CULTURE & ARTS
10/20/2015 09:38 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2015

A Microbiologist Recreated 'Starry Night' With Bacteria In A Petri Dish

And it's not too shabby.
by Melanie Sullivan of Missouri
Agar Art
by Melanie Sullivan of Missouri

If only Vincent van Gogh could have lived to see this strikingly accurate reproduction of his iconic "Starry Night" -- especially since, instead of oil on canvas, the work is a bacteria on petri. Because even with these most minute of materials, the night sky still swirls with a palpable momentum of wind, fog and moonlight.

The work of science-savvy art is the product of Melanie Sullivan, a microbiologist who submitted her microscopic masterpiece to the American Society for Microbiology's first Agar Art contest. The competition invited microbiologists to get in touch with their cultural sides in more ways than one, exploring the infectious beauty of infectious bacteria. 

The multitalented scientists used proteins, yeast and good ol' fashioned bacteria to create visions of flowers, skeletons, butterflies -- even a map of New York City. Check out all of the stunning submissions here, and see the winning works below. 

First place: Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Penil, “Neurons,” composed of Nesterenkonia, Deinococcus and Sphingomonas bacteria.

Agar Art

Second place: Crowdsourced, “NYC Biome Map,” composed of multiple petri dishes of bacteria modified with fluorescent protein under UV light.

Agar Art

Third place: Maria Eugenia Inda, “Harvest Season,” composed of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast.

Agar Art

People’s Choice: Maria Penil, “Cell to Cell,” composed of Seinococcus and Sphingomonas bacteria

Agar Art

And here are some of the other worthy submissions: 

  • "Flowering Sunshine" by Manal Hamed of Qatar.
    Agar Art
    "Flowering Sunshine" by Manal Hamed of Qatar.
  • "Bifidobacteria micro-flower" by Nuria Castro.
    Agar Art
    "Bifidobacteria micro-flower" by Nuria Castro.
  • "Yeast go viral" by Paul Rowley of Colorado.<u></u><u></u>
    Agar Art
    "Yeast go viral" by Paul Rowley of Colorado.
  • "The wild garden of the gut bacteria" by Nicola Fawcett of England.
    Agar Art
    "The wild garden of the gut bacteria" by Nicola Fawcett of England.

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