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

Ginelle Testa

You want the best for your students, but biology lab budgets are seemingly getting smaller, and some lab equipment and supply costs are way out of budget. What if you could access state-of-the-art biology 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 pieces of biology lab equipment students can use with Labster that they cannot always access in the classroom.

  1. Next-Generation Sequencer (NGS) - $20,000
  2. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) System - $90,000
  3. Mass Spectrometry - $5,000
  4. Fluorescence-automated Cell Sorting (FACS) Machine - $100,000
  5. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Unit - $15,000

1.) Next-Generation Sequencer (NGS)

These machines are essential when studying molecular biology and biotechnology, but they’re expensive to attain. One of them can start at $20,000 (1)). 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.


2.) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) System

These machines are $4000 for simple ones to more than $90,000 for real-time PCR systems (2). In Labster’s “Polymerase Chain Reaction” virtual lab, Not only will you learn how to use the machine, but a 3D animation will show the PCR experiment at the molecular level, illustrating the structure of DNA and its replication.


3.) Mass Spectrometry 

It can be challenging for classrooms to access a mass spectrometer, as a nice one can run you $5,000 or more (3). In Labster’s mass spectrometry virtual lab specific to biology, “MALDI Investigation into Doping,” students will collaborate with an anti-doping agent at a bicycle race to test athletes’ urine for a doping substance using mass spectrometry.


4.) Fluorescence-automated Cell Sorting (FACS) Machine

Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) is a specialized type of flow cytometry. These machines can run from $100,000 to $500,000 for a single unit (4). A student rarely has a chance to access these, but with Labster’s fluorescence-automated cell sorting machine virtual lab, “FACS,” they’ll be able to understand the basics of the flow cytometry technique and interpret the results.


5.) High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Unit 

Chemists and biologists both used HPLC machines. It’s possible to get cheaper versions of these units, but if you want a high-performing machine, you’re going to have to shell out at least $15,000 (5), In Labster’s HPLC virtual lab, “Ecological niches: Choose the right Kuppelfang to bring to Earth!” After your field trip, you will measure the pH of the soil samples and determine their silicon concentration using HPLC. 


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 almost 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 pass to try these simulations and hundreds more!


(1) Illumina. (2022). Order the iSeq 100 System. (2022). Illumina. Retrieved from https://www.illumina.com/systems/sequencing-platforms/

(2) Tchamie, K., Chengkun, L., Sun, Y., and Chodavarapu, V. (2022). Low-Cost, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction. MDPI. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/22/6/2320  

(3)  LabX.com. Mass spectrometer listings. (n.d.). LabX. Retrieved from http://www.labx.com/mass-spectrometer 

(4) Excedr. (2022, March 3). How Much Does A Flow Cytometer Cost in 2022. Retrieved from https://www.excedr.com/blog/how-much-does-a-flow-cytometer-cost/

(5) Kwipped, Inc. (2022). Rent, Finance or Buy Liquid Chromatographs (HPLC)s. Retrieved from https://www.kwipped.com/rentals/laboratory/liquid-chromatographs-hplc/478

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