Collaborators are studying:
- Environmental and evolutionary microbiology (van der Meer)
Bacterial evolution and adaptation related to degradation of toxic compounds.
We aim to understand the evolution, importance and modes of horizontal transmission of integrative and conjugative elements ("genomic islands") in bacteria. These elements reside in bacterial genomes but can excise and self-transfer to new species. One of the key points is that they become active only in a small subpopulation of cells, something called "bistable activation".
A second large topic is the synthetic design, development and application of bacterial biosensors: strains, which can measure chemical compounds in the environment. Hereto we build gene circuits, we look for new regulatory or sensory proteins, we embed strains in microfluidic systems for miniaturized assays and then further in automated instruments. One of the most important biosensors we made is for the detection of arsenic in potable water.
Finally, we study a variety of aspects of soil microbial ecology, from community diversity to bioremediation and synthetic community design.