I grew up in the U.S.A. and did my undergraduate studies in physics, astrophysics, and global studies at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to a Rhodes scholarship, I then moved to the University of Oxford to do a PhD in condensed matter physics in the group of Richard Berry, and this was my first introduction to the world of biophysics. Afterwards, I moved to Montpellier for a postdoc position in the group of Francesco Pedaci at the Centre de Biologie Structurale (CBS) on his ERC Starting grant funded project. Since 2018, I'm a CR with the CNRS, and I'm currently working in the Physics and Mechanics of Biological Systems team at the CBS.
One of my greatest passions is trying to understand the physics of rotary molecular motors. Since joining the CBS, much of my work has focused on the physics and mechanics of the bacterial flagellar motor (BFM), the rotary motor responsible for bacterial motility, chemotaxis, and infection. I've used microscopy measurements of individual motors of live bacterial cells to quantitatively characterize:
the dynamics of the stator units, the torque-generating ion channels of the inner membrane
the mechanical properties of the 'hook', the short polymer at the base of the flagellum which acts as a universal joint
the mechanochemical cycle and stepping dynamics of the motor
More recently, my attention has turned to bacterial biofilm formation, and the role of the flagellum and other cellular appendages in surface sensing. In particular, I seek to resolve the individual 'nucleation' events which are the foundation of a biofilm, observing the transition on a single cell level from the swimming phase to the biofilm phase. I'm interested in not only the 'classical' biofilms which form at the liquid-solid interface, but also biofilms which form in solution and those that form at the liquid-air interface. Finally, I want to understand what role biofilms may play in protecting bacterial pathogens during aerosol transport.