SHENYANG, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- In small Petri dishes, colorful bacteria are arranged artfully, forming shapes of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
These are works from a microbial art design contest held recently at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
More than 170 students signed up for the competition and created more than 100 pieces of work with bacteria they cultured. Content includes people, animals, cartoon characters and world-famous paintings.
"It's where science meets art," said Zhang Yixuan, deputy dean of the biological science and bio-medicine college in the university. "Microbial art originated in the United States; painters not only need to have basic laboratory skills but also knowledge about art."
"Patience creates miracles in microbial painting," said Wang Shuang, a contestant and student at the university.
To create a work, Wang has to sterilize the lab equipment, extract bacteria from soil, select bacteria that can create the right colors and culture the bacteria.
The process usually takes a month, and be kept in a strictly sanitized environment as any bacteria from the external environment can compromise the whole work.
"The process is laborious but also fun," Wang said. "As we culture the bacteria in the dish, we can witness the process of bacteria growing into colorful dots."
Wang uses a slim bamboo stick to select the color he wants to paint on another dish.
"The selection is very complicated and demanding. If the bacteria selected is not pure enough, it will grow into different colors in the other dish, thus damaging the work," Wang said.
His painting will be completed after culturing the selected bacteria for three to five days.
Wang said he and his fellow contestants extracted the harmless bacteria from the soil they collected from the roots of Chinese herbs growing on a local mountain during their summer vacation.
"The contest combines professional knowledge with colorful activities," said Zhang, the dean. "We expect it to encourage the students to innovate and enrich their lives."