SoundBio was delighted to be featured as a Maker for the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) Maker Day event on Saturday, Oct 27, 2018.
This series runs once a month at the Museum of History and Industry, and features a new Maker group each month. We were asked to host our ‘Painting with Bacteria’ activity which is always a crowd favorite.
So, how does it work?
In order to create your own microbial masterpiece, you need special bacteria based ‘paint’ that we grow in the lab. Using a Q-tip, participants dip into a tube of liquid ‘paint’, and gently paint onto an agar-coated petri dish. The agar is food for the bacteria, so after folks finish painting, we incubate the plates overnight to allow the bacteria time to replicate and grow.
The key to this activity is getting the right strain of modified E. coli bacteria (that is safe to handle too!).
So how do these bacteria strains express different colors?
They’ve been altered to include a small, circular piece of DNA called a plasmid. These plasmids have an additional gene inserted in them, and that gene can express a different color or fluorescent protein.
In short, scientists have found the genes responsible for these proteins, isolated them, and have learned how to genetically engineer other organisms (like E.coli) to express these proteins! Amazing, right?
Of course you can find fluorescent proteins in nature too, the most famous being Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), which was first isolated from the jellyfish, Aequorea victoria. Once isolated, this gene proved to be a very useful tool for research scientists. In this case we’re using it for some artistic fun!
Check out our set-up and a few pictures of folks enjoying this event. After the plates grew in the incubator, we snapped another set of images - UV light, and white and black backgrounds (below). The full set were recently shared with the participants and are located HERE.
Finally, we’d like to thank MOHAI and our wonderful volunteers for helping to make this fun, hands-on event possible!
Above are a few fun examples of our participant’s plates after incubation. Very creative!