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Friday, 19 May 2017 12:22

Fusing Design and Science, ASM’s Agar Art Contest is Back for Round Three

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Published in Press Releases

Visit the Agar Art Digital Display at the ASM Booth during ASM Microbe 2017 in New Orleans (Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)

Washington, DC – May 19, 2017 – The American Society for Microbiology has announced winners for their 3rd annual Agar Art contest. Submissions of artwork were created using only microbes on agar plates.  This year, ASM partnered with Baltimore Underground Science Space (BUGS), Capital Area BioSpace (CABS), BioHubIL, The DNA Learning Center, Genspace, and The SVA Bio Art laboratory to create safe learning environments for both scientists and  the general public to create their own agar art and participate in the contest. The 2017 contest received the most submissions thus far, a stunning 265 submissions from 36 countries and over 300 entries including those from the partner contests. 

The first place winner drew her inspiration from seeing the summer sunset in Montauk for the first time. “I was struck by the beauty of the sunset and I thought of how beautiful it would be in the pink, blue and purple yeast strains,” said Jasmine Temple, Laboratory Technician at New York University Lagone Medical Center, Institute for Systems Genetics.  “I really want to get the Yeast Art project I have been working on in Jef Boeke's lab out there, and get more people involved. I thought the detailed and colorful sunset in yeast would amaze viewers like the real one did to me,” she added. Her image was created by "printing" nanodroplets of media containing baker's yeast with pigment-encoding plasmids onto a large agar plate.

Finding nemo agar art

Linh Ngo, a Microbiology Technologist from Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in Ontario, Canada, was inspired by the beautiful coral reefs in the Disney movie Finding Nemo. Serratia marcescens (purple), Staphylococcus aureus (pink, and a little green), Candida tropicalis (white), and Klebsiella pneumoniae (grey, mucoid) were used to create the colors in her piece titled ‘Finding Pneumo: Starring Klebsiella pneumoniae.’  “I watched this movie often with my kids and I was just in awe of the beauty of the coral reef. Looking at closer images of the coral reef, it resembled bacteria to me and I wanted to capture that on agar,” she said. While doing her research Ngo read about the dangers the coral reefs are facing due to climate change. “It started as a project where I could bridge my creative side with my microbiology skills, but ended up bringing awareness to the coral reefs. This is all in thanks to my special boys who make me see things in different perspectives. Without them, I would have missed out on this wonderful opportunity,” she said. 


Dancing MicrobesThe piece, “Dancing Microbes” came all the way from Tbilisi, Georgia and was submitted by Ana Tsitsishvili, an undergraduate student at the Agricultural University of Georgia. Staphylococcus epidermidis, used to create the white color, is part of the normal human flora and is typically found on the skin. Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, the red and pink color, is a common environmental inhabitant that can be isolated from soil or air. Micrococcus luteus, used to create the yellow color, is also found in soil or air, and is part of the normal flora of the mammalian skin. Xanthomonas axonopodis, used for green, is exclusively pathogenic to a large group of plants, such as citrus trees, cotton, beans, and grapes. Together these microbes grew into a beautiful, fairytale-like painting.

“I'm amazed once again at how creative and talented microbiologists can be. I didn't see any submissions from professional artists this year, or entries fixed and embedded in resin, but there were many new techniques and striking effects,” said contest judge Dennis Bray, Professor at the University of Cambridge.

Notable entries from 2015-2016, as well as this year’s winners and notables will be featured in a digital display at the ASM Microbe meeting, held June 1-5 in New Orleans. 


The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 50,000 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.

To contact for an interview:

Jasmine Temple, Laboratory Technician at 

Linh Ngo, Microbiology Technologist please contact Sybil Millar, Communications AdvisorSunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 416-480-4040, 

Ana Tsitsishvili, Undergraduate Student, 

Dennis Bray, Professor at University of Cambridge and contest judge at 

Last modified on Friday, 19 May 2017 17:01