Oberlin College and Conservatory

Chemistry & Biochemistry Seminar Series: Helen E. Blackwell ’94

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 4:45pm

Science Center, A255
119 Woodland Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry hosts guest speaker Helen E. Blackwell ’94, Norman C. Craig Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her presentation is in honor of the retirement of Albert Matlin and will be on the topic of ‘‘Chemical tools to intercept and interrogate bacterial communication pathways.’’

The seminar will be preceded by a light reception at 4:30 p.m. in the David Love Lounge.

Sponsored by the Luke E. Steiner Lecture Fund.


Many bacteria communicate using small organic molecules and peptides to monitor their population densities in a process called “quorum sensing.” At high cell densities, bacteria use this signaling network to switch from an isolated, nomadic existence to that of a multicellular community. This lifestyle switch is significant; only in groups will pathogenic bacteria turn on virulence pathways and grow into drug-impervious communities called biofilms that are the basis of myriad chronic infections.

Our research is broadly focused on the design, synthesis, and characterization of non-native ligands that can intercept quorum sensing and provide new insights into its role in host/microbe interactions. These molecules provide a novel approach to study quorum sensing with both spatial and temporal control in a range of settings. We have applied our quorum sensing antagonists and agonists in vitro and in vivo to investigate quorum sensing as an anti-infective target.

In this talk, I will introduce quorum sensing and motivate why I believe chemists are poised to make unique contributions to this research field. Thereafter, I will go on to introduce my lab’s research approach, highlight our recent results, and outline our future goals.

Event Type



Academic, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Free and open to the public

Photo Alternate Text

Helen E. Blackwell, smiling in black sweater with gold chain hanging from neck.

Contact Person

Rachel Wysocki

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