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Birgit Scharf

  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • College of Science


Dr. Scharf studies how bacteria sense and move towards plants in the soil; particularly, how Rhizobia locate alfalfa plants.


How do bacteria move, sense and react to their surroundings? This question has been the enduring theme of Dr. Scharf’s research. One of her major research focus explores the molecular dialogue between the symbiotic bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti and its plant host alfalfa. Understanding the role of bacterial chemotaxis in symbiont-host interaction is essential for improving this relationship to increase crop yields. Identifying such sustainable environmental and agronomic advances are critical for a rising global human population. Dr. Scharf also leverages her expertise in bacterial motility to build two new research areas with a focus on biomedical applications. Firstly, she is exploring the feasibility of developing bacteria-based cancer therapies in animal models. Secondly, she studies the use of bacterial viruses to combat pathogenic bacteria toward therapeutic alternatives for the failing classic antibiotic treatments.