If you've kept up with your petri dish art news, you know that bacteria can be manipulated into different shapes with beautiful results. Seeing the potential in this art form, the American Society for Microbiology launched the first ASM Agar Art Contest. Members of the society were invited to use their imagination and "paint" using micro-organisms. There were 85 submissions of unique artworks in total, which were all carefully scrutinized by judges Michele Banks, Jamie Henzy, Vincent Racaniello, Dennis Bray, and Penny Chisholm.
The official winner is "Neurons," created by New England Biolabs' Mehmet Berkmen and artist Maria Penil. Penil chose three types of bacteria, yellow Nesterenkonia, orange Deinococcus, and Sphingomonas, as her "paints," which translated into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The specimens were grown for two days at 30 degrees Celsius before being sealed in epoxy.
The runner up, "NYC Biome MAP," shows a fluorescent view of New York City. Created by community lab educator Christine Marizzi (with help from more than 50 participants), the piece incorporates Escherichia coli K12 bacteria engineered with glowing proteins such as GFP, RFP and YFP. Finally, the second runner up "Harvest Season"—produced by Cold Spring Harbor Labs' Maria Eugenia Inda—uses a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae to depict an idyllic farmhouse scene.
Besides the winners, ASM shared all of the hopefuls for its People's Choice award on Facebook. Entries include Dr. Who's TARDIS and a recreation of Starry Night.
"Neurons" by Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Penil
"NYC Biome MAP" Christine Marizzi
"Wibbly-Wobbly-Timey-Wimey" by Ella R., Northwestern University
“Starry Night” by Melanie Sullivan
"Cell to Cell" by Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Penil
"Harvest Season" by Maria Eugenia Inda