Bacteria, primitive single-celled organisms, communicate with chemical languages that allow them to synchronize their behavior and thereby act as enormous multicellular organisms. This process is called quorum sensing and it enables bacteria to successfully infect and cause disease in plants, animals, and humans. Investigations of the molecular mechanisms underlying quorum sensing are leading to the development of novel strategies to interfere with the process and, thus, prevent disease. These strategies form the basis of new therapies that might be used as antibiotics. Bonnie Bassler, Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and this year’s Distinguished Women in Science lecturer, will present her research on quorum sensing and elaborate on how biologists are discovering new ways to prevent and treat disease.
Bonnie Bassler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where she also chairs Princeton University’s Council on Science and Technology and is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Molecular Biology Department. Bassler received a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California at Davis, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University. She performed postdoctoral work in Genetics at the Agouron Institute, and she joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. In 2008, she received Princeton University’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. Bassler is an editor for Molecular Microbiology and Annual Reviews of Genetics, and she is an associate editor for the Journal of Bacteriology.