Highlight: The Citizen Science Lab
Since starting this site, one thing I’ve been hoping to do is to start highlighting some unique, innovative, or particularly exceptional examples of ways that individuals across the world are bringing science and the public together (whether that be traditional outreach, matters of policy, or something completely different and unexpected).
Ideally I’d I’m hoping to run into one or two great examples a month that are worth sharing, so feel free to pass along some ideas (you can find me on twitter @joshkking)! And to get things started now, I’ve ran into the very very cool…
Citizen Science Lab out of Pittsburgh.
Even taking the grain of salt that I’m not a Pittsburgh local and haven’t visited the facilities, I still am too enamored with even just the premise to not share. Here’s the interesting details from my understanding:
Why They’re Special
The Citizen Science Lab is a “community life science laboratory” that engages the public in hands-on science activities that are (here’s the great part) open to everyone. Typically when you think of STEM/STEAM education, we nearly always presume K-12, but The Citizen Science Lab encourages the young (as expected) and the old (college students, adults, teachers, etc.) to come and join in activities of their lab.
And their programs offerings appear equally impressive. Check out this page for their rather large list of activities. Just to cite a few examples (and also to note some unique ways of engaging science in the public), they offer things like birthdays, summer programs, workshops, a drug-design course, and (in my opinion, coolest of all) open laboratory space membership.
That last one makes me jealous I don’t live in Pittsburgh. As I understand it, individuals are able to pay a fee to have access to real lab space and equipment (pipettes, microscopes, electrophoresis equipment, etc. — