Community Engagement


We enjoy playing in the fertile ground between art and science by using our bacterial strains to produce living images and bio-based paint!

Streptomyces bacteria produce a wide range of vibrantly-colored molecules. As a result, scientists and artists alike can “paint” a variety of bacterial strains onto petri dishes, implementing the hues of natural products to create unique patterns, pictures, and works of art.

We have developed BioArt experiments to introduce groups underrepresented in the sciences to the fundamental beauty of chemistry and biology. We currently collaborate with MAST (school children from underrepresented backgrounds) and the Center for Creative Works (adults with learning and developmental disabilities) to spread the joy of scientific inquiry.

By utilizing a “symbiotic outreach” model, we are able to foster a deep connection between trained and untrained scientists. Science, which can be exclusive and problematic in nature, can become accessible for all groups regardless of abilities, background, or prior experience. This melding of art and science reveals the beauty of experimentation, opening minds to the endless possibilities of non-traditional collaboration.

Although laboratory rules may be broken, curiosity reigns!

In the near future, we aim to expand and improve upon our Bio-Art program to further benefit the surrounding Philadelphia area and, hopefully, beyond.

Related Publications

[1] Lopes LE, Waldis SJ, Terrell SM, Lindgren KA, Charkoudian LK (2018). Vibrant symbiosis: Achieving reciprocal science outreach through biological art. PLoS Biol 16(11): e3000061.

[2] Charkoudian LK, Fitzgerald JT, Khosla C, Champlin A (2010). In Living Color: Bacterial Pigments as an Untapped Resource in the Classroom and Beyond. PLoS Biol 8(10): e1000510.

Related Media Coverage

Haverblog: “COOL CLASSES: “Critical Disability Studies: Theory and Practice””

“These Artists with Disabilities and College Students Collab’d to Make BioArt”

“Doing Science With Artists Has Made Me a Better Scientist”

Pamphlet, “Symbiosis: Art, Science, and Community”

Resources for Human Development Article on “Symbiosis”

MAST: Mentoring and Student Teaching