As you might expect for organisms that are billions of years old, bacteria have evolved lots of tricks to protect themselves in often-hostile surroundings. One of their most effective strategies is to coat themselves with a gooey layer, known as biofilm, which insulates them from predators, harsh chemicals and, more recently, antibiotic drugs. Carl Zimmer wrote a feature story in the January 2015 Scientific American that explores how some researchers are disrupting biofilm production by manipulating the bacteria's ability to communicate and cooperate with one another.

Other scientists are studying synthetic biofilms and using supercomputers to simulate their growth, as outlined in this video from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about the work of chemical engineer Dacheng Ren of Syracuse University in New York State. At last count, according to the NSF Web site, the government agency had awarded more than $53 million to 136 basic research projects on biofilms.