Most microbes in nature exist within a microbial community. However, little is known about how different microbial species interact with each other and their environment to form these communities. Rachel Dutton uses cheese as a model system for studying microbial ecosystems. By studying microbial communities in different types of cheese, and observing how they change during the cheese aging process, Dutton has uncovered many of the complexities of how these different microbes interact with one another over time. By recapitulating these interactions in vitro, Dutton is starting to answer fundamental questions about microbial community formation and dynamics.
Rachel Dutton is a Bauer Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Systems Biology, where she studies microbial communities using cheese as a model system. She has collaborated with numerous chefs, as well as the food science author Harold McGee, and her work has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, NPR, and Wired among many others. Dutton received her PhD in microbiology from Harvard University where she studied M. tuberculosis.