The students who took my PHY 110C seminar in Spring 2021 have created a web repository of information that they think will be helpful to undergraduate students. 

This was a student-initiated, student-led project.  Here it is:

We’ve developed and beta-tested a lesson plan that combines our research with important concepts from biology, physics, and algebra that are part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for high school.

This lesson plan consists of three modules that can be taught together or separately.  These interactive lessons use role-play and experiential learning to teach the physical origins of diffusion and explore the algebraic mathematics of diffusion, and the importance of biofilms and natural selection for disease, pathogenesis, and antibiotic resistance and evasion of the immune system’s attempts to clear infections.  Ideas of antibiotic resistance and susceptibility are related to real-world medical microbiology and bio-proprospecting.

We developed the different components of these modules over several years of outreach presentations to middle school and high school students visiting the UT Austin campus.  In summer 2019, we taught a first draft of this lesson plan to high school students who were participating in the Physics Department’s Alice in Wonderland outreach program.  Based on that experience, we modified the lesson and taught it again in summer 2019, this time to middle-school students participating in the UTeach STEM Prep camp.  We refined the lesson again after teaching it to middle-school students.  Our experiences from teaching both high school and middle school students are reflected in the final lesson plan and materials below.

You can download the lesson plan and associated materials at the links below.  These are free to use and to share – all we ask is that you credit us, and that you email Professor Vernita Gordon ( to tell her if you use them and how it went.

Cover Page

Biofilms & Diffusion Constant Lesson Plan

Part 1 slides and handouts

Part 2 slides and handout

Part 3 slides and handouts

August 2018 – Vernita officially gets tenure and is promoted to Associate Professor!  This gives us the freedom to continue our existing work on bacterial biofilms and to branch out in exciting new directions.

For a complete list of our publications, please see Vernita Gordon’s Google Scholar page.  The “publications” link to the right is updated only very infrequently.

Our group focuses on understanding how physical characteristics, like mechanics and spatial structure, influence biology in complex multicellular systems, and vice versa – how do biological systems control their physical properties, and how does this benefit the biological system?  Our work focuses primarily on bacterial biofilms, which can cause harm in infection and in the built environment, and so we also want to know how we could manipulate physical characteristics, of the biofilms and/or their environments, to prevent or ameliorate harmful biofilms.

See our Benefunder site to learn more!

Because of the importance of biofilms to both basic science and health, our work is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  In the past, our work has also been funded by the Human Frontiers Science Program and ExxonMobil.

More generally, the biophysical questions we ask address important topics because they address processes that are foundational to multicellular life (including ourselves and you, Dear Reader). We want especially to know how physics shapes these biological interactions and how physical tools and modes of thought can help us understand them better.

Motivated postdocs, graduate, undergraduate students will have the opportunity to contribute to multiple strands of fast-moving research within this theme. Our toolkit includes a variety of techniques for microscope imaging, micromanipulation, and computational analysis, and is likewise constantly expanding.

For more information on the group’s research and/or opportunities in the group, please email Vernita or come find us in person on the 14th floor of RLM.


Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin (2018-present)

Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin (2010-2018)

Postdoc, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (2006-2010)

Postdoc, University of Edinburgh (2003-2006)


Ph.D. in Physics Harvard University (2003)

B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics Vanderbilt University (1997)

Awards and Honors

Mitchell Award (2015) to Nalin Ratnayeke for outstanding undergraduate research done under my supervision
Hyer Research Award (2013) from the Texas Section of the American Physical Society

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-2010)

Magna Cum Laude & Honors in Physics, Vanderbilt University(1997)


Complete Publication List

UT scientists might have found key to stopping hospital infections

Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions

Lung bacteria’s sense of touch tells them when to turn nasty

APS Leads in Capitol Hill Meetings with New Congress

Laser trapping to show the effects of bacterial arrangement on biofilm infection

A Physical Approach to Biology

‘Laser Trapping’? Technique Could Lead To Better Management of Bacterial Infections in CF Patients