Microbial Michael is a sculpture made with agar, that Artist Mellissa Fisher & Microbiologist Professor Mark Clements have been working on since commissioned in November 2016. The sculpture is a main focal point for the documentary 'Michael Mosley vs. The Superbugs' as a part of the Tomorrow's World series. This documentary is based on a journey the presenter Michael Mosley takes to discover facts about anti-microbial resistance.
Mellissa and Mark have produced a life size agar sculpture which will be the central focal point of the documentary, making the invisible world of the bacteria on our bodies, visible. This scale of agar sculpture has never been attempted before and is a giant experiment to explore various aspects of antimicrobial resistance, with the body split in two, one side is mixed with a broad spectrum antibiotic and the other without, enabling both artist and scientist to see what difference antibiotics makes to our natural flora.
The documentary was aired Wednesday 17th May 9PM BBC4.
Artist & Scientist Collaboration
Mellissa became interested in the possibility of making the invisible world visible when she met Professor Mark Clements at The University of Westminster. Her interest in the invisible world began to grow once she saw bacteria grown on an agar plate. Mellissa then enquired with Mark whether it was possible to make a sculpture with agar and this led to the project Microbial Me, which is currently on display at The Eden Project as a part of a permanent exhibition The Invisible You: The Human Microbiome.
Mellissa and Mark continue to collaborate mixing Art & Microbiology as a form of artistic enquiry, as well as scientific enquiry. Whilst Mellissa questions the self and what really makes us human, Mark questions what exactly is grown on the sculptures, whilst both visualising their thoughts and questions to a diverse audience.
Mark is the Director of Education/Chair in Science Education within the College of Science. He is responsible for providing strategic leadership in the enhancement of student learning opportunities as well as supporting teaching innovation within the College.
Mark is a biologist by background, and did his PhD on bacterial spore germination at the University of Sheffield. This was followed by a successful period of post-doctoral research at the University of Sheffield, Karolinska Institute (Sweden) and University College London. He was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology at the University of Westminster and went on to become Principal Lecturer and Director of Learning & Teaching within the Faculty of Science & Technology.
Mark is a HEA Senior Fellow and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology. He is interested in innovative in learning and teaching and has contributed to a number of large-scale projects on assessment and feedback, mobile learning and interdisciplinary art/science collaboration. In 2015 he was awarded the Royal Society of Biology ‘Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the year award’.
Spacer is a transdisciplinary art studio for sustainable creative practice. Our interdisciplinary team explores the purpose and value of creative practice through research, innovation, making and education. The work we produce exploits traditional and developing technologies, pushing art’s relationship with science, craft and engineering.
Mellissa and Mark collaborated with Access Displays on designing a case for the bacterial sculpture and the company produced a first air tight casing for the sculpture to grow. Special thanks for Martyn Robinson for the support in designing and organising for the project.
Access Displays was established in 1990 by Peter Bowen C.E.O. and David Jopson MD. Initially as agents for some of the world’s leading modular exhibition and display systems they had offices and showrooms in Newbury, London and Bristol.
Dr Andrew Edwards Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, Imperial College London
Research in Andrew's group is focussed on the mechanisms by which pathogens promote population diversity and the consequences of this for persistence in the host, with a particular focus on antibiotic tolerance and resistance.
Thermo Fisher Scientific is the world leader in serving science. Its mission is to enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Through the Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Gibco and ion Torrent brands, it covers applications spanning microbiological processes: from microbial detection, to susceptibility, to identification of organisms using genomic technologies, to help its customers accelerate innovation and enhance productivity. Thermo Fisher Scientific also provides a broad range of products and services that support new drug development and clinical trials through to patient diagnosis, treatment and antimicrobial resistance monitoring, as well as research applications.
Alex Betts is a microbiologist using Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a panel of lytic bacteriophage (phages) as a model system to research host-parasite coevolution. He uses experimental evolution, next generation sequencing and classic microbiological techniques to investigate the effects of host/parasite diversity on host-parasite interactions.
Sheena looks at how our barriers (mostly skin and gut) help protect us form infection and damage and part of that is the whey they interact with the microbial communities (friendly or not so friendly) that live in and on us. Sheena looks at microbial interactions and their role in wound healing and microbial interactions and barrier and immune functions in the gut. A big interest is in understanding how we recognise and respond to a commensal helpful microbe versus a pathogen microbe such as a parasite.