Welcome to Prof. Ralph Mitchell’s Laboratory of Applied Microbiology.  The laboratory is located in the Engineering Science Building at 58 Oxford St. in Cambridge, MA.

Research in the Laboratory of Applied Microbiology is focused primarily on the study of biofilms - communities of microorganisms that grow on surfaces.   Major areas of interest include:

1. Attachment of microorganisms to surfaces.

2. Deterioration of materials caused by biofilm growth.

3. Prevention of microbial attachment and biofilm-mediated deterioration.

Many of our recent projects focus on microbial deterioration of cultural heritage materials.  Items such as historic manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, buildings, monuments, and archaeological sites are at risk.  Human activities (tourism) and the consequences of human activities, such as acid rain and urban air pollution, are among the main causes of deterioration.  In addition to physical and chemical processes of deterioration, many historic and culturally important objects are also at risk of biodeterioration.  Conditions of high temperature and humidity can stimulate bacterial or fungal growth and deterioration.  Microbial processes can also act in conjunction with chemical deterioration caused by air pollution.  No material is immune to microbial attack; microorganisms can cause the deterioration of historic paintings, wood, paper, glass, textiles, metals, waxes, polymers and coatings, and stone.

Biofilm growth on limestone.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences / Laboratory of Applied Microbiology