This year's institute's Christmas greeting was completed in a microbial art workshop supervised by associate professor of microbiology Triinu Visnapuu, where both the institute's employees and students took part.
The idea for such greeting evolved from this year's Scientists' Night, where the microbial art workshop proved to be very popular.
What is microbial art?
Microbial art is not about looking microbes under the microscope and later drawing the microbes what you saw but it is artwork created by culturing microorganisms in certain patterns, called also agar art or germ art.
Drawing with microbes was a first-time experience for several participants in the workshop, although all students and some employees had already encountered working with microbes and culture cups.
The workshop began with an overview of microbial art, practical tips about drawing with microbes and safety regulations. After that the participants started with their works of art. Everybody completed at least two pieces of germ art.
Pigmented microbes, or the palette of colors, had been chosen and prepared by supervisor Triinu according to the Christmas theme. Preparing the palette is a precise work as the microbes should be safe for users, fast and simple growers and they should suite to grow side by side with each other on one dish. In addition, the more colorful and interesting the microbes look after growing up, the better.
Microbes are applied to the Petri dish, where the agar medium has been applied, with a "brush" or "pen" of different thicknesses, i.e. an inoculated loop.
Sterile wooden sticks are also suitable as seeding tools as they enable to make fine lines and details. At the same time, you have to pay attention not to press too hard on the delicate cup.
The microbial art is characterized by what The Little Prince said "...what is essential is invisible to the eye." (A. de Saint-Exupéry)
What makes microbial art interesting is that the work of art is not immediately visible to the eye. The microbial material taken from the color palette is practically invisible, no matter what color it grows up to be and who it represents.
The result of the artwork can only be seen after three or four days, when the microbes have grown nicely on the cup.
Unlike real paint, you need to take quite a bit of paint, or material, because the microbial cells continue to grow or multiply on the cup and become visible to the eye as they grow.
Microbial art should be done in clean conditions and accurately, keeping in mind both the success of the work and the safety of the performer.
The artist wears rubber gloves, each pigment is applied to the cup with a new brush, during pauses the palette and the cup should be covered with the lid to avoid contamination from the air. After the work is completed, the dish is covered with the lid, used materials are packed to waste bags, hands are washed and surfaces cleaned.
And then the waiting becomes... to see the result of your piece of art.
The photos of the dishes with microbial art were taken by Sulev Kuuse.
The supporters of the workshop:
Estonian Society for Microbiology
Microbial Collection CELMS