Emily Hollenbeck

Doctoral Candidate

Walla Walla, WashingtonEmily

Co-Advisor: Professor Lynette Cegelski

Education B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, 2012.

Lab Duties Lab Biosafety Co-coordinator

Research Focus: Material Properties of Bacterial Biofilms

Bacterial biofilms are interface-associated communities of bacteria embedded in an extracellular matrix of self-secreted biopolymers. The biofilm matrix can consist of proteins, polysaccharides, lipids, and nucleic acids. Together, these biopolymers create a mechanically robust structure that holds the bacterial community together.


To date, the properties of mature biofilms are often characterized only qualitatively and studies often lack (1) insight into the dynamics of biofilm formation or (2) quantification of biofilm properties. To compare biofilms of different bacterial species, or knockouts, quantitative and real time measurements are needed to replace qualitative assays.The goal of our research is to combine the expertise of multiple research laboratories in order to understand the chemical and mechanical properties of biofilms as they form over time. This understanding is important in developing ways to prevent and eliminate detrimental biofilms.


The Fuller Lab utilizes interfacial rheology to study the mechanical properties of biofilms in real time as they form at the air-liquid interface. In partnership with the Yildiz Lab at UC Santa Cruz that studies the bacterium Vibrio cholerae—responsible for the disease cholera—we are working to apply these tools to study V. cholerae biofilms. With this collaboration, we aim to quantify and correlate the compositional and mechanical properties of these biofilms as they form over time. This will improve understanding of V. cholerae biofilm growth and development, opening the door for new strategies in preventing these biofilms.