All plenary sessions will be presented in Alumni Hall, Auditorium, 7th Floor.

Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria
11:00 a.m., Thursday, 18 October

Bonnie Bassler, PhD
Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology Princeton University

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Bonnie Bassler, PhD, discovered the universal use of chemical communication among bacteria—a process called quorum sensing—and has characterized many previously unknown molecules involved. She and her lab members revealed that bacteria communicate across species boundaries and that they use specific chemical “words” to detect self, related bacteria, and others. The discovery that the simplest organisms on the planet share a common chemical “language” was a revolutionary finding. Bacteria, her research showed, tailor their activities depending on whether they are surrounded by friend or foe.

Bassler has developed synthetic strategies for manipulating quorum sensing to halt virulence in pathogens. For example, her lab showed that quorum sensing can be manipulated to prevent bacteria from adhering to medical devices and to stop bacteria from forming antibiotic-resistant communities called biofilms in medical settings. She and colleagues continue to investigate this rich field of bacterial communication.

Bassler has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2002, she was named a fellow of the MacArthur Foundation. Bassler received the 2008 Princeton University President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, the 2011 Richard Lounsbery Award of the National Academy of Sciences, the 2012 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award, the 2015 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the 2016 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, among many other honors. Bassler received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis, and her biochemistry PhD from Johns Hopkins University before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Agouron Institute in La Jolla, Calif.