Identification of selective prebiotics for commensal bacteria

We are just beginning to understand that trillions of microbes live within us and are key regulators of our health. This dynamic population comprises both beneficial commensal organisms and harmful opportunistic pathogens. Historically, we have primarily managed our bacterial communities through antibiotics, but this has promoted the rise of antibacterial resistance. A potentially more sustainable approach will rely on supporting our commensal bacteria with prebiotics instead. We hypothesize that materials could be rationally designed to selectively favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over pathogens. This project will serve as the basis for our investigation. We seek to identify nutrients that can selectively influence bacterial growth.

Essay prompt: In 1-2 paragraphs, please describe what motivates you to pursue this research opportunity, and what you are hoping to gain from a full-time summer research experience. Please also include at least one question you have about the proposed research.

Name of research group, project, or lab
Brucks Research Group
Why join this research group or lab?

The Brucks research group is a new team at Harvey Mudd, and all students joining will have the opportunity to help establish our foundation. This specific project will afford training in techniques from chemical biology, microbiology, and potentially even organic chemistry too. Lab processes will include sterile technique, preparing and autoclaving growth medias, and evaluating growth via spectrophotometry and colony forming unit assays. In addition to lab techniques, supportive collaboration and effective communication of results will be heavily emphasized. Our team will always center respect and inclusivity to foster an environment where everyone can succeed.

Representative publication
Logistics Information:
Project categories
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

We welcome all who are interested in experimental interdisciplinary science, especially those with identities that have been historically excluded from STEM. Preference will be given to individuals who are current members of the group.

Time commitment
Summer - Full Time
Paid Research
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Group members will learn techniques spanning bacterial culture, as well as primary literature analysis, effective communication of results, and project management.

Contact Information:
Spencer Brucks
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Spencer D Brucks
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 17 appl.
Hours per week
Summer - Full Time
Project categories
Sustainability (+2)