Gram Negative Clay

Title: Gram Positive Clay

Artist: Michael Kaden-Hoffmann

Media: Polymer Clay

Scientific Concept: One major way the bacteria are categorizes is by how they react to a gram stain. The two categories resulting from a gram stain are pink gram-negative bacteria and purple gram-positive bacteria. The reason for this color difference is difference in the make up and thickness of the cell wall of the bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria have a thick layer of peptidoglycan that surrounds the cell membrane and traps the purple, crystal violet stain in the cell. Gram negatives have lipopolysaccharide layer and a much smaller peptidoglycan layer surrounding the cell membrane and thus the crystal violet stain is washed out and only shows the pink safranin stain remains.

Artist Concept: I want to create a piece that showed what a gram-positive bacteria looks like up close as that was the type of bacteria that I had for my term project. So to do this, I made half a coccus gram-positive cell out of clay. In the middle I made the cytoplasm purple to show the stain. In the cytoplasm I included ribosomes, a plasmid, and supercoiled circular DNA. Surrounding the cytoplasm I made the lipid bilayer with membrane proteins. Around the bilayer I made the thick peptidoglycan layer with teichoic acid that gives it its negative charge as well as a few proteins. In a normal cell there is some space between the cell membrane and the peptidoglycan layer, however I was not able to incorporate that. Other then that and the size the only other inconsistence with real bacteria is that my peptidoglycan layer is thinner then the real one, and the reason for this was that I ran out of clay. Banana (made by nature) for scale.

Abandoned Toxic Pit Might Have Next Antibiotic

Article Title:  Fungal duo isolated from toxic lake produce novel antibiotic

Source:  C&En

Date: 4-19-17


Summary: In Montana there is an abandoned mining pit called  Berkeley Pit. Since it was abandoned in 1983 water has leaked in and make it into a toxic pool with a pH of 2.5. It is so toxic that thousands of snow geese died last winter after they landed in it. However microbes love the pit. Two scientist from the University of Montana Andrea A. Stierleand  and Donald B. Sterile who have been studying the fungus in the lake have found that two  Penicillium fungus together make a new antibiotic. The antibiotic isn’t really a super new shape but it seems to act differently from know antibiotics.

Connection:  Antibiotics we learned we discovered  from a penicillin fungus by Alexander Fleming, so I thought it was really cool that we still find antibacterials like that. Could it be that fungus are adapting their antibacterials to fight resistant bacteria? This article also connects to the section on what bacteria use as energy sources, as finding life in an inhospitable place like an abandoned mining pit with pH2.5 is incredible and show how microbes can adapt to use almost anything.

Critical Analysis:  The article doesn’t give much on the antibacterial agent it’s self, however it does provide us with a picture of the its chemical structure and a link to the article that the scientists published. The purpose of the post must have been to inform the public of a new discovery in science and I think it does this very well. How the article starts by describing the location of the discovery really draws readers and helps the mission of the article.

Question:  We have learned a bit about how bacteria survive in inhospitable places like this pit, but how do fungus do it? How do fungus deal with low pH and high concentrations of heavy metals? Also what do the fungus use as an energy source?

Deadly Antifungal Resistant Fungus

Article Title: Catastrophic threat’: CDC chief fears a deadly superbug’s spread

Source:  STAT

Date: 4-21-17


Summary: The CDC is very busy these day with antibiotic resistant microbes and various outbreaks, but there are other deadly lesser known microbes  spreading about in hospitals too. This article reports on one of the CDC’s most recent foes, the fungus  Candida auras. This fungus is very deadly to humans, resistant to many antifungals,  and like to infect people who are already injured. Where does it live? Hospitals. Just one more thing the CDC has to deal with while their budget is getting slashed by the president to make room for more military spending.

Connection:  This article made me think of the chapters on controlling microbial growth. Bacteria due to their many differences from  Eukaryote have lots of targets for antibacterial medications. However fungus are  Eukaryote and thus such harder to fight. Since this fungus is already resistant to many of our antifungal medications it is really scary. Our only hope might  good disinfectants to keep hospitals clean.

Critical Analysis:  The articles topic,  Candida auras is very interesting. When most people think of antimicrobial resistant microbes they only think of bacteria. However, fungus can also be resistant to antimicrobial agents. The article doesn’t really provide to much information on the fungus sadly. However I think its purpose was just to raise awareness.

Question:  I would love to know a little bit more about this fungus and how it has resistance to things. How do fungus fight antifungal medication?

Microbes Deep Down

Article Title:  Deepest Life on Earth May Be Lurking 6 Miles Beneath Ocean Floor

Source: LiveScience

Date: 4-11-17


Summary: This article the results of some research which looked into rocks spewed out of undersea volcanoes. The rocks are estimated to have come from a depth of ten thousand meter below the sea floor. In the rocks the researchers found chemical makers of microbes, such a complex carbon compounds.  While, no living microbes were found it could indicate that microbial life might extend to new unexpected depths in the Earth.

Connection: This article reminds me of the principle of ubiquity of microbes which states that microbes are found everywhere. Finding microbe that far under the surface of the earth defiantly supports that theory.

Critical Analysis: I found the article very interesting as I didn’t think that there was much life  that far below the surface of the Earth. However, it is worth noting that this research didn’t prove that the organic traces were from bacteria as the Earth’s crust does move and thus I could see other ways that organic matter could have gotten to those depths. Also I am wondering how they kept their samples from getting contaminated.

Question: If there are microbes at depths of ten thousand meters, what do they use as and energy, and carbon source? What sort of lifestyle do they have?

Painting with microbes

I had real trouble deciding on what to paint on with my microbes. You could say I had painters block. It wasn’t till I was pulling up to lab that I was inspired. I decided to paint stop signs to represent microbes telling us to stop underestimating them.

The first picture is the MacConkey agar plate. For this one I wanted to make a stop sign with  white  edges and letters. To contrast this I wanted to make the middle red. To do this I used the acidic lactose product  producing bacteria Citrobacter freundii  to lower the pH of the middle causing the agar to turn pink. For the white I used  Proteus mirabilis  an ammonia producing bacteria to raise the pH and turn the plate yellow-whitish. Both of these bacteria had to be gram negative since the agar selects for gram negatives.

The second picture is of the eosin methylene blue agar (EMB), which also selects for gram negatives, as well as turning lactose digesting bacteria black or dark red. For this picture I just wanted to make a stop sign with black letters and boarders, using the red agar plate to fill in the red in the middle. The bacteria I used was the  Citrobacter freundii, as it digests lactose and is gram negative.

The last picture is of the TSA plate where I used the red bacteria  Serratai marcescens  to  draw the boarder and letters. I miss judged the size of my letters and the P didn’t really fit.

Microbial Worlds Extra Credit

  1. Microbes 1, 2, and 3 by Charotte Bird

Microbes 1, 2, and 3 is a collection of three quilts that show, according to the description, groups of microbes collected in water samples from lakes and streams in the tundra. The first quilt shows a chain of streptobacilli, cocci with three flagella, and some kind of protist. I personally found this first quilt very aesthetically pleasing because of how the black of the microbes contrasted with the white background representing the slide. This piece does a great job of highlights the different shapes that microbes come in. Also the microbes continue on the quilt outside of the slide perhaps symbolizing that they are found everywhere. The microbes on the quilt appear to made scientifically accurate and look like the ones I have seen under a microscope, except bigger. Overall this piece successfully embodies the concept of microbes as seen under a slide and is very visually pleasing as well.


  1. Transmission of information by Jennifer Moss

Transmission of information is a vinyl disk with a smaller aluminum disk in the middle. Printed on the aluminum disk is the picture of two bacterial colonies overlaid with the four hand shadows. In the description it says that the bacterial colonies were grown from a hand swab. I really like this because it is showing something that we often don’t think about, yet is really important; our microbiome. We are covered in bacteria and they are very important to our health, yet until recently our interactions with our microbiome were very well studied. This piece quite beautiful both visually and conceptually, but I personally would have found it more attractive had it displayed the diversity of bacteria that are on our hands rather then showing just one species.


  1. Deceptive Beauty by Ree Nancarrow

This piece is a quilt that depicts a person penetrating a bubble in the ice of a permafrost lake and lighting the escaping gas on fire. In our lecture on Archaea we learned that there is a large phyla of Archaea called methanogens who live in anaerobic environments and produce methane. This methane production is a byproduct from the use of various methyl substrates as an electron acceptor. This form of metabolism doesn’t produce a lot of energy, but it favorable for these Archaea since the environments they live in are very limited in nutrients. These methanogens are found in huge quantities at the bottom of Alaska’s permafrost lakes and create the methane bubble shown in the art.


  1. If I were an artist in this project simulate the three dimensionality and diversity of microbes. Most people don’t think of microbes be diverse in structure, shape and color, thinking that all microbes look similar to coli. Thus I would create different types of microbes out of clays and then incase them into epoxy resin bubbles, so that people could see the diversity of microbe shapes.