Public Engagement

Electron micrograph of Salmonella


Bacteria are the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth. Bacteria play vital roles in the environment (such as recycling nutrients) and even in the human body where they aid normal gut function. Bacteria are also exploited in industry (for example in chemical production) and as tools in biotechnology and medical research. However, pathogenic bacteria are the cause of many human diseases including tuberculosis, meningitis and pneumonia.

Illuminating bugs in glass, a fusion of science with art

Since October 2014, artist Derek Hill has been working closely with Professors Jeff Errington and Colin Harwood and more recently, Dr Richard Daniel to establish an Artist in Residency programme alongside the CBCB. It will involve the creation of a new body of artwork based on Derek's experience of collaborating with us on the science of bacterial cell biology which we aim to exhibit at the Centre for Life. Our primary intention is to promote the work we do to the public and engage with people in the process.

The working title of our project is "Illuminating Bugs in Glass, a Fusion of Science with Art".

You can visit Derek's website at: or view his recent presentation to CBCB.

Find out about Derek's work in progress.

Bacterial research in the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology

Bacteria are relatively simple, single-cell organisms, yet many of the cellular processes in bacteria are comparable to those in human cells. This makes bacteria ideal experimental models for unravelling the complexity of crucial cellular mechanisms.

For example, scientists in Newcastle are using bacteria to:

  • understand how cells grow and divide (replicate)
  • uncover the structure and function of enzymes and other proteins
  • determine the molecular mechanisms by which genetic information is processed and translated into changes in cell function

Advances in our understanding of bacterial cell biology are also being used to develop new antibiotics and novel tools for molecular biology and biomedical research. Proteins found in the cell wall (cell envelope) of bacteria determine how bacteria interact with host organisms (such as humans) and often influence the pathogenicity of bacteria.

The cell wall is essential for bacterial survival and many antibiotics target proteins that are found in the cell wall. Newcastle scientists are investigating how the cell wall is made and how cell wall proteins are processed. Researchers are also exploring how bacteria sense their surroundings and respond to environmental stress, viral infection and host cells.

Further information

Find out more about our research areas