Earlier this year The Wet Lab opened it’s doors as the first DIYBio community biotech lab in San Diego. Although the organization had been meeting for about a year, teaching classes on molecular biology, only recently were they able to find space to create a wet lab for those members interested to conduct synthetic biology experiments. The lab is housed at Fab Lab’s facility in Maker’s Quarter downtown. The Wet Lab’s mission is to educate the public about the stunning world of biology and make bioscience accessible to all ages from all walks of life. Since it is a public maker space, anyone can participate by collaborating with other members, taking classes, tinkering with science or conducting research. Lab memberships are $25/month.
I opened the lab because I’m excited about the prospects of the burgeoning Citizen Science movement as well as the forthcoming revolution in synthetic biology. Our goal is to make molecular biology fun and accessible to everyone. Personally, before studying at Biocurious, I hadn’t taken a biology or chemistry class since high school. Yet, I spent a couple of years studying at Biocurious in the Bay Area and due to the development of modern techniques I’ve been able to become proficient enough to run my own experiments and teach classes. While there, I learned about lab safety and techniques, the science of molecular biology, and how to engineer life. I began to study various species of algae and their rich genetic makeup. That brought me to San Diego for some Summer classes at UCSD. Since San Diego has such a large biotech industry, many algae enthusiasts and researchers, and no DIYBio community lab, I decided to move here and open one.
Though the lab is small, we have all the equipment necessary to conduct genetic manipulations, teach classes on molecular biology, and demonstrate wet lab techniques to passionate science enthusiasts. This includes PCR, centrifuges, incubators, and analytical equipment such as a spectrophotometer, colorimeter and microscopes. Biosurplus has been a huge help to us in outfitting our lab and we’ll continue to accumulate sophisticated equipment as we grow. We have 100+ members in our Meetup group including many professional scientists, former university professors, students and citizen scientists who want to learn the science. Future projects will include developing opensource protocols and DNA bioparts for transformations and genetic manipulation of various species of algae.
The Wet Lab is scheduling classes now including Basic Molecular Biology Techniques, GFP Transformation in E coli, DNA Fish Barcoding, Crime Scene Forensics and Lab Skills. We will charge $25-$75 per class which is affordable to everyone including students. Additionally, we hold a monthly free Journal Club where anyone can participate to learn about reading scientific papers and join study groups of relevant research papers.
Another aspect of the Wet Lab is our satellite facility at the La Jolla Riford Public Library. There, we are building a mini-molecular bio lab where high school students and adults can get access to PCR machines, microscopes and other wet lab equipment. The idea is to provide free education to students and the general public where they can gain access to equipment traditionally unavailable except to professionals and university students.
An important feature of the library offering are the free workshops such as our Strawberry DNA Extraction lab and the Citizen Science Public Lecture Series on various scientific topics. Workshops are held the first Saturday of each month and the lectures are the first Tuesdays evenings of each month. We are excited about the lecture on Biopesticides from Biosurplus’ own Octavio Espinosa on May 5th. The lecture series is meant to educate the general public about important science being conducted in the San Diego area as well biotech topics, environmental science, and public policy surrounding GMOs. The Wet Lab will also be organizing talks at the San Diego Downtown Public Library on similar topics. We feel that better educated students and a more informed public will help promote science literacy and enhance the public debate about these important issues. See the La Jolla Light article about us.
The Wet Lab in the La Jolla Library will also be open at certain times for folks to drop in to tinker with molecular biology and practice wet lab techniques on their own under the supervision of volunteer trained scientists. The library is a perfect place to offer this facility, especially as MOOCs and other online courses gain popularity. The general public will have a place to try out their lab skills after learning content from web-based classes. If they are interested to pursue more education and access to sophisticated equipment, they can join The Wet Lab housed at the Fab Lab facility in downtown San Diego, where more intensive study and research can be conducted.
One of the most important aspects of the Wet Lab is our community of passionate scientists and nonscientists who work on projects shoulder to shoulder, teach, share ideas, tinker with opensource lab techniques and conduct their own experiments. This makes it easy for novices to explore the science and have fun in a very casual environment. Professional scientists love it too because they can work on side projects and share their professional work with the general public.
For more information, please go to www.wetlab.org