Physics IROPs

IROP 1 - The Dynamical Motion of Bacterial Plasmids

Objectives and Methodology

In addition to their chromosomal DNA, many bacteria harbor circular strands of DNA known as plasmids.  These extra-chromosomal genetic elements often contain harmful traits such as antibiotic resistance or virulence factors.  We wish to better understand the dynamics of plasmid DNA within live bacteria during the process of cellular division.  Our approach is to directly observe these dynamics using super-resolution microscopy. Super-resolution microscopy (whose inventors were awarded the 2014 nobel prize in Chemistry) is revolutionizing the way we study the microscopic world. It allows us to watch the dynamics of intracellular molecules, such as DNA, in real time and at an incredible level of detail.

Description of Student Participation

Students will work in the construction of a genetically tagged cell line of bacteria for live cell imaging of plasmids.  They will also be required to work with the microscopes and learn how to collect and analyze scientific data.

List of Skills Required / Instructor Preference & Student Experience

I would like a student who has taken laboratory classes in molecular biology.  He/She will be working in a physics lab, but there's a lot of biology to this project! He/She should know how to pipette, be familiar with gel electrophoresis, can mix chemicals to make buffers, etc.  Because of the nature of the laboratory, the student will also be expected to take all relevant safety courses.  

Most important, the student must be enthusiastic and willing to work hard!