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Science in Medicine Distinguished Scientist Lecture with E. Peter Greenberg, PhD

April 17 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

The Office of Research and Graduate Education is proud to have Dr. Peter Greenberg deliver the Distinguished Scientist Lecture for 2023-24. The Distinguished Scientist Lecture recognizes an accomplished School of Medicine senior faculty member, honoring outstanding achievements in the field of research.

“Shedding light on bacterial communication and cooperation”

E. Peter Greenberg, PhD
Professor, Microbiology
Department of Microbiology

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 at 11 am
SLU Orin Smith Auditorium & Streamed on Zoom Webinar


A relatively recent paradigm shift in the way microbiologists think about the bacteria they study will be described. The old view was “the bacterium as a cell” view. That with rare exception bacteria were lone operators designed to take over their environment by simple binary cell division and multiplication, a numbers game. The new view is that bacterial cells are cells yes but also organisms and like many other creatures they are capable or communication, cooperation and they can organize into functional groups with special traits and characteristics. How did this new view emerge, what do we now understand about bacterial communication and cooperation, why is it important, and how did Greenberg become known for being a primary mover in our thinking on the subject? The Greenberg story has been used by many as an example of the importance of fundamental research driven by nothing more than curiosity, and how that can lead to important innovation and understanding we did not anticipate. The lecture will describe early curiosity-driven research on the idea that cells of a marine luminescent bacterium could decide together whether the time was right to make light. Attention will then turn to how the accrued knowledge led to discovery that important human pathogens were using the same sort of system to control production of virulence determinants. One pathogen that uses communication to coordinate its’ activities has become a model to study fundamental principles of cooperation in general and our insights are leading to new ways of thinking about how to control infectious diseases.


Greenberg is the Eugene and Martha Professor of Microbiology at the University of Washington. Among other award and prizes, he is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology and the AAAS. He received the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences in 2015, and he has been named the 2023 Gairdner International Prize Laureate and the Princess Asturias Laureate in Science and Technology. Professor Greenberg is widely considered the father of the field of bacterial communication what we now call microbial quorum sensing. He has published over two hundred scientific articles on quorum sensing. He has an active research program that emphasizes studies of quorum sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacterial pathogen has become a model for studies of fundamental aspects of bacterial communication. He has studied quorum sensing since the late 1970s and in fact the term quorum sensing and response originates in a 1994 Journal of Bacteriology article on which he was senior author. Dr. Greenberg has mentored dozens of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. The great majority of his trainees have continued on to have successful academic careers.


April 17
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Event Category:


SLU Orin Smith Auditorium
850 Republican St
Seattle, WA 98109 United States
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