Tracking the Hidden Dynamics of Life

Program Postdoc Gains Faculty Appointment

Ethan Garner, a new assistant professor in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) department, watches how bacteria grow and divide at a single molecule level. Using a mix of sub-diffraction imaging, particle tracking, and genetics, he can see enzymes rotate around the cell circumference in an ordered pattern while they synthesize the cell wall, pulling along the cytoskeleton underneath. He can manipulate the rod-shaped Bacillus cells so that they become round, causing the enzymes to move in random directions, and then release the conditions and observe the structure and order of the rod reform. “The more I look, the more dynamic and interesting it gets,” he says of his quest to understand how these motions create the emergent shape of cells and how they help control cell growth and division.