Cells are complex systems that integrate biochemical signals with mechanical forces in order to carry out important physiological processes, such as cell growth, division, and movement. Compared to eukaryotic cells, we know very little about how forces are generated and transduced within prokaryotic systems. My research proposal leverages recent advances in my lab, which allow us to apply forces to single bacterial cells while simultaneously monitoring subcellular physiology, to explore how bacteria control their growth by actively tuning the mechanical properties of their cell wall. I describe two case studies that focus on how rod-shaped bacteria control elongation while preventing cell widening by tuning the stiffness of the cell wall, and its ability to undergo mechanical compaction, via essential but poorly understood polymers called teichoic acids. This research stands to elevate the study of bacterial mechanics to a much more sophisticated level than was previously possible.