Cells are physical as well as biological machines. While synthetic biology has focused on the biological, my lab is working to exploit physical interactions to develop new cell-to-cell signaling mechanisms. Physical interactions have the potential to be more rapid, precise, and species-independent compared to biological mechanisms involving DNA and proteins. We focus on bacteria due to their simplicity and direct relevance to the environment and human health. While bacteria are unicellular organisms, we now understand that most bacteria on our planet reside in structured multicellular communities known as biofilms. By studying undomesticated bacterial biofilms in their native context, we have recently discovered that even these simple bacteria communicate electrically using ion channels. The goal of my lab is to leverage this discovery to design new charge-based signaling mechanisms that will enable “smart” biofilms to detoxify the environment and detect disease in our bodies.