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Proving that there’s pretty much a contest for just about anything these days, the American Society for Microbes (proof that there’s pretty much an organization for just about anything these days) launched an inaugural Agar Art contest, inviting its members to create works of art using petri dishes as their canvas and cultivated microbes as their artistic weapon of choice.

Microbes as art is an idea only a group of scientists could cook up, but at least they managed to showcase the innate beauty in these microscopic organisms through the help of the handy petri dish. This is just yet another example of the PR spin campaign of bacteria, trying to convince the masses that there does exist in the world good, harmless bacteria that so often gets overlooked by the ingrained impression of deadly bacteria.

Touching may not be the best idea, but gazing at these bacterial works of art is quite a sight to behold. There were 85 submissions in the first-ever Agar Art contest, and pieces were judged based on their creativity, design and overall presentation, as well as a written description meant to convey scientific accuracy and understanding for a general audience.

First prize went to a piece called “Neurons,” no doubt doubling over on the science to appeal to judges’ sensibilities. To the common eye, though, it still looks like a beautiful coral reef, albeit one made from bacteria.


Runner-up was the “NYC Biome Map,” a thematic take on the melting pot of the country’s most populated, and arguably most germ-ridden city. It captures the ghoulish beauty of the city by reminding everyone of just how filthy it actually is.


There was even a people’s choice prize, because of course there are those out there who are fanatically rabid about microbe-based art. Garnering an impressive 3,500 likes on the Facebook album for the contest’s submissions, “Cell to Cell” was elected the best representation of bacterial art by the people. This piece was also created by the group who won the contest’s top prize, proving that the every day commoner has an eye for microbial art just the same as professional judges do.

Cell to Cell

Check out all the winners and submission for the Agar Art contest here.

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