The American Society for Microbiology Announces Winners of the Agar Art Challenge

Washington, D.C., September 29, 2015 – The American Society for Microbiology recently announced the winners of the 2015 Agar Art Contest, which included designs of neurons, a map of New York City and the harvest season.

agar artMembers of ASM were given the opportunity to participate in an agar art contest, where they could submit a piece of art using microbes as paint and agar as the canvas. They also had to include a short description explaining what they had created in a way that would engage a broad audience.

The contest closed on September 3rd and anyone with an active ASM membership was eligible to compete. Artists were asked to be creative and safe and were asked to follow safety guidelines while creating their art. 

The winners are as follows: 

  • First place: Neurons, submitted by Mehmet Berkmen of New England Biolabs, with artist Maria Penil. 
  • Second place: NYC Biome MAP, part of the Collective Urban Biome MAP project, by Nurit Bar-Shai, Christine Marizzi, Ali Schachtschneider, Marta Molina Gomez, with The New Museum IDEAS CITY 2015, Genspace NYC, The DNA Learning Center (DNALC), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL).
  • Third place: Harvest Season, created by Maria Eugenia Inda, a postdoctoral researcher from Argentina working at Cold Spring Harbor Labs. 
  • People’s Choice: Cell to Cell, with almost 3,500 likes on Facebook, submitted by Mehmet Berkmen with artist Maria Penil.

Five judges were asked to evaluate all 85 submissions based on creativity, design, and presentation of the artwork.  Additionally, they assessed whether the written description was scientifically accurate and appropriate for a general audience.

The judges included: 


  • Michele Banks, watercolor and collage artist
  • Jamie Henzy, postdoctoral fellow at Boston College and blogger at Small Things Considered
  • Vincent Racaniello, professor at Columbia University and host of This Week in Virology (TWiV)
  • Dennis Bray, professor at University of Cambridge
  • Penny Chisholm, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

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The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 47,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.