ASM Agar Art Contest

ASM Agar Art 2017 Logo




Submissions must be:

  • Photos at least 8" x 10" at 300 dpi of works that are at their core an organism(s) growing on agar. However, you may use any organism(s), with any type(s) of agar, on any size or shape petri dish.

  • Created safely in the appropriate Bio Safety Level environment for the organism(s) used. For more information, please consult ASM's Guidelines for Biosafety in Teaching Laboratories and the Appendix to the Guidelines.

  • New and original, not seen/posted on the internet before or previously published or displayed elsewhere.

  • Digitally untouched or minimally edited to improve clarity of the photo. No other artificial enhancements or manipulations (e.g. false coloring) are permitted.

  • Accompanied by a description that captures the attention of a general public audience, as well as explains key features of your piece, in 200 words or less.

Submission deadline: April 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm U.S. Eastern Daylight Time

Eligibility is restricted to:

  • American Society for Microbiology members.

  • Individuals who worked with an official ASM Agar Art partner organization(s) to create their submission.* We are happy to announce that the following organizations are official ASM Agar Art partners for 2017:

Baltimore UnderGround Science Space Homepage


Capital Area BioSpace Homepage Capitol Area BioSpace (CABS) is a community biology group in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The mission of the organization is to provide access to anyone interested in learning and practicing biotechnology or synthetic biology by sharing the costs among the members and providing expert advising and training.


BioHubIL HomepageBioHubIL is a non-profit organization, based in Israel, serving a community of biology enthusiasts sharing one core value: safe biological experimentation should be accessible to everyone. We aim to promote life science outreach, education and entrepreneurship and are establishing an open lab space in order to enable community members to safely experience hands on biology.


CSHL DNA Learning Center HomepageThe DNA Learning Center is an operating unit of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the world's first science center focused solely on genetics education, offering hands-on educator workshops, field trips, student summer camps and research opportunities in genetics and biotechnology.


Genspace HomepageGenspace is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 2009 in Brooklyn, NY. It is dedicated to promoting citizen science and providing access to biotechnology. It was the first community biotechnology laboratory, with a full BSL-1 facility.

School of Visual Arts, New York City Bio Art Laboratory Homepage The SVA Bio Art laboratory was founded in 2011 by Suzanne Anker as part of the SVA’s BFA Fine Arts Department new facility consisting of 54,000 square feet in the heart of Chelsea, NYC. Conceived as a place where scientific tools and techniques are applied in art practice, the Bio Art Lab hosts a number of undergraduate classes, graduate workshops, continuing education courses, as well as a summer residency.


*Individuals who worked with an official ASM Agar Art partner organization to create their submission MUST submit through the link provided to the partner organization. He/she cannot submit through the link provided on this page. Please email with any questions.



  • All winners, including the 1st place winners of official Agar Art partner contests, will be featured in the Agar Art Gallery in the exhibit hall at the ASM Microbe 2017 conference (June 1-5, 2017 in New Orleans, LA).

  • Note that the following table indicates prizes for the main Agar Art 2017 contest ONLY. Prizes for partner contests differ. Please contact the partner organization for more details.
 ASM credit to put toward books, registration fees, etc. Amazon gift card   Artologica credit
1st place $200 $200  $85 
2nd place $150  $150 
3rd place $100  $100 
People's Choice $50  $50 



ASM Agar Art 2016 Contest Winners

"The First Race," 1st Place, 2016

1st Place
"The First Race"
Md Zohorul Islam, DVM, 
Graduate Student, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Fertilization is the first competitive event of plant and animal life. It is a process involving the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote. Millions of spermatozoa race and compete to be the first to penetrate the egg, but only one of them finally meets the egg and creates a zygote leading to the development of an embryo. 

In this artwork, I used four bacteria as paint and a selective agar medium as canvas. The red colored paint was Staphylococcus aureus, which is an opportunistic pathogen in both humans and animals. The green color was Staphylococcus xylosus, a commensal organism in human skin, the white was Staphylococcus hyicus, an animal pathogen responsible for grassy pig disease. The yellow colored organism was Corynebacterium glutamicum, a non-pathogenic but industrially important bacterium for production of amino acids such as L-glutamate and L-lysine. Other colors were from mixture of two or more of these four organisms.


