ASM Agar Art Contest: 2017 Winners

In 2017, we opened the contest to non-ASM members for the first time, and did they ever respond! We received 308 submissions, more than double our previous record high, from participants in 38 different countries.

After viewing and reading about the winning entries below, check out all the finalists in our Facebook albums; we received so many entries, it took 3 albums to include them all!

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First Place

Agar Art, 'Sunset at the End'

"Sunset at the End"

Second Place

Agar Art, 'Sunset at the End'

"Finding Pneumo: Starring Klebsiella Pneumoniae"

Third Place

Agar Art, 'Dancing Microbes'

"Dancing Microbes"

People's Choice

Agar Art, 'Portrait of G.M. Warke'

"Potrait of Honorable Dr. G. M. Warke"

First Place: 'Sunset at the End'

Agar Art, 'Sunset at the End'

This image of a sunset in Montauk (The End), New York, was created by "printing" nanodroplets of media containing baker's yeast with pigment-encoding plasmids (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) onto a large agar plate (12cm by 8cm). Each dot is a separate yeast colony. The image is printed pixel by pixel, generating a composite image which we term "biopointillism." The colonies grow to create the image and the pigments slowly develop over days or weeks. The different colored yeast strains were constructed by genetically engineering the yeast to produce pigments naturally made by bacteria, fungi, coral and anemones. This method allows for up to 24,576 biopixels per image, yielding intricate designs and details. Using genes from other organisms to make biological compounds paves the way toward harnessing yeast in the production of other useful molecules, from food to fuels and drugs.

"Sunset at the End"
By Jasmine Temple, Laboratory Technician; Jef Boeke; Michael Shen; Leslie Mitchell; New York University Lagone Medical Center, Institute for Systems Genetics, New York, N.Y.

Second Place: 'Finding Pneumo: Starring Klebsiella Pneumoniae'

Agar Art, 'Finding Pneumo'

Coral reefs are underwater ecosystems that host an array of organisms. A diversity of bacterial communities can be found in corals, but trying to identify these bacteria have been hampered due to their large numbers. These bacteria help the coral by providing nutrients and producing antimicrobial agents against infections caused by potential pathogens.

We chose CLED agar as our canvas to mimic water. Serratia marcescens was used for our purple sea fans and Caulerpa. S. marcescens is not only an opportunistic pathogen in humans, but also causes "white pox" in Elkhorn coral. Staphylococcus aureus was used for our brain coral, a pathogen that causes a wide range of infections (e.g., abscesses, endocarditis) and can be found in contaminated water. The white coral are Candida tropicalis that illustrate coral bleaching that has become more prevalent due to climate change.

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a commonly isolated pathogen in healthy and immunocompromised hosts but ubiquitous in the environment. Plasmids carrying multi-drug resistance genes, and hypervirulent strains causing serious, life-threatening infections are being increasingly recognized. Within this picture there is a mucoid bacilli that is strategically placed within one of the plates. Can you find it?

"Finding Pneumo: Starring Klebsiella Pneumoniae"
By Andrew Simor, Linh Ngo, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada.

Third Place: 'Dancing Microbes'

Agar Art, 'Dancing Microbes'

For this painting I used microbes and fungi on Brain-Heart infusion agar. The white color, which is on the face and the dress of the girl and the boy, is Staphylococcus epidermidis. It is a part of the normal human flora, typically, the skin flora, I isolated them from my own skin. The pink color of the girl's dress and the tree flowers is made of the Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, it's a common environmental inhabitant. It can be isolated from soil, milk, and air samples. I have got it from air. Rhodotorula can cause disease in immunosuppressed people. The yellow color of the lady's hair is Micrococcus luteus, it is urease and catalase positive. An obligate aerobic microbe, M. luteus is found in soil, water, air and as part of the normal flora of the mammalian skin. The green is Xanthomonas axonopodis. Xanthomonas are exclusively pathogenic to a large group of plants, such as citrus trees, cotton, beans, and grapes. I got the other colors by doing the following: first of all I put Rhodotorula mucilaginosa on a petri dish and waited until it grew. Then I added Micrococcus luteus and in the end, Staphylococcus epidermidis, since it grows faster than other microbes and fungi.

"Dancing Microbes"
By Ana Tsitsishvili, Undergraduate Student, Agricultural University of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia.

People's Choice: 'Potrait of Hon. Dr. G. M. Warke, CEO & Founder of HiMedia Labs. Pvt. Ltd., INDIA'

Agar Art, Portrait of G.M.Warke'

We have used chromogenic media (HiCrome M1353). The Streptococcus faecalis breaks down the chromogenic substrate, specifically, and the blue-colored chromophore is liberated. This blue color is imparted to the colony and slightly diffuses. This creates a shade of blue on the light-colored background of the medium, the colonies are very distinctly visible.

"Potrait of Hon. Dr. G. M. Warke, CEO & Founder of HiMedia Labs. Pvt. Ltd., INDIA"
By Girish Mahajan, Vice President, Yogita Pankaj Phalke, HiMedia Laboratories Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.