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MacArthur "Genius" Grant winner Bassler speaks bacteria language

Princeton microbiology professor Bonnie Bassler, 2002 MacArthur "Genius" Grant recipient and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, spoke to a crowd of faculty and students Tuesday at Smith.

Bassler's talk, titled "Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria," addressed the relatively new research field of quorum sensing, the process by which single-celled bacteria recognize the presence of a critical mass ("quorum") before launching a swift and efficient attack on the host organism.

Beginning her talk Tuesday, Bassler enthusiastically announced that she hoped audience members would be convinced by the end of her seminar that "bacteria can talk to each other, and that they are multilingual."

Bassler, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, planned to be a veterinarian before she developed an interest in microbes while an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis. Bassler continued her study of microbiology at Johns Hopkins, where a conversation with pioneering researcher Mike Silverman inspired her to begin what has become her life's work: figuring out how bacteria "talk."

You can watch Dr. Bassler give her talk at http://www.microbeworld.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=476:tiny-conspiracies-mwv31&catid=36:microbeworld-video&Itemid=146 in MicrobeWorld Video episode 31.

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