Chancellor’s Honors Program Projects

Honors Thesis Project Title

Painting with Pathogens

Date of Graduation



Biological Sciences

Major 1


Major 2




First Advisor

Alison Buchan


During the pandemic, microbes have been vilified and largely misunderstood. Their biochemical properties cause a multitude of beautiful colors. This thesis is an intersection between microbiology and art that is geared to get others interested in microbiology.

The microbes in these pictures are wide reaching. Some of the colors achieved were done through genetic engineering of E. coli. Many of the bacteria's identities are unknown as I wanted to get many from the environment. However, Staphylococcus, E. coli, and Streptomyces were integral during this thesis. The natural antimicrobial secretions of Streptomyces made some things difficult, but their colors are some of the most vibrant.

There are many up close pictures taken using my personal OMAX microscope. The dyes are from my collection and were sometimes unorthodox to get the coloration desired. There is an image where the bacteria are dividing and is very visible because I was able to dye the DNA blue after many attempts. The biofilms provide the viewer with a wonderful mixture of colors and shows the intricate scaffolding of the species. While most of these microbes are perfectly harmless, there is one picture included that was isolated at UT prior to the pandemic and strict cleaning measures. It is a bright red culture that is most likely part of Neisseria. I identified it using a multitude of biochemical tests and 16S sequencing.

While the world of bacteriology is vast and a part of every aspect of our lives, few are aware of the uncountable lives around us, on us, and in us. The hopes for this artistic collection is to shed light on the world around us.

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