Microbes rarely live alone, instead coming together in communities that can contain hundreds of species. Due to the complexity and diversity of these communities, it is difficult to probe the general rules and detailed mechanisms that govern how individual species of microbes interact to form communities. As a Bauer fellow, I was able to grow and reproduce, in a test tube, the simple microbial ecosystems that form the rind of aging cheeses. Using this system as an experimental model, my lab will employ techniques in molecular genetics and metabolic and cell biology to identify the molecules that different bacterial species use to communicate with one another. We will further study how these signals drive the formation, structure, and activity of the community—and how they may render the system susceptible or resistant to invasion by disease-causing bacteria. This work could provide novel strategies for manipulating or disrupting microbial communities, findings that have relevance for human health, agriculture, and biotechnology.