It's a manic-depressive life. You run in here, you open your incubator, your experiment makes no sense, you think, 'I hate this job.' Then ten minutes later you think, 'Well, now, maybe I'll try this or I'll try that.' You do it because you know there will be an 'a-ha!' day.
I remember the day we found the gene for the inter-species signaling molecule like it was yesterday. We got the gene, and we plugged it into a database. And we immediately saw that this gene was in an amazing number of species of bacteria. It was a huge moment of realization.
We've all been sick; we're all afraid of infection. I think the easiest application to help people understand what quorum sensing is and why it's important to study is to tell them that if we could make the bacteria either deaf or mute, we could create new antibiotics.
Everybody, as soon as they do a good experiment, their first thought in this lab is, 'That can't be right. I must have screwed it up. What did I do wrong?' And that's the best kind of scientist because they're filled with this self-doubt. And if I'm going to be honest, that's who I am. And it's what drives me.
Think about all kinds of infectious diseases, like mumps or measles or chicken pox. When a virgin population encountered those pathogens, it ravaged the population, and now they're childhood diseases, and eventually they won't even be that. That's our relationship with bacteria, going through time.