Tagbo Niepa, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, received a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation.
The $663,372, five-year funding will enable his lab to further explore how bacteria cope with changes in surface tension and energy, and their adaptation to changing conditions to develop new materials. The research also seeks to understand how viruses and nanomaterials could be used to control bacterial development at fluid interfaces.
Biofilms are a ubiquitous, resilient form of microbial life. They can form where liquids and solids meet, like around a knee replacement; where air and liquid meet, like in the lungs; and where oil and water meet, like in an oil spill on the ocean.
Because of this extreme versatility, the mechanism of how they grow and adapt to different environments is not yet well understood. But a better grasp would not only help mitigate their deleterious health effects but also put them to work for us.
The award also will allow Niepa to engage under-represented minority, first-generation and financially challenged pre-college and college students through a range of mentored experiences, including a “Bugs as Materials” Camp, a college application workshop and an international summer experience for undergraduates.