Biology, School of Science

Microbiology students are used to swabbing on Petri dish surfaces, but why not make a little art out of their science experiments?

Students in the microbiology class taught by Anna McLoon, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, did just that in Siena’s first ever agar art contest. They were challenged to use living microbes to create a mini work of art on an agar plate (a Petri dish that contains a growth medium solidified with agar) used to culture microorganisms.

It wasn’t as easy as grabbing random paints and a brush. Students had to consider the effects of the growth medium, the replication times, and the colony appearances of the strains, and different plating strategies to create their art. Entries were submitted via a photo and write up.

“It was a nice opportunity to be creative, and further understand microbes and how they grow, and to apply what we learn in a new way,” said McLoon. “The students spend so much time working with plates and microbes it was fun for them to see the light side of this type of lab work.”

First prize went to Anastasiya Prigorodova ’21, who knew she wanted to do something floral since it was springtime and she loves creating nature art with paint. Elijah Reece ’21 took second place with his painting of a leopard gecko using three strains of bacteria on an EMB plate. Entries were judged by several of Siena’s Creative Arts and Biology faculty. 

“To make the flowers look realistic, it requires a lot of color and shade layering with paint on a canvas, and I thought to apply that and my knowledge of bacterial growth at different temperature settings to give my bouquet of flowers some dimension—but on an agar plate instead. I absolutely loved the idea of the agar art contest! I think it’s an amazing way to offer a creative—yet still scientific—project in a microbiology course.”

Anastasiya Prigorodova ’21

“I have a pet gecko and I thought it would look cool to bring out the colors of different bacteria to make it look like my pet.” 

Elijah Reece ’21