Mechanistic Studies of Cell Death
The Ursell Lab uses tools from microscopy, mechanics, computational modeling, and statistical physics to understand how cells move and invade, how cells die, and how cells engage in collective behavior that benefits the group over the individual, in a variety of natural and medically relevant settings.  One striking mechanism by which cells die is via
mechanical rupture.  Under normal conditions, the cell wall and membrane serve not only as chemical barriers but also as mechanical elements that bear the stress of massive internal pressure.  Upon antibiotic treatment, cell wall structure degrades and cells burst in a mechanical transition that can be predicted and measured via microscopy.  The REU student will use microscopy to measure the morphological correlates and rates of mechanical cell failure under different environmental conditions and antibiotic treatments, to search for mechanistic insights into cell death and to compare observations with predictions from biophysical theory.  Depending on student interest and abilities, there are also opportunities for computational and theoretical project components as well.  
Students will acquire experience with bacterial cell culture, rudimentary genetics, experimental design, live cell microscopy and image processing, and potentially microfluidic design and fabrication.