The Microbiology Society has selected Bonnie Bassler to receive the 2022 Prize Medal, awarded annually “to an outstanding microbiologist who is a global leader in their field and whose work has had a far-reaching impact beyond the discipline of microbiology.”
Bassler, Princeton’s Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology and the chair of the department, has spent her career investigating how bacteria talk to each other and orchestrate collective behaviors. This process, called quorum sensing, relies on the production, detection and response to extracellular signal molecules. Quorum sensing allows bacteria to coordinate their activities, and as groups, accomplish tasks that would be unproductive if a single bacterium undertook them alone. Behaviors controlled by quorum sensing include bioluminescence, biofilm formation, the exchange of DNA, and many others.