Telus Spark

Bacterial Art

This year we continued our collaboration with Telus Spark, Calgary’s science centre. We were invited to run an event at their monthly adult night, where adults come to the science centre after hours to participate in science activities. Alongside DIY blood typing and glow in the dark paint, we ran 'Bacterial Art'. Using genetically modified E. coli expressing six different colors of fluorescent protein, participants were able to create their own agar plate masterpieces.

This sparked plenty of conversations about people's perceptions of E. coli. Although many people knew that it could make you sick and that it's often associated with contaminated meat, participants were surprised to know that not all E. coli is pathogenic. They were even more surprised that in our project, we're using non-harmful E. coli in order to build our detector for pathogenic E. coli. Participants were also really interested in the idea of 'glowing bacteria' and the potential applications for it.

It was great to step out of the lab for a bit and see what the general public thinks about E. coli contamination and the potential for our product. After the event, we incubated the 'artwork' overnight and then posted pictures of the plates on the Telus Spark Facebook page so that participants could check out their masterpieces. Below you can see some examples but check out the Facebook page to see them all!