David Rodríguez Espeso

My name is David. I love science, but are the real science applications of it what really fascinate me. For that reasion my basic background is Chemical Engineering, but I did my PhD in applied mathematics (modelling and computation of bacterial biofilms).

I decided to work in the biology field with the initial purpose of finding a way to bring together biology and engineering by developing integrative solutions which take profit from both fields.

The use of microorganisms at industrial scales involves to know how bacteria work at a level of community: spreading, differentiation, morphogenesis or interaction with the physical boundaries are different aspects where there is a large gap of knowledge in many aspects that limit their application. This is my natural niche of work: understand the interactions between bacterial communities and the different physical and chemical phenomena developed inside and outside of those, with the purpose of gaining control of certain properties that allow us to use them in real applications.

Currently I’m focused on three main issues related with the organization and handling of bacterial systems: how bacterial colonies organize naturally in different physical media, how to modify bacterial biofilms artificially and how can we modify the organization of bacteria at individual level.

In the first issue we aim at acquiring a fundamental intuition about what kind of physical and chemical processes are taking place inside a bacterial biofilm when bacteria are left to evolve naturally in different systems (i.e channels, surfaces, flow, etc.).

Engineering bacterial biofilms for using them as real bioreactors is another of my projects: I’m attemping to gain control about the geometry and properties of a biofilm in order to modulate certain desired chemical reactions performed by bacteria, thus turning biofilms into micrometric controllable self-sustainable reactors.

Finally my main third project is focused on studying how to create complex bacterial macrostructures starting from individual bacteria. By analysing growth processes of bacterial packs and assuming certain hypothesis about ordered movement of bacteria or fixing certain assembly rules, we aim at gaining insight about what could be the final obtained structures and thus helping to create self-assembly pathways that allow the creation of bacterial clusters with artificial guided patterns specifically designed for biotechnological applications (i.e. catalytic platforms).


Figure. Results obtained with cellular autómata models provide good predictions about biofilm structure and dynamics usually observed in different experimental systems: (a) Bacterial streamers inside a flow (b) Wrinkling pattern developed by B. subtilis colonies.