What is it?
The Cell Lab is a hands-on wet biology lab located in the Human Body Gallery. In the lab you get the chance to don a lab coat, gloves, and goggles, and perform science experiments using real lab equipment. Computer-guided workstations, known as activity benches, lead you step-by-step through a variety of experiments exploring topics in cellular, molecular, and microbiology. You don't need to be a scientist to step into the Cell Lab, but you'll feel like one when you step out!
How does it work?
The Cell Lab is an easily recognizable, enclosed area in the Human Body Gallery. Enter the lab and staff will provide you with a lab coat, gloves, and goggles. Everyone in the exhibit must wear this protective gear to stay safe and they make for great photo opportunities! You can choose how many experiments you want to perform. The computerized Lab Companion at each activity bench leads you through the activity giving clear instructions for how to perform each experiment. Museum staff are also on hand to answer questions and provide assistance.
The Lab Companion is a computer program that provides both audio and video instructions for each activity, as well as background and additional information on the activity topic. Using a simple trackball and button, you can replay steps, giving you full control over the pace at which you progress through the activities.
What can I do?
Cell Lab Activity Benches:
- Cheek Cells: Examine some of your own cheek cells under a microscope. Explore what your own cells look like up close.
- DNA Extraction: Extract strands of DNA from raw wheat germ. Wind the slimy strands on a glass stir rod.
- Testing Antimicrobials: Which common cleaning agents are effective against real bacteria? Test your hypothesis.
- Mystery Microbes: Identify one of four 'unknown' common bacteria using staining techniques and chemical tests. Learn more about the kinds of bacteria that help keep you healthy and how scientists distinguish one type of bacteria from another.
- Enzymes in Saliva: Analyze how the enzyme, amylase, found in your saliva, aids in digesting food. Learn how digestion of food actually begins in the mouth.
- Giant Chromosomes: Stain DNA from fruit fly salivary glands and examine the DNA tightly coiled into chromosomes under a microscope.
- Blood Bench: Examine the properties of blood through up to three different tests. Learn that blood is much more than a red liquid.
Visit the Activity Benches page for more detailed descriptions of each bench.
What can I expect...
- Regarding age suitability? Due to the complexity of the activities and the use of real laboratory equipment and chemicals, the Cell Lab is designed for school aged children and older.
- Regarding time commitment? The Cell Lab exhibit will require more time than most other exhibits in the museum. Make sure you plan for extra time if you have family or friends waiting, or need to catch the next Omnitheater show! Depending on the activity it can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Talk to staff to determine if you have enough time for a particular activity.
- Regarding crowds? The Cell Lab has limited space per users at any one time. On busier days in the museum there may be a line of people waiting to enter. If you see that the exhibit is crowded, you may want to visit other areas of the museum first.
- Regarding availability? Hours of the Cell Lab do vary.
Cell Lab Crew
The Cell Lab is run by a trained and dedicated group of volunteers, students, and staff.
Meet the Youth Staff from the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center.