human health and disease is the control of pathogens, such as antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria. In this talk, we will briefly describe three vignettes where physics-based approaches have been useful.

  1. Bacterial biofilms are structured multi-cellular communities that are notoriously resistant to antibiotics. By adapting algorithms from colloid physics, we translate bacteria movies into searchable databases of bacterial behavior and find new appendage-specific mechanisms for P. aeruginosa surface motility.
  2. We examine the mechanism of mammalian defensins, a prototypical family of host defense peptides, and show how we can use topology, coordination chemistry, and soft matter physics to construct a set of design rules for antimicrobials that punch holes in bacterial membranes.
  3. By using 3rd generation synchrotrons to measure the density propagator of water, we show that it is possible to make movies of hydration structure and dynamics at femtosecond timescales and sub-angstrom length scales. We use this Green’s function method to explore water dynamics in confined geometries.