White for Harvest: The art and science of microbes

Science and Belief


“Look at the yeast fields, for they are already white for harvest!”, wrote Dr Maria Eugenia Inda, one of the winners of the American Society for Microbiology ‘Agar Art’ contest. I’m not sure she meant anything more than to pick up a quote remembered from the Bible and subvert it for a scientific message – the “Harvest Season” of yeast knowledge – but it made me think.

Maria is a researcher from Argentina who went to a summer course at the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory near New York. One of the organisms they studied was a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which has been used by bakers, beer makers and vintners for thousands of years.

Yeast is a fungus that shares many of the basic processes which happen in other organisms, including ourselves, so it’s also very useful for medical research. It was the first organism more…

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