2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Optimizing Biofilm Growth Conditions in Synthetic River Sediments

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Kevin Roche


Biofilms are aggregates of microorganisms that are attached to surfaces. Biofilms control the cycling of nutrients and removal of contaminants within rivers, and they impact the climate through their natural production of greenhouse gases. I conducted research to identify optimal biofilm growth conditions using newly developed microfluidic models that represent synthetic river sediments where biofilms naturally grow. This research required a three-stage approach: inoculating a flow cell with a viable culture of bacteria, conducting a series of flow experiments to analyze biofilm growth, and quantifying the overall formation of biomass within the micromodel. I focused on stages one and three. For the first stage I performed bacterial growth experiments under non-flow conditions to understand the best methods for promoting and sustaining biofilm cultures. For the third stage I quantified biomass using a time series of images taken in recent biofilm growth experiments. I quantified biomass by analyzing the reduction in sediment porosity, as well as the distribution in size and morphology of bacterial colonies. This research has prepared me for collaborative experiments in Summer 2022, for which I will identify feedbacks between biofilm growth and nutrient cycling.

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