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Announcing ASM's Agar Art 2016 Winners

Thank you to everyone who created a log phase masterpiece, to our esteemed judges, and to everyone who voted for People's Choice on Facebook! We received 117 amazing entries from 26 countries and 17 U.S. states. Special congratulations to our winners! View this year’s winners, as well as winners from last year and other notable 2015 and 2016 entries, in the Agar Art Gallery at Microbe 2016 (June 16-20, 2016). The gallery will be located in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Level 2, Southeast Lobby (near the Westin skybridge) and will be open during meeting hours.


1st Place - The first race

The first race copyFertilization is the first competitive event of plant and animal life. It is a process involving the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote. Millions of spermatozoa race and compete to be the first to penetrate the egg, but only one of them finally meets the egg and creates a zygote leading to the development of an embryo. 

In this artwork, I used four bacteria as paint and a selective agar medium as canvas. The red colored paint was Staphylococcus aureus, which is an opportunistic pathogen in both humans and animals. The green color was Staphylococcus xylosus, a commensal organism in human skin, the white was Staphylococcus hyicus, an animal pathogen responsible for grassy pig disease. The yellow colored organism was Corynebacterium glutamicum, a non-pathogenic but industrially important bacterium for production of amino acids such as L-glutamate and L-lysine. Other colors were from mixture of two or more of these four organisms.

Md Zohorul Islam, DVM
Graduate Student
Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark


2nd Place - This is not a beer!

MMarinaro et alSome Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are referred to as MRSA since they are resistant to methicillin and other antibiotics. These "superbugs" are real threats to human and animal health. Staphylococci possess an enzyme, called catalase, which converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. In particular, the MRSA isolated in our lab was grown on agar and then treated with hydrogen peroxide to produce a foam (i.e., oxygen production). The catalase-positive MRSA was therefore used to evoke a beer through its image.

Our piece of Agar Art took inspiration from the scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski ("The map is not the territory it represents," 1931) and from the surrealist painter René Magritte who drew a pipe with the caption Ceci n'est pas une pipe meaning that the image of the pipe is not a pipe (The Treachery of Images, 1928-1929).

The work presented here stems from a simple catalase reaction; nonetheless it expands Korzybski's and Magritte's work to the bacterial world. It also represents our attempt to reach a synthesis between Science and Abstraction, Metalanguage and Microbiology.

The Agar Art plate was prepared during a Microbiology Class addressed to High School Students from Liceo Enrico Fermi and Liceo Gaetano Salvemini, Bari, Italy.

Mariarosaria Marinaro, PhD
Permanent Researcher
Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy

Erika Grandolfo
Graduate Student
Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria, Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy

Cristiana Catella
Postdoctoral Fellow
Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria, Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy

Livia Bodnar
Graduate Student
Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria, Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy


3rd Place - Twelve Years of Yuck

calendar of pathogensMicrobial pathogens were painted with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli MG1655 on Hektoen enteric agar to yield black and yellow colonies, respectively. Salmonella spp. produce hydrogen sulfide which precipitates thiosulfate and ferric ammonium citrate in plates. E. coli ferments sugars and acidifies the agar, causing the yellow color change. Salmonella spp. and E. coli are enteric pathogens, although they can be a part of normal microflora in some species. Microbes are often in balance with their environment and other pathogens, but to everything there is a season and outbreaks occur every year. We designed a 12-year calendar which represents significant human outbreaks that occurred from 2005-2016. Although pathogenic, some of the depicted organisms can be beneficial for humans. For example, Salmonella spp. have the potential to be used as new treatments for some cancers and E. coli produces vitamins K and B6 in the intestine of mammals. Thus this work represents the delicate balance of microbes, their hosts and the environment.

Elena Gart, DVM, MS
Graduate Student
Texas A&M University, College Station, United States

Laura Bryan, DVM
Graduate Student
Texas A&M University, College Station, United States

Sara V. Little
Graduate Student
Texas A&M University, College Station, United States

Sara Lawhon, DVM, PhD
Associate Professor
Texas A&M University, College Station, United States


People's Choice - Bacterial Shadow of Wolf

DSC 0193Bacteria can produce biofilm formation when they are under threat, like hostile immune system, in order to protect themselves from harmful conditions. When it happens, a differentiation of the gene regulation reflects as a change in behaviour. To this end, individuals must behave not only for their but also the group's benefits. Some members of the company don't make an effort for the construction of biofilm but they still bask protection of it.

This strategy is seen in wolves that hunt together. When the game begins, some wolves are more active to get the prey and take more risks, whereas the others spend less energy, but at the end, all members of the pack share the food.

Barış Halaç, DVM
Graduate Student
Department of Microbiology, Veterinary Faculty, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey

Sevgin Can
Undergraduate Student
Department of Microbiology, Veterinary Faculty, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey


Thank You to Our Judges!

Michele Banks
Watercolor and Collage Artist

Vincent Racaniello
Professor at Columbia University and Host of This Week in Virology (TWiV)

Dennis Bray 
Professor at University of Cambridge 

Sallie (Penny) Chisholm 
Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jamie Henzy
Postdoctoral Fellow and part-time faculty at Boston College, and Associate Blogger at Small Things Considered

Everyone who voted on Facebook



Featured in the
Agar Art Gallery
at Microbe 2016

ASM book
worth up to

Michele Banks'
Art Store credit

1st place ✔️ $200 $85
2nd place ✔️ $150  
3rd place ✔️ $100  
People’s Choice ✔️ $50  

All winners will have 90 days from the date of notification to make their book selection known to ASM Communications by responding to the winner notification e-mail. Selections may only be made from the given list of options. Once received, ASM will process the book order within two weeks. Online store credit for Michele Banks' artwork will be delivered electronically within two weeks to the first place winner's supplied e-mail.

Additional participants whose artwork will be featured in the Microbe 2016 Agar Art Gallery will be notified via e-mail prior to the event.

Questions? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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