Biology Faculty Articles

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education


Agar art, Aseptic technique, Microbiology, Drawing, Interdisciplinary curriculum, Arts and sciences, Teaching collaboration




Evidence-based studies on the benefits of integrating STEM into the arts are limited; however, some suggest that it can lead to improved scientific literacy and new approaches for artistic scholarship. Unfortunately, undergraduate education often creates disciplinary silos where the two are not integrated. Here, we discuss a unique collaboration between professors in the art and biology departments. Our goal was to integrate science into art courses using an agar art activity. We hypothesized that art students could effectively learn microbiology laboratory techniques and use them as novel tools for artistic practice. The activity was integrated into two to four sessions of introductory and advanced art courses over four semesters. After learning aseptic technique to culture bacteria, the students were supplied with a variety of media and bacterial strains and tasked with recreating a famous artist’s drawing or using their own artistic concept. Student learning was assessed using a rubric to evaluate their art and demonstrate that the learning outcomes were met. Improvement in aesthetic, conception, and technical proficiency in handling the bacteria were demonstrated when comparing their first attempt at creating agar art to their second. Advanced art students earned higher scores than introductory students; however, the average scores for all students were “proficient” or above suggesting that the learning outcomes were met. The art was externally evaluated through American Society for Microbiology's (ASM's) Agar Art Contest and each time, at least one of our student artworks was chosen as a finalist for the People’s Choice Award, providing validation of the success of our collaboration.


We acknowledge the Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching Initiatives Committee for providing $300 for guest lecturer funding to support the continuation of this collaboration.



Peer Reviewed



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