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CBE Seminar - Engineering microbial communities for form and function

Thursday, January 31, 2019
9:30am – 10:30am

Storrs Campus
Gant North Building, Rm 20

Engineering microbial communities for form and function

Dr. Cynthia Collins Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biological Sciences Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Microbial communities hold great potential for a range of biotechnological applications where dividing labor between multiple organisms can enable increased productivity, new functions, or simplified process optimization and flexibility by treating the different organisms as modules that can easily be swapped and recombined. An ongoing challenge remains the development of strategies and tools for controlling community composition, feedback between the organisms, and how to optimally divide labor between multiple species. We have developed new regulatory components and systems that enable coordination amongst bacterial species via cell-cell communication, and new strategies to control the growth and coexistence of species by manipulating ecological interactions. I will also describe our recent efforts to distribute functions between microbes in bioprocessing and biosensing applications. Finally, I will introduce my group’s broader efforts to understand the links between form and function in microbial communities in natural and built environments.

Dr. Cynthia Collins is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Biological Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She earned an Honours BS degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the California Institute of Technology. She subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary, and was the recipient of an Alberta Ingenuity Post-Doctoral Fellowship.

Her research interests lie at the intersection of synthetic biology, microbiology and biochemical engineering, specifically focusing on understanding and engineering microbial communities. She is motivated by the fact that complex communities of microbes play essential roles and carry out complex processes in a broad range of areas that affect our everyday lives, from bioprocessing and agriculture, to built and natural environments. Cynthia’s research approach is characterized by finding important questions and applications in these areas, developing new tools for engineering microbial communities and improving our understanding of how community-level behaviors and functions of bacteria can be modulated.

Cynthia’s recent honors include a NASA Group Achievement Award, an NSF CAREER Award, selection as a World Economic Forum (WEF) “Young Scientist”, and appointment to WEF Global Future Council on the Future of Biotechnologies.

Professor Collins is on sabbatical at UConn this semester and looking to build new collaborations in the area of microbiome form and function, data analytics and computational approaches to understanding and engineering communities, as well protein and gene regulatory circuit engineering. Contac


Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (primary), Biomedical Engineering , UConn Master Calendar

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