Bacterial biofilms are integrated, multi-species communities of cells that adhere to almost any surface and are fundamental to the ecology and biology of bacteria. Not only do biofilms contribute to human health and disease, they also play important roles in the context of energy and the environment. The formation of biofilms requires interactions between bacteria and the surfaces they colonize, and both microbe and surface can impact the structure, function, and composition of these communities. Bacteria in biofilms exhibit surprisingly sophisticated social behavior, both cooperative and competitive, made possible by their cell biology. However, they are also hierarchically organized systems governed by complex physical and chemical interactions. Because of this, the study of bacterial biofilms has recently attracted the attention of materials scientists, physicists, chemists, and nanotechnology experts who import not only new tools, but also new concepts and perspectives. This issue reviews recent progress in multidisciplinary studies of biofilms.