Dr. Ann Stevens’ research is in the field of “bacterial social networking”—rather, she seeks to understand how bacteria talk to one another in order to coordinate their behaviors.
The Stevens lab works in the general field of molecular microbiology with an emphasis on bacterial environmental sensing and gene regulation. The majority of the research projects focus on the phenomenon of bacterial quorum sensing, a mechanism whereby bacterial cells communicate with one another through the use of small molecules called autoinducers. By understanding this mode of bacterial signal transduction and gene regulation, the lab team members hope to discover a way to manipulate it in ways that are beneficial to society. The goal is to inhibit the destructive activities of disease-causing pathogenic bacteria and to enhance the beneficial activities of symbiotic bacteria. Historically, the group has studied quorum sensing in the symbiotic bioluminescent bacterium Vibrio fisheri. Current work in the laboratory uses modern molecular-based techniques in order to study quorum sensing in the corn pathogen Pantoea stewartii and the foodborne human pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus.