Friday, December 21, 2012

Have A Happy Microbial Holiday Season!

As I begin to assess last semester's Microbiology course (and continue to grade final exams and independent project reports), it might be a good idea to reflect upon the coming holiday season...and (of course) relate it to my beloved microbiology!

There have been many "holiday themed" microbiological images and themes on the Internet of late, including Giant Microbes, poems, cookies, and a nice report from 2008 of microbes within and helping to form snowflakes.  Even these beautiful "frost flowers" have at their core the Small Masters that rule our macroscopic world.

Source:  National Geographic link above
As I cruise across the Internet this time of year, I have seen other holiday themed Microbial Goodness™, including this fungal Christmas Tree.

Source at the link
The cell biologists and microscopists become very creative this time of year (the Holiday Cheer / Ethanol Extractions?), and make things like this lovely "microbial wreath" using fluorescent dyes and optical manipulation (the extremely skilled Donna Stolz of the University of Pittsburg put this beauty together!).

Source at the link above
And on FaceBook, I have seen some "homegrown" attempts to bring the holiday spirit to the research lab, as can be seen below (and yes, I am very jealous my own research students didn't make these!).

Folks in this lab were certainly "handy"!

I guess this is a "Tipmas" tree?

But here in my home, my long suffering wife and children allow there to be a Microbial Tree (and yes, I have it up year round, though the bioluminescence doesn't last very long!):

Some of the ornaments are indeed "painted" with bioluminescent bacteria.  But in the light, you can see several items of interest.

There is a bacteriophage "top" to the Microbial Tree (courtesy of Giant Microbes).

And a closeup shows more Giant Microbes goodness, along with Michele Banks' (artologica on Etsy) wonderful microbially-inspired ornaments.

Yes, I am obsessed.  But I simply blame it on my microbiota which are clearly manipulating my behavior (or so I say whenever asked).

But it isn't just me.  Last year, my talented and extraordinarily patient wife Jennifer Quinn pulled out all the stops.  Based on a series of photographs I took of the "Luxmas Tree" with different light levels, she created a "movie" for you to enjoy.

Click here for the movie.

In the next couple of weeks, I will post more about my Microbiology course last semester (I still need to write about their independent projects, and the last day of class), my Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology course due to start this Spring semester, and even information about my undergraduate research program.  

But for now....may your days be microbially merry, and bioluminescently bright...and may all your holidays be white with bacterial-generated snowflakes!  Happy holidays!


  1. Long suffering? Not really. Talented and extraordinarily patient? Possibly. I'm the craftsman that makes your visions a reality. You are the creative talent behind it all.

    1. I thought your "video" using all the still photos was remarkable. And you do all this kind of thing in your Copious Free Time™. I had better do the dishes more!


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