"This is not a beer!," 2nd Place, 20162nd Place
"This is not a beer!"
Mariarosaria Marinaro, PhD, Permanent Researcher, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy

Erika Grandolfo, Graduate Student

Cristiana Catella, Postdoctoral Fellow

Livia Bodnar, Graduate Student, Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria, Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy

Some Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are referred to as MRSA since they are resistant to methicillin and other antibiotics. These "superbugs" are real threats to human and animal health. Staphylococci possess an enzyme, called catalase, which converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. In particular, the MRSA isolated in our lab was grown on agar and then treated with hydrogen peroxide to produce a foam (i.e., oxygen production). The catalase-positive MRSA was therefore used to evoke a beer through its image.

Our piece of Agar Art took inspiration from the scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski ("The map is not the territory it represents," 1931) and from the surrealist painter René Magritte who drew a pipe with the caption Ceci n'est pas une pipe meaning that the image of the pipe is not a pipe (The Treachery of Images, 1928-1929).

The work presented here stems from a simple catalase reaction; nonetheless it expands Korzybski's and Magritte's work to the bacterial world. It also represents our attempt to reach a synthesis between Science and Abstraction, Metalanguage and Microbiology.

The Agar Art plate was prepared during a Microbiology Class addressed to High School Students from Liceo Enrico Fermi and Liceo Gaetano Salvemini, Bari, Italy.

"Twelve Years of Yuck," 3rd Place, 20163rd Place

"Twelve Years of Yuck"

Elena Gart, DVM, MS, Graduate Student

Laura Bryan, DVM, Graduate Student

Sara V. Little, Graduate Student

Sara Lawhon, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University, College Station, United States

Microbial pathogens were painted with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli MG1655 on Hektoen enteric agar to yield black and yellow colonies, respectively.Salmonella spp. produce hydrogen sulfide which precipitates thiosulfate and ferric ammonium citrate in plates. E. coli ferments sugars and acidifies the agar, causing the yellow color change. Salmonella spp. and E. coli are enteric pathogens, although they can be a part of normal microflora in some species.

Microbes are often in balance with their environment and other pathogens, but to everything there is a season and outbreaks occur every year. We designed a 12-year calendar which represents significant human outbreaks that occurred from 2005-2016. Although pathogenic, some of the depicted organisms can be beneficial for humans. For example, Salmonella spp. have the potential to be used as new treatments for some cancers and E. coli produces vitamins K and B6 in the intestine of mammals. Thus this work represents the delicate balance of microbes, their hosts and the environment.


"Bacterial Shadow of Wolf," Peoples Choice, 2016People's Choice
"Bacterial Shadow of Wolf"

Barış Halaç, DVM, Graduate Student

Sevgin Can, Undergraduate Student, Department of Microbiology, Veterinary Faculty, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey

Bacteria can produce biofilm formation when they are under threat, like hostile immune system, in order to protect themselves from harmful conditions. When it happens, a differentiation of the gene regulation reflects as a change in behaviour. To this end, individuals must behave not only for their but also the group's benefits. Some members of the company don't make an effort for the construction of biofilm but they still bask protection of it. 

This strategy is seen in wolves that hunt together. When the game begins, some wolves are more active to get the prey and take more risks, whereas the others spend less energy, but at the end, all members of the pack share the food.


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Agar Art 2015 Entries

Agar Art 2016 Finalists


Terms and Conditions

The American Society of Microbiology will be subsequently abbreviated to ASM. Herein "Work" refers to participants' contest submissions, including, but not limited to videos, photos, writing, artwork, and/or designs. "Participants" refers to all individuals involved in the creation of said Work and "Submitter" refers to the individual submitting said Work on behalf of all participants to ASM. Submitter accepts the responsibilities detailed below on behalf of any and all additional, associated participants.


This contest is open to all ASM members, as well as non-members who worked with an official ASM Agar Art Partner to create the Work. Current ASM staff are not eligible, though ASM volunteers, former ASM staff, and the friends and relatives of ASM staff are eligible if they meet the primary eligibility criteria specified above.

Participation in this contest is open to groups of participants limited to 5 participants. Only the Submitter must meet the eligibility requirements.

Multiple submissions by the same Submitter are permitted.

Submitters must be 18 years of age or older. As it is relevant to the contest rules specified above, the Submitter must have prior permission from the appropriate legal guardians of any participant under 18 years of age (i.e. a minor) in order to submit work on behalf of said minor(s).

There is no entry fee for participation in the Agar Art 2017 contest.


Responsibilities of Participants
The Submitter, on behalf of all associated participants, affirms that: (1) he/she has authority to submit said Work for this contest; (2) the submitted Work is the original creation of the participants, has not appeared anywhere else in any other form, and does not violate or infringe upon any copyright, trademark, privacy, or other proprietary rights of any entity or person; (3) the participants have secured any and all permissions and releases from any applicable third parties as required by law in the creation of the Work and royalty-free, irrevocable, and perpetual license of said Work to ASM; and (4) for any and all minors (persons under the age of 18 years old) permission for their participation in the creation of said Work has been obtained from their legal guardian(s), prior to participation in creating said Work and after disclosure of any and all risks involved.

The Submitter, on behalf of all associated participants, hereby acknowledges and agrees that:

  1. each participant, including herself/himself has accepted full responsibility for submitting any necessary ethics-related report(s) to their employer, funding agency, and/or appropriate managing office and the responsibility of advising ASM if ASM is required to submit a report to any of these same entities;
  2. ASM has the right, but not the obligation, to monitor this contest to ensure compliance with all legal conditions and guidelines. Submitter agrees that the burden of determining the Submitter's legal authority to use, display, submit, and license rights of said Work and its components lies solely with the Submitter, who also bears the sole liability for any damages related to infringement upon the aforementioned rights of any other entity or person;
  3. ASM and any relevant partners, affiliates, and sponsors are not liable for any and all costs, damages, claims, liabilities, or expenses of any sort associated with the creation and/or submission of said Work, the acceptance and use of any prize awarded, or any public comments made by third parties about said Work upon its public display;
  4. ASM is not responsible for any technical failures or problems of any kind associated with any mode of electronic submission used, nor for any delays, restrictions, or problems associated with postal delivery of said Work;
  5. ASM is not responsible for any damages and/or alterations to said Work resulting from the selected or required delivery method; and
  6. no component of said Work is permitted to contain any language, imagery, or themes that are offensive, objectionable, discriminatory or threatening against any persons, or illegal.


Rights of ASM and Governing Law
ASM retains the right to alter, effectively immediately, any component of this contest at any time without prior notification, including, but not limited to suspending and/or prematurely terminating this contest prior to the close of the submission date. Should ASM decide to prematurely terminate this contest, any materials physically delivered to ASM will be returned to Submitters, electronic submissions will be deleted, and all rights will revert back to the Submitter and any and all additional participants.

All Works and participants associated with any participant suspected or known to be in violation of the legal conditions and guidelines set forth in this contest will be disqualified at ASM's sole determination without the obligation of prior notification or means to appeal.
ASM retains the right to overrule or amend any decisions by non-ASM staff judges, without prior notification.

All ASM contests' legal conditions and guidelines are governed by the laws of the District of Columbia. Any claim, dispute, or suit arising from an ASM sponsored contest will be settled in this venue.

Void where prohibited by law.


Final Ownership of Work
Submitter, on behalf of all participants, hereby agrees to license the Work to ASM for the full term of copyright and any extensions thereto on a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide basis. This license from Submitter to ASM shall include the right to: (i) publish, reproduce, distribute, publicly display, and archive the Work in all forms, now known or later developed, (ii) create adaptations or other derivative works based on the Work, (iii) sell copies of the Work with or without other submitted works, and (iv) sublicense to others on an noncommercial or commercial basis to do any or all of the above. Submitter affirms that he/she has the legal authority to grant these rights.

Submitter hereby agrees on behalf of all associated participants that the names and/or biographical and demographic information of each associated participant, including the Submitter, may be used by ASM without compensation, unless prohibited by law, for promotional purposes of this current and any future contests or similar contests, including, but not limited to, announcement of contest winners and advertisements. ASM agrees to request additional, subsequent permission for the use of any participant's likeness, image/photograph, and/or voice outside of any of these already provided as part of said Work, in the event the need or desire arises.


Agar Art Partner Rights
If the Work was created through a workshop held by an ASM Agar Art Partner, Submitter also agrees to grant that partner a license to publish, reproduce, distribute and publicly display the Work.


Compensation and Prizes
Submitter acknowledges on behalf of all participants that participation in this contest is voluntary and that no participant will receive financial compensation of any type associated with this submission or from any use of the submission by ASM.
Prizes will be awarded to the submitter and/or any other parties specified in the individual contest language, if such language is present. Prizes are non-transferrable. Awardees are responsible for all federal, state, and local taxes, surcharges, and fees applicable to the prizes. Forfeited prizes, through awardee refusal or disqualification of participant(s)/associated work, must be returned to ASM within 90 ninety days of forfeiture, if dispatched. ASM may, at its sole discretion, decide to award said prizes to other parties entered in the same contest. ASM is not responsible for lost or stolen prizes.

Questions? Email