Understanding probiotic bacterial growth

Trillions of microbes live within us in an ever-changing population that has profound impacts on our health. Even in healthy individuals, our microbiomes are dynamic communities comprising both beneficial commensal organisms and harmful opportunistic pathogens. Historically, humans have primarily managed these bacterial tenants through the harsh treatment of antibiotics. But we have consistently observed that as we attempt to eliminate bacteria, they rapidly evolve to survive—promoting the global rise of antibacterial resistance. A potentially more sustainable approach will rely on positively supporting our commensal bacteria residents instead. In order to do this effectively, we must understand their ideal conditions for vibrant growth. Thus far, our team has been investigating how the initial pH of the media influences bacterial growth. We are now poised to study how the bacteria’s mode of growth changes in response to pH, and if a more stable initial pH enhances growth. We are simultaneously excited to compare our findings to that of a pathogen that cohabitates with our commensal bacteria.

Essay prompt: In 1-2 paragraphs, please describe what motivates you to pursue this research opportunity, and work with this research team. Please also comment on why you are interested in performing research full-time over the summer at Mudd.

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 we are hoping to start wrapping up our first projects. You will have the opportunity to help finish this project and chart the next directions of our investigation into commensal bacteria growth. 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 several spectrophotometric or colony forming unit assays. In addition to lab techniques, supportive collaboration, good record keeping and data analysis, and effective communication of results will be strongly emphasized. Our team always centers 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. 


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 collaborative project management.

Project start
May 20
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
Biology (+2)