Kaumudi Prabhakara

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I am from India, and am a physicist by training. I did my masters in physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. By the time I completed my masters, I was already fascinated by the huge potential of unsolved questions in biology, and was keen to apply physical principles to answer them. I joined the Department of Physics at Cornell University for my PhD, and worked in the lab of Prof. Eberhard Bodenschatz. I studied the beautiful and large scale patterns formed by starving populations of the amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum. By the end of my PhD, I was deeply intrigued by ecological questions, especially after listening to talks by Prof. Jeff Gore and Prof. Stan Leibler. Accordingly, I joined the lab of Prof. Seppe Kuehn at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and later at the University of Chicago as a postdoc. Here, I studied how the structure of closed ecosystems relates to their function of carbon cycling, and how and when algae affect the assembly of diverse microbial communities.
Research interests
My interest in applying physical principles to answer biological questions remains strong. In particular, I am keen on the structure-function question in microbial communities, and how it can be used to develop applications that could be relevant to the society. I am studying colonization patterns of bacteria on sugar beet plants using a library of genetically barcoded populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens. In my other project, I study the evolution of interactions in communities of amoebae and cyanobacteria.
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