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You need to see this award-winning artwork made entirely from microbes

Science & Technology | Published:

The masterpieces were grown in a petri dish.

Agar Art 2018.

Most people wouldn’t associate germs with beautiful pieces of art but a group of scientists and science enthusiasts want to prove otherwise.

The American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Agar Art 2018 contest showcases masterpieces from people made entirely from bacteria.

Grown in a petri dish by scientists, science-lovers and school children, here are the winning creations selected by the judges at ASM.

1. The battle of winter and spring

The battle of two microbes.
1st place, Agar Art Maker 2018 Contest (Agricultural University of Georgia/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Ana Tsitsishvili, undergraduate student at Agricultural University of Georgia, US

What it shows: The battle of two seasons – winter and spring – is represented in microbes.

On one side is Staphylococcus and Bacillus mycoides, and the other side of the plate is a mix of the resistant Micrococcus and Rhodotorula.

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The spring flowers are made by Serratia marcescens.

2. My yellow vision

My yellow vision!
2nd place, Agar Art Maker 2018 Contest (National Institute of Biomedical Genomics/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Bornali Bhattacharjee, Ramanujan Fellow at National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, India

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What it shows: The art was created using Staphylococcus aureus – which is multidrug resistant – in a microbe growth medium.

3. Sustenance

Sustenance.
3rd place, Agar Art Maker 2018 Contest (New England Biolabs/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Mehmet Berkmen, senior scientist at New England Biolabs, and Maria Penil Cobo, mixed media artist in Beverly, US

What it shows: The agar art was made from two petri dishes representing the microbial communication between the mother and the child within her womb. Microbes were isolated from artist Maria Penil by pressing an agar plate on to her breast.

Unidentified pink colonies isolated around the nipple area were used to draw the pink hues around the membrane glands, while recombinant E coli were used to draw the dark-violet mammary glands.

The yellow hues are Nesterenkonia, the orange placenta is Deinococcus radiodurans while the red embryo and the red nipple is Serratia marcenses.

The white Bacillus at the edges of womb were isolated from the hand of the one-year-old daughter of the artist.

4. A Salmonellosis odyssey

A Salmonellosis Odyssey.
People’s choice, Agar Art 2018 Contest (Instituto de Biologia Molecular y Celular de Rosario/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Maria Laura Echarren, student at Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Instituto de Biologia Molecular y Celular de Rosario, Argentina

What it shows: A wild type Salmonella and genetically modified Salmonella strains expressing a green-fluorescence protein were used to create the microbe art.

Each dot is a separate bacteria colony, visualised under UV-light. The North Hemisphere shows Leo, Pegasus and Ursa Minor; while the South Hemisphere dpeicts Orion, Sourthen Crux, Phoenix.

5. Serratia octopus

Serratia octopus.
1st Place, Agar Art Maker 2018 (Tiare Ribeaux /American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Tiare Ribeaux and Patrik D’haeseleer at Counter Culture Labs, US.

What it shows: The bacteria art was created using Serratia marcescens – which changes colour depending on its environment, and age of the culture.

The artwork shows the bacteria in vibrant orange with a dark red fringe and purple halo.

6. The sitting president

The Sitting President.
2nd Place, Agar Art Maker 2018 (Daniel Pham/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Daniel Pham at Baltimore Underground Science Space, US

What it shows: This agar art depicts former US President Barack Obama.

7. A bumblebee, bacteria, and mould: Could this be art in the making?

A Bumble bee, bacteria and mold: Could this be art in the making?
3rd Place, Agar Art Maker 2018 (Allison Granberry/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Allison Granberry at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, US

What it shows: The piece was created using a q-tip filled with green E.coli sliding across a plastic cutout of a bumblebee.

8. The magnificent butterfly

The Magnificent Butterfly.
1st place, Agar Art Kids 2018 (Kate Lin/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Kate Lin, aged 10, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, US

What it shows: The agar art shows a butterfly amid tall African grass.

9. Blue tulip

Blue Tulip.
2nd Place, Agar Art Kids 2018 (Simran Bhattacharya/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Simran Bhattacharya, aged 11, at The Lab Inc, US

What it shows: The bacteria art depicts a blue tulip in a field of daisies.

10. Ocean and windy breeze

Ocean and windy breeze/
3rd Place, Agar Art Kids 2018 (Alice Laun/American Society for Microbiology)

Created by: Alice Laun, aged 5, at Baltimore Underground Science Space, US

What it shows: The art, created by five-year-old Alice, shows children playing in the beach as the sun goes down.

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