Bacterial art

Together with a local artist Maria Peñil Cobo, the Berkmen Lab has been making art from living bacteria since 2011. The core mission is to bridge the gap between Arts and Sciences, and between Humans and Microbes. Using living art made from microbes, we have engaged local schools in STEAM events, organized workshops at universities, presented our work in international conferences and presented our work in galleries. We have established many collaborations and always look for opportunities to engage the public. For more information, visit

This bacterial agar art was made from two petri dishes representing the microbial communication between the mother and the child within her womb, connected by a red string. Microbes were isolated from the artist Maria Peñil Cobo, by pressing an agar plate on to her breast. Unidentified pink colonies isolated around the nipple area were used to draw the pink hues around the membrane glands, while recombinant E. coli expressing the violacein biosynthetic pathway were used to draw the dark-violet mammary glands. The yellow hues are Nesterenkonia, the orange placenta is Deinococcus radiodurans while the red embryo and the red nipple is Serratia marcenses. Intriguingly, the white Bacillus at the edges of womb were isolated from the hand of the 1-year-old daughter of the artist, continuing the microbial connection between the mother and the child.

Banner at the top of main page: Credit to Maria Peñil Cobo, Yellow bacteria isolated from the lips of the artist were applied to make an image of antibodies on a petri dish and allowed to grow. Copper wires were added after growth to represent protein alpha-helices and beta-strands. This image was inspired by the artist working in the laboratory of Dr. Berkmen while the lab members were working on the production of IgG in the SHuffle strains.