Michelle Williams

Graduate Student, Division of Biological Sciences

Picture: Yellowstone National Park July 2017. In the background, you see microbial mats of brown and white, which are made up of communities of different bacteria that have grown over time.

My research seeks to understand bacterial diversity, and asks “why do different bacteria grow into different shapes and sizes?” This is important because knowledge about bacterial growth can lead to new ways to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Specifically, I study the mechanisms of polar growth in a soil bacterium called Agrobacterium tumefaciens that can cause Crown Gall disease in woody plants such as grapes, blackberries, roses, and many more. Discoveries about how A. tumefaciens grows may lead to new ways to treat Crown Gall disease in plants, and possibly to the discovery of new antibiotic targets against polar-growing bacteria.

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