Thursday 23 September; Leiden, Juan Keymer Vergara 'Individuality and multicellularity in bacteria: The gift and the tragedy of the commons'



Bioscience Communicy
Juan Keymer Vergara (TU Delft, Kavli Inst. of Nanoscience)

Location: Cell Observatory - GL

Time: 16:00 hrs

Juan Keymer (assistant professor, principal investigator, Department of Bionanoscience, Delft University of Technology) studied biology and mathematics (P. Catholic University of Chile), in 2003 he graduated at Princeton University (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology).

From 2003-2007 he was postdoctoral researcher (at the Unit of Bioinformatics, NEC Research Laboratories, at the Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton and at the Department of Physics, Princeton). In 2007 he was appointed principal investigator at the Department of Nanoscience, Delft and in 2010 at the Department of Bionanoscience, Delft.

His group focuses on bacteria. Micro- and nanofabrication techniques allow to observe and manipulate bacteria from the single cell to the population level while maintaining well defined, precisely controlled environment which you can define with nanoscale details. This is important since the organisms and their environment cohere strongly at this scale: bacteria move around, uptake and release chemicals, communicate and signal to each other through their surroundings and react to external effects. Using microfabricated devices allows to study these apects of the bacterial life. These resonances between the cell’s metabolic input-output relationships (metabolic coupling) and the topology of their habitat (adaptive) landscapes (nano/micro fluidic devices) are the main subjects of interest.

The basic mechanisms that are characteristic to life act on three different scales of biological organization: on the molecular level, the cellular level and the population level. These mechanisms also act in multiple dimensions: time (dynamics) and space (heterogeneity). All these scales and dimensions are coupled and equally important. In our lab, we are trying to bring together theoretical concepts and experimental tools to better understand the importance of space, time, individuals (autopoiesis) and communities ("tissues") in biology, from molecules to cells and from cells to their collectives. I will use this opportunity to speculate (wildly) about multicellular bacterial aggregates as meta-individuals. In particular, what are the roles of neutrality, cooperation, and competition in the context of ecosystem services supporting the commons. Under this perspective I will describe empirical patterns (natural history), hoping to expose the theoretical challenges lying ahead in our efforts to link cellular biophysics with evolutionary ecology.