Public Engagement Events Return at ASM Microbe 2022

Dec. 11, 2022

ASM Microbe 2022 represented our return to the in-person conference format for the first time since 2019. Given this delay—along with the fact that the meeting was being held in our hometown of Washington D.C.—we decided to go all-out with a full plate of live public events. We even got National Public Radio to stop by!

A Chance to “Meet the Microbes”

People lined up around a table.
Attendees participating in hands-on microbiology activities during "Meet the Microbes."
Source: American Society for Microbiology
Held at the Petworth branch of the D.C. Public Library on June 8, 2022, “Meet the Microbes” featured family-friendly, hands-on science art activities. ASM member Tasha Sturm and her family of volunteers gave the more than 3 dozen attendees the chance to make their own agar art hand prints, using pre-poured plates provided by our partners at Hardy Diagnostics.

Attendees also participated in an agar art drawing station, presented by our partners at Edvotek. Local ASM volunteers helped participants use fluorescent bacteria and pre-made designs to create brand new works of art.

“We were excited to collaborate with ASM to host an Agar Art workshop in our hometown of Washington, D.C.,” said Edvotek Senior Director of Education Danielle Snowflack, Ph.D. “It wasn't just about sharing knowledge with our community, it was about igniting curiosity and inspiring the next generation of minds to explore the wonders of the microbial world.”

“Keep Moving with Microbes”—The Intersection of Art, Science, Agriculture and Society

On June 10, 2022, ASM partnered with our colleagues at Dance Exchange (DX) to host “Keep Moving with Microbes,” a Moving Farm Tour at EcoCity Farms in Bladensburg, Md. The collaboration was part of the DX “Future Fields” project that uses dance and movement to explore the intersection of climate change, agriculture and society.

A group of people dancing underneath trees
Dance Exchange performers welcome attendees to "Keep Moving With Microbes."
Source: American Society for Microbiology
The event began with a dance performance by DX dancers, followed by an interactive discussion amongst participants held in a large circle. Attendees then split into 2 groups to take part in separate activities. In one, dancers and farm staff led attendees through a hands-on exploration of the process of dirt production used on the farm. In the other, attendees were led through a series of interactive movements that incorporated the farm space and products. Finally, the group came back together and shared what they had learned.

“It's so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities in the lab and forget the greater world around us,” recalled one attendee. Others were similarly effusive in their praise for the event. “‘Keep Moving with Microbes’ was a great way to see different avenues for being with and feeling different ideas,” said another attendee. “I like how a simple introduction of dances made the event more creative,” added yet another. “It was actually my first time seeing such integration.”

Experience the Art of Science

A group of people standing with artwork
From left: artists Sarah Adkins-Jablonsky, Christine Marizzi, Memo Berkmen.
Wrapping up the public event schedule was “Agar Art on Display,” a live art exhibit held on June 12, 2022. After 7 years of running our world-renowned Agar Art contest, ASM has accumulated thousands of amazing images that have sadly only lived in digital form. This event was a novel opportunity to showcase a small fraction of this artwork in physical form.

More than 100 people attended “Agar Art on Display,” which featured informal discussions and a moderated Q&A with several Agar Artists. “It was great meeting other ‘Bacartists’!” exclaimed Mehmet Berkmen, Ph.D., who was on hand to showcase his work, “Sustenance.”

Based on the overwhelmingly positive reception from attendees and artists, “Agar Art on Display” will surely serve as inspiration for future live Agar Art exhibits.

“Agar Art on Display” featured the following artwork:
*Artist attended “Agar Art on Display” event.

Author: Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.

Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.
Geoff Hunt, Ph.D., is the Public Outreach Program Officer at the American Society for Microbiology.