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Bonnie Bassler on the Social Life of Bacteria

In this recently posted footage from the TED Conference in February, Princeton University professor and MacArthur fellow Bonnie Bassler offers a compelling introduction to the cutting edge of molecular biology. Bessler is probably most famous for uncovering the mechanism that bacteria use to communicate via chemical messages, called “quorum sensing.” Bacteria aren’t simple, lonely, isolated single organisms; instead, by collectively regulating their behavior they act like a powerful multi-cell entity to carry out all kinds of complicated “work,” from acting as “invisible body armor” to “educating” our immune systems. Bassler is a dynamic speaker who explains complicated ideas simply. Her insights into bacterial communication are foundational to current research in synthetic biology and other branches of bioengineering.

Always prescient techno-spiritual journalist Steve Silberman wrote a good piece about Bassler and her work in a story published in Wired exactly six years ago. This 2007 profile of Bassler is a little more “up close and personal” and appeared in, of all places, American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines.

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