This painting illustrates how laundered synthetic clothing and discarded plastics–commonly created in industries such as fast fashion, dairy, and single-use plastics–breakdown to form micro and nanoplastics in the environment. The small pieces of plastic most commonly end up in waterways. Then, in bodies of water like lakes and oceans, the small plastics encounter the native microbial species living there (represented as the green dots forming filaments). The small plastics can provide a floating surface that helps the microbes grow. The Majumder Lab is currently testing if the association of microbes with plastics in the Great Lakes could increase the formation of Harmful Algal Blooms. Harmful Algal Blooms are a rising problem in the Great Lakes, limiting recreational access and capable of producing a deadly neurotoxin when a severe bloom occurs.


Emily Cannon is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying neurobiology and psychology. She’s always had a passion for science and art, so she jumped at the chance to combine her interests! Emily had a lot of fun working on this project, and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about a different scientific field.


The Majumder Lab is studying the interactions of plastics and microbes and how those interactions may impact the environment. They are interested in how microbes degrade plastics, how plastics in the environment impact the growth of microbes and how microbes can be used to make biodegradable plastics.

Funded by the Center for Humanities HEX-U Undergraduate Exchange.