Which expensive biotechnology lab equipment can students use in a virtual lab?

Ginelle Testa

You want the best for your students, but biotechnology lab budgets are getting smaller, and some lab equipment and supply costs are way out of budget. Even if one machine is on the cheaper side, scaling to provide equipment for your entire classroom or even multiple classes can prove to be costly. 

What if you could access state-of-the-art biotechnology equipment for all your students without spending tons of money? Labster’s virtual simulations offer the chance to learn about and play with expensive equipment from the comfort of your classroom or students’ homes. 

Here are five types of biomedical science lab equipment students can use with Labster that they likely cannot access in the classroom.

  1. Confocal Microscopes - $80,000
  2. Thermal cyclers/PCR machines - $2,000 - $10,000
  3. Spectrophotometers - $5,000
  4. ELISA kits & centrifuges - $750 & $300 - $6,000
  5. Next-Generation Sequencer (NGS) machines - $20,000

1. Confocal Microscopes

Confocal microscopy, or scanning laser confocal microscopy, is an optical imaging technique that increases the resolution and contrast of images. This technique uses lasers to illuminate the sample, requiring an intense and monochromatic light source.

These machines are costly! They can run about $80,000, so having them in your lab is often out of the question. 

In Labster’s virtual lab, Confocal Microscopy, students will learn how to take pin-sharp confocal micrographs and 3D renderings. They’ll then use their knowledge to save someone’s crop from a mysterious plant disease.

Virtual lab showing confocal microscope

2. Thermal cyclers/PCR machines

A thermal cycler is used to amplify and analyze segments of DNA or RNA. It’s used in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) experiment to make many copies of a specific DNA segment. Thermal cyclers heat and cool samples in order to create copies of DNA.

Not only do thermal cyclers or PCR machines inconveniently take up a ton of time, but they also can be pricey. They run between $2,000- well over $10,000 for one machine. 

In Labster’s virtual lab, Polymerase Chain Reaction, students will get a chance to learn the techniques and application of Polymerase Chain Reaction and Gel Electrophoresis. They’ll explore a real-world application, such as analyzing unique genetic fingerprints to solve a murder case.

3. Spectrophotometer

A spectrophotometer is an instrument that determines the ratio between the intensity of light emitted from an internal source and that which passes through a given solution. This ratio can be used to determine the concentration of dissolved molecules in a sample.

Spectrophotometers average about $5,000. Again, this can become quite an expense when you want to scale equipment in your classroom. 

In Labster’s virtual lab, Spectrophotometers: Building and exploring the instrument, students will explore the mechanics at the heart of the technique. They’ll get under the hood of the spectrophotometer and solve the puzzle of how its components fit together.

Building and exploring the Spectrophotometers

2. ELISA kits & centrifuges

An ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) kit is a laboratory test used to detect and measure antibodies or antigens in a sample. ELISA kits are often used to test for the presence of viruses, bacteria, and proteins in a sample. Centrifuges are also needed in the experiment, machines that apply centrifugal force to their contents. 

ELISA kits can run about $750, and centrifuges can be anywhere from $300 - $6,000. These prices may not seem outrageous, but once you start to think about scaling, the cost becomes unwieldy.

In our virtual lab, ELISA, students will join scientists using this groundbreaking technique for detecting and quantifying substances, such as proteins. They’ll also help Dr. Lisa quantify Factor IX protein, which is used for hemophilia drugs.

5. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) machine

Next Generation Sequencing is an advanced sequencing technology where many short DNA molecules are sequenced at the same time. 

These machines are essential when studying molecular biology and biotechnology, but they’re expensive to attain. One of them can start at $20,000

In Labster’s Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), virtual lab, students will obtain a hair sample from an ancient man from Greenland, extract his DNA, and perform DNA sequencing. This practice helps them understand the different steps in sample preparation, cluster generation, sequencing, and data processing.

Virtual lab image showing DNA

Virtual labs as a supplement

Virtual lab simulations aren’t meant to replace an in-person lab completely; they’re intended to supplement what you already have and give students access to a million-dollar lab they wouldn’t otherwise be able to try.

You want to equip your students with the best knowledge and experience they can get. With our catalog of over 300 simulations, we can help you do that at a lower price than you would pay to maintain expensive machinery and supplies. 

Get Labster’s educators’ all-access 30-day free pass to try these simulations and hundreds more!

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