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Dr. Smith is interested in studying cell-to-cell signaling in a social prokaryote called myxococcus. This soil bacterium’s biology is governed by group interactions including motility regulation, genetic regulation based on contact, feeding interactions, extracellular matrix deposition and most elegantly in a complex developmental life cycle culminating in ornate fruiting body formation. Myxobacteria are considered to be one of Nature’s first attempts at multicellularity due to the cooperation and intricate interactions they display. Currently, the lab is exploring what happens when two different species of myxobacteria meet on a solid agar surface and if any interesting genes are regulated upon contact. So far, the lab is finding that development can be induced when different species come in contact even though the growth medium does not support fruiting body formation when each species is grown alone.Dr. Smith teaches the cellular, molecular and genetic portions of General Biology 161/171 (the first quarter of the biology series for biology majors), Microbiology for majors (Biology 300), Nursing Microbiology for pre-nursing students (Biology 220) and an advanced microbial pathology course (Biology 422). He has an active research lab with multiple undergraduate students year-round.
Dr. Smith received both his undergraduate BS and Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) where he was trained as a classical microbial physiologist, ecologist and biochemist focusing on how microbes help people and their interactions in nature. His Ph.D. thesis involved studying how prokaryotes signal to each other via extracellular matrices and cohesion as well as studying bacteria as models for cellular communication, interaction and early multicellularity. He studied competition for root nodule formation in the nitrogen fixing rhizobium/pea symbiosis during his postdoc. His outside interests include model airplanes, early aviation history and motorcycles.
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