ASM Agar Art Contest 2019

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ASM’s 5th Agar Art Contest will open in September 2019.
Start planning your microbial masterpiece now!



Tutorial: How To Create Agar Art

Step inside the creative process with Agar Art 2015 winners Maria Peñil Cobo, Mixed Media Artist, and Mehmet Berkmen, PhD, Staff Scientist at New England Biolabs. During their multi-year collaboration, Maria and Memo have created astonishing works of art using living microbes. Find out how they meld science and art with this behind-the-scenes how-to video guide.


Previous Winners and Submissions:

PLEASE NOTE that the American Society for Microbiology and/or the artists hold COPYRIGHT for all images submitted to the ASM Agar Art contest. Please contact us if you would like to use them commercially or non-commercially so that we can ensure proper licensing and attribution.


ASM Agar Art 2018

"The battle of winter and spring," 1st Place

1st Place
The battle of winter and spring
Ana Tsitsishvili,
Undergraduate Student, Agricultural University of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia

"My yellow vision!" 2nd Place

2nd Place
My yellow vision!
Bornali Bhattacharjee, Ph.D.,
Ramanujan Fellow, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, India

"Sustenance" 3rd Place

3rd Place
Mehmet Berkmen, Ph.D.,
Senior Scientist, New England Biolabs, Ipswich, MA, United States
Maria Peñil Cobo, Mixed Media Artist, Beverly, MA, United States

"A Salmonellosis Odyssey" People's Choice

People's Choice
A Salmonellosis Odyssey
María Laura Echarren,

Ph.D. Student, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Rosario, Rosario, Argentina



2018 ASM Agar Art Maker logo
Pieces submitted to Agar Art Maker were created by people 13 and older who participated in public Agar Art workshops hosted by 10 community labs across the U.S. that partnered with ASM.

"Serratia octopus," 1st Place

1st Place
Serratia octopus
Tiare Ribeaux
Patrik D'haeseleer

Created at Counter Culture Labs, Oakland, CA.

"The Sitting President," 2nd Place

2nd Place
The Sitting President
Daniel Pham

Created at Baltimore Underground Science Space, Baltimore, MD.

"A Bumble Bee, Bacteria, and Mold: Could this be art in the making?," 3rd Place

3rd Place
A Bumble Bee, Bacteria, and Mold: Could this be art in the making?
Allison Granberry

Created at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.



2018 ASM Agar Art Kids logo
Pieces submitted to Agar Art Kids were created by people 12 and younger who participated in public Agar Art workshops hosted by 10 community labs across the U.S. that partnered with ASM.

"The Magnificent Butterfly," 1st Place

1st Place
The Magnificent Butterfly
Kate Lin

Age 10
Created at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

"Blue Tulip," 2nd Place

2nd Place
Blue Tulip
Simran Bhattacharya

Age 11
Created at TheLab, Inc., Los Angeles, CA.

"Ocean and windy breeze," 3rd Place

3rd Place
Ocean and windy breeze
Alice Laun

Age 5
Created at Baltimore Underground Science Space, Baltimore, MD.


ASM Agar Art 2015 - 2017


Facebook Galleries of Finalists

Agar Art 2018 Finalists

Agart Art 2017 Finalists (1 of 3) (2 of 3) (3 of 3)

Agar Art 2016 Finalists

Agar Art 2015 Entries


Submission Rules:

  1. Submissions should be:
    • high-quality photos (at least 8" x 10" at 300 ppi) of pieces that are, at their core, one or more microorganisms growing on agar. However, you may use any organism(s), with any type(s) of agar, on any size or shape petri dish.
    • digitally untouched. No digital or artificial enhancements or manipulations (e.g., false coloring) are permitted.
    • new and original, not seen/posted on the internet before or previously published or displayed elsewhere.
    • accompanied by a description that captures key features of the piece in language appropriate for a general audience. Note that the description is included in the judging criteria!
  2. Pieces must be 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.
  3. Each submission may have up to five credited artists (submitter + four participants).
  4. Each submitter may submit a maximum of two pieces. Pieces for which you are listed as a participant, but are not the submitter, do not count toward this maximum.
  5. Submitters must be at least 18 years old. Minors must have an adult who is, or has permission from, the appropriate legal guardian submit on their behalf. ASM is not responsible for obtaining permission or verifying that it has been obtained.
  6. Submitters must be either:
    • current American Society for Microbiology members with a valid ASM member number. If you are not currently a member, you may join or renew at prior to submitting your work.
    • OR participants in an affiliated, public Agar Art workshop hosted by an official ASM Agar Art Partner organization. To submit via this route, you will need the the partner organization's submission code.


Eligibility and prizes:

1st place
2nd place
3rd place
People's Choice
Agar Art logo 2018
Amer. Society for Microbiology Members 
$200 Amazon gift card + $200 ASM credit
$150 Amazon gift card + $150 ASM credit
$100 Amazon gift card + $100 ASM credit
$50 Amazon gift card + $50 ASM credit
Agar Art Maker Segment Logo
Public > 12 Years Old 
$200 Amazon gift card + ASM T-shirt
$150 Amazon gift card + ASM T-shirt
$100 Amazon gift card + ASM T-shirt
Agar Art Kids logo
 Public ≤ 12 Years Old
$200 Amazon gift card + GIANTMicrobe
$150 Amazon gift card + GIANTMicrobe
$100 Amazon gift card + GIANTMicrobe


  • All winners will also be featured in the Agar Art Gallery in the exhibit hall at the ASM Microbe 2018 conference (June 7-11, 2018 in Atlanta, GA).


Judging Process:

  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners will be chosen by our judges based on the following:

    • creativity/originality in technique, organism(s) used, and agar(s) used
    • overall artistry of design
    • presentation
    • scientific accuracy of description
    • appropriateness/accessibility of description for a general audience
  • The People’s Choice winner will be selected based on the number of 'likes' obtained after being posted to ASM’s Facebook page.

Judges include:

  • Michele Banks, Watercolor and Collage Artist
  • Jef Boeke, PhD, Professor, New York University
  • Dennis Bray, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of Cambridge
  • Scott Chimileski, PhD, Research Fellow, Harvard University
  • Peggy Cotter, PhD, Professor, University of North Carolina
  • Tim Donohue, PhD, UW Foundation Chairman Fetzer-Bascom Professor, University of Wisconsin
  • Jamie Henzy, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Boston College
  • Mark O. Martin, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Puget Sound
  • Vincent Racaniello, PhD, Higgins Professor, Columbia University
  • Susan Sharp, PhD, Scientific Director, Copan Diagnostics USA
  • Natalie Stringer, PhD, Associate Professor, Montgomery College, Germantown
  • Tasha Sturm, Laboratory Technician, Cabrillo College
  • Jasmine Temple, Assistant Research Technician, New York University
  • Marylynn V. Yates, PhD, Professor, University of California, Riverside


Winner Notification:

Winners will be announced on the ASM homepage, through ASM social media channels, and through direct email to all submitters.


Partner Organizations:

We are happy to announce that the following organizations are official ASM Agar Art partners for 2018. Each organization will be holding at least one (and up to eight!) public workshop where non-ASM members can create living masterpieces and submit them to the ASM Agar Art 2018 contest. Sign up for a workshop in your area, all times are local.

NOTE: Partner workshops are intended for non-scientists. If you are an undergraduate microbiology student or a working microbiologist, please join ASM and enter as a member.

Baltimore Underground Science Space Homepage

BosLab Homepage

Capital Area BioSpace Homepage


Counter Culture Labs Homepage

Denver Biolabs Homepage

CSHL DNA Learning Center Homepage


FamiLAB Homepage

Genspace Homepage

TheLab Homepage


School of Visual Arts, New York City Bio Art Laboratory Homepage


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.

Two 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 2018 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 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