Steve Bowden Lab Spotlight

Associate Professor Steven Bowden

Each month we are highlighting one of our professors, their students, and their research. This month we highlight the work of Professor Steven Bowden and his researchers Eleanore Hansen and John McFarlane

What are you Driven to Discover?

I am driven to utilize microbial genetics as a means to understand human pathogens growth and survival within foods and determine mechanisms to control them through routes such as bacteriophage (a class of virus that only kills bacteria).

What is the impact of your research in your field?

My research will isolate and engineer bacteriophage that kill foodborne pathogens and provide mechanisms to detect them in foods,

How can people see the impact of your research on everyday life?

Unfortunately, foodborne illness is a common occurrence with an estimated 1 in 6 people becoming infected each year in the USA. By developing bacteriophage as a clean label antimicrobial, I hope to reduce the number of illnesses, especially in ready to eat foods such as fresh produce and deli meats. So, in essence, people will see the impact of our work indirectly through reduced news headlines of Salmonella outbreaks and recalls.

What drew you to your field of study?

I have always been interested in the invisible world of microbiology and its impact on human well-being. In previous positions, I have worked with bacteria associated with food including Salmonella and a food spoilage organism called Pectobacterium. For me, food microbiology is an important field because our digestive system is a primary interface we have with microbes that can make us sick. Plus, there is great complexity of the foods we eat which makes keeping them safe a significant challenge.

What is your favorite research/lab tool and why?

Genetic engineering is a tool that I value because it enables us to mix and match genes for desired properties such as making pathogens glow for detection or building new bacteriophage.

What do you consider to be your greatest research accomplishment?

Identifying glucose catabolism via glycolysis as a major pathway for Salmonella to cause infection within infected cells. Previously, it was largely unknown how Salmonella were growing inside cells and this knowledge may have uses to control these infections.

What is your favorite food science or nutrition fact?

The fact that there are more bacteria in the human body than human cells and that they have ~100x more genes than the human genome.

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