Dr. Madden produces innovative interdisciplinary projects to engage the world with the utility and beauty of the microscopic world. The following projects are made possible through collaborations with designers, artists, educators, and other motivated scientists.

Microbe Print Textiles

Nature has informed design for millenia. These textiles go one step further as they provide an opportunity to help share a story of the microscopic creatures around us. On these yeast pillows is a tag that features a genetic barcode–the actual DNA sequence of that unique organism. Versions of these pillows were created for Indigo Ag to provide a visual storyboard for their microbial product pipeline. The dress was made in collaboration with SheNova to reveal that microscopic creatures can be beautiful too. 

EXHIBIT: Data on the effectiveness of these pillows as a new science communication tool was presented at the leading Science Communication Conference, Talk Science in 2019. The dress has been worn at various keynotes, TED conferences, and museum events.

COLLABORATORS: The dress was made in collaboration with fashion designer SheNova. A team at Mississippi State University assisted with the yeast images used in some of these projects.

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Art + Science Pop-up Exhibit

Art + Science Pop-up Exhibit with AR technology

Community of Microbes is a Sloan Foundation funded traveling Art and Science Pop-up exhibit with a mission of engaging the world with the beauty and utility of some of the microbial communities nearest us. It is a colorful, dynamic, augmented reality-enabled interactive experience that introduces audiences to eight communities of microbes: subways, showers, and mouths to beer and squid. This exhibit shows how the microorganisms inhabit these spaces and interact with each other, while providing written material that illuminates how specific microorganisms in these habitats are used in human applications.

EXHIBIT: This traveling exhibit will debut at the Cooper Hewitt Gallery in NYC October 25th, 2019. Digital viewing (and interactive AR components) available here. AR phone app available for iOS and Android “Community of Microbes.”

COLLABORATORS: This is a collaboration between Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and Anne A. Madden with assistance from Leonora Shell as lead education consultant and a diverse scientific advisory board. 


Microbial tiles as architectural and wearable units

The Future Home is a Living Home

It’s time to use 2.4 billion years of evolution when building the modern environment. Microbial tiles will be large, compostable plastic ‘cells’ that contain dehydrated nutrients and specific microbes. Just add water and watch as they change from yellows to pinks, or blues to black. These tiles will act as large-scale petri dishes of specific microbes (non-GMO) and growth media–chosen through a custom database and software package. A veritable microbial Pantone exists, yet has has not previously been harnessed for interior design. These tiles can modify the visual and olfactory (smell) space, and even the behavior of the occupants (from pets to humans). Let’s make organic stained-glass windows that are alive! In the schematic below, the microbial cell panels are hexagons, growing over time. Some cells can make the viewer alert by producing blue light, some create beautiful visuals, while others produce aromas of baking bread, browned butter, or grape juice (Reload webpage to view the animation again.) This project is in the concept phase. 


Can you smell the microbes?

(c) AnneAMadden 2016

These tiles can be seeded with known and unknown microbes. They can then be paired with animal biosensors to detect certain chemical compounds of interest.

Fashion as a Science Communication Tool

Functional Fashion & 3D printing to Engage w/Science

Science offers new inspiration, and tools for art and design. Engaging with the aesthetic of science offers opportunities to reach new audiences while fighting stifling and antiquated stereotypes.

A new project launch is the #MicrobeHatProject which uses fashion as an evidence-based practice for effective science communication. It engages the public with the utility of microorganisms in our world. This series features fascinator-style hats that are adorned with more fascinating 3D printed microorganisms. Each hat evokes curiosity and helps spark a discussion about the story of a microorganism in our world that is often ignored, yet helps in remarkable ways. This includes the Antimicrobial Hat featuring the microbe that lives in the soil and is used to make Neosporin, one of our commercial antibiotics that helps save lives. Another is the Climate Change Hat, featuring a 3D printed bacterial species that lives in bird feathers and is used to produce enzymes (molecules) that we use in laundry detergents. These enzymes allow us to wash our clothing at cooler temperature, thus allowing us to save considerable amounts of energy. There is the Food Hat, featuring a 3D printed yeast cell, the species of yeast that help us make donuts, beer, and wine. And the CRISPR Hat, which features some of the microbes that cause strep throat, but that also were crucial in helping us discover CRISPR, the genetic editing tool that allows us to create new therapeutics and stronger crops.

EXHIBITS: This project was first showcased in the conference audience of the TED 2019 conference. The first digital mention of this project garnered more than 250,000 impressions on twitter. This project was presented on the TED Speaker Community Theater stage at TED SUMMIT 2019. Hats have been accepted for display by the National Museum of Hats (North America) and the World of Hat Museum (Europe). This will be the feature of a talk presented at the American Society of Microbiology annual conference in June, 2020.

COLLABORATORS: The first hats are made possible by extraordinary millinery work for Marie Galvin Fine Millinery in Boston, MA, and the generous donation of 3D image files from photographer and microbiologist Scott Chimileski. Subsequent versions of these hats will feature open access guidelines and science facts so that others can use these tools in their own worlds. Check back here for updates on the project, or be on the look out for the #MicrobeHatProject hashtag on social media! Check out the github @AnneAMadden for the alpha version of guidelines for making your own Microbe Hat science communication tool.

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Science and Food

A New Medium for Science Engagement

This 2016 project investigated how the sterile scientific world of a microbiology science lab could be represented with delicious and lively candies and gingerbread. The House features many of the insects found across houses in the USA (based on the DNA science of Dr. Madden’s 2016 Molecular Ecology paper). The petri dishes and 96-well plates represent some of the common tools in a lab at actual scale. The gingerbread lab bench replicates the bench Dr. Madden used in graduate school, including a DNA gel box, gloves, lab notebook, and bunsen burner.

EXHIBIT: Social media in 2017.

COLLABORATORS: These were constructed in collaboration with gingerbread artist, Joanne Arnold.

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Science Education & Biohacking

Hacking, educating, and having fun while crafting with microbes

Below is a coloring page image of yeast. I also produce guides on how to create microbe-powered tea lights and how they can then be used to make microbe-powered tea light and jack-o-lanterns. Check out the guides on Medium or GitHub

EXHIBIT: Online.

COLLABORATORS: The yeast coloring page was created in collaboration with Dr. Madden’s mother, Joanne Arnold.