HOUSTON, Oct. 22, 2010 Researchers can spend entire careers producing outstanding work but still not see their efforts featured in the pages of Science, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals. That won't be the case, though, for two junior faculty members in engineering at the University of Houston (UH).
Jacinta Conrad and Jeff Rimer, both assistant professors in Cullen College of Engineering's department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, had papers featured in consecutive issues of Science this month.
"Jacinta and Jeff are both extremely promising young researchers," said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Cullen College. "I expect that this is the first of many successes they will encounter in their independent careers. They are both excellent additions to this university."
Conrad's paper, which she co-lead authored with UCLA graduate student Maxsim Gibiansky, appeared in the journal's Oct. 8 issue. Conrad started this work during postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The article revealed a newly discovered method that bacteria use to move. Using hairlike appendages known as pili, some bacteria are able to pull themselves upright and "walk" across a surface. This research has ramifications in any number of fields, from food production to military transport.
Conrad's research team conducted its work by translating microscopy movies of bacteria into searchable databases of bacterial behavior. The ability to walk, she said, allows these bacteria to explore their environment by efficiently covering large areas before forming biofilms colony of bacteria living on a surface and protected by a matrix of long molecules. Biofilms are problematic in a number of different industries and applications. In food production plants, for example, they are a prime cause of food contamination. Biofilms also increase the dra
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