Bring Microbiology to Your Community

In 2015, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) launched the ASM Agar Art Contest to share the beautiful and diverse world of microbes with the public. Our participants have shown us time and again that you don't need to be an expert microbiologist to make beautiful agar art - it's something anyone can create with access to a basic laboratory.

Although our official partners have already been chosen for 2019, we encourage you to host your own Agar Art workshop in your community using our Facilitator's Guide (linked below). To host a workshop, you need:
  • a space that is BSL-1 compliant, such as a high school or college biology laboratory
  • materials and equipment for cultivating microbes (complete list is in the guide)
  • someone with the appropriate experience to lead the workshop  
Since the contest is open to all this year, please encourage anyone who participates in your workshop to submit thier work!

Your Responsibilities

  • Develop logistics, marketing, and content for at least one public, in-person workshop for creating agar art to be held by Oct. 22, 2019
  • Conduct the workshop(s) in a biosafety level 1 (BSL-1) environment in accordance with the ASM Guidelines for Biosafety in Teaching Laboratories
  • Provide appropriately trained staff or volunteers to lead the workshop(s)
  • Administer and return attitudinal and demographic participant survey to ASM staff
  • Encourage workshop participants to submit their pieces to the ASM 2019 Agar Art Contest
  • Complete materials reimbursement paperwork


June 30, 2019: Deadline to sign up to be an ASM Agar Art partner and return Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
July 8, 2019 (tentative): ASM will distribute resources and host a webinar for partners; partners will set workshop date(s) and begin planning content & logistics
July – Oct. 2019: Partners will host workshop(s) and facilitate participant entry into the ASM Agar Art Contest

Oct. 22, 2019: ASM Agar Art Contest closes submissions
Nov. 20, 2019: ASM will announce Agar Art winners across all 3 categories



Our Responsibilities

  • Provide you with the ASM Agar Art Workshop Facilitator’s Guide and other resources
  • Reimburse up to $250 USD in workshop materials costs
  • Promote your organization's participation on and through social media
  • Network partners with each other through monthly video chats and ad hoc emails to share expertise and resources
  • Provide your workshop participants with early access to the Agar Art Contest submission platform
  • Secure judges and run the judging process for all ASM Agar Art Contest categories
  • Provide an impact report containing aggregated workshop survey data for the 2019 contest

2018 Winners from Partner Workshops

ASM Agar Art Kids (12 and younger)

"The Magnificent Butterfly," Kate Lin, Age 10, created at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, US.

"One day there were two people on a safari. As they walked through the tall African grasses they came upon an area that was so thick and tall that the two travelers immediately knew they had to go around the area. Suddenly a magnificent butterfly flew out of the tall grasses and seemed to take a look around, once it spotted the two travelers, it quickly dove back into the grass."

ASM Agar Art Maker (13 and older)

"Serratia octopus," Tiare Ribeaux, Patrik D'haeseleer, created at Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, CA.

"Vibrant and vigorous Serratia marcescens is always a favorite of the agar art aficionados. This bacterium changes color depending on its environment, and age of the culture. Here it's in vibrant orange with a dark red fringe and purple halo. On soft agar, its tentacles will swarm all across the plate - rather like the octopus of the microbial world..."

2018 Partner Organizations

BUGSS is a non-profit, public laboratory offering classes, seminars and lab access so that anyone can safely and affordably investigate the living world.

BosLab is a DIYbio community lab based in Somerville, MA. We provide a safe and fun space for the community to learn about the basics and latest advances in biotechnology, offer hands-on molecular biology lab courses and run exciting projects in the lab!

CABS is a place to explore and be creative with biology. CABS was founded with the idea that biotechnology should be accessible to everyone.

Counter Culture Labs is a community of scientists, tinkerers, biotech professionsla, hackers and citizen scientists who have banded together to create an open community lab - a hackerspace for DIY biology and citizen science.

Denver Biolabs is a community of interdisciplinary individuals - biologists, engineers, artists, computer scientists, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs - working together to learn about new technologies, share expertise, and create solutions to pressing problems.

The 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 is a community lab whose mission is to democratize biotechnology. We do this by hosting lectures, classes and workshops on biotechnology and offering lab memberships to the general public.

The SVA Bio Art laboratory was founded in 2011 by Suzanne Anker as part of the SVA's BFA Fine Arts Department. Conceived as a place where scientific toools and techniques are applied in art practice, the Bio Art Lab hosts a number of courses, as well as a summer residency.

The mission of TheLab is to make science accessible to people of all ages and educational backgrounds. We do this by providing laboratory equipment and workspace, resources which are typically out of the reach of the amateur, to anyone passionate about learning.