On a silver platter

For this work, I started with images which I edited to remove information. My idea was to culture the bacteria into the blank spaces and have them complete the images, however this didn’t exactly work as intended, and my images are more abstract than originally intended (see above).

I started by laser-cutting Kapton film and preparing my plates. We used agar inoculated with antibiotics to prevent growth other than the fluorescent E. coli. Despite this, because of the size of my plates, it was a challenge to keep everything sterile. Next time, I would consider using something with a lid that can be autoclaved and kept sterile. After pouring the agar, and allowing it to solidify, I applied the Kapton film to the surface. I made some mistakes with the agar: I forgot to let it solidify before I covered the plates with aluminum foil, so it did not cure flat in some areas. Because of this, my film did not adhere to some of the plates, causing unintended abstraction.

I used E. coli bacteria that was genetically modified to produce Red Fluorescent Proteins, which glow under UV light. After applying the film, we used an ultrasonic fogger to fog the spun down and concentrated bacteria onto the plates. We fogged the plates twice, and over a period of several days, the bacteria grew on some plates better than others.

On the large plate, I intended to use a strain of E. coli from the Out of the Blue CRISPR kit, which turns blue once it breaks down the X-gal. However, I forgot to add X-gal to the media, and there was a small amount of white growth, but not much. Because of this, I thought I may have mixed up which plates should get which bacteria, so I fogged each of the plates with the other bacteria, but I was right the first time.

I also had some weird issues with the plates. Since I had no lids, I used aluminum foil which I autoclaved with the plates in order to keep them sterile. Some of the plates had a reaction with the aluminum foil, causing it to corrode. In the places where it contacted the agar, little bacteria grew. Some of the metal also had a reaction to the agar. In the butter dish, a corner of the plate turned blue, and nothing grew there.

I learned a lot doing this project and I look forward to doing more like this in the future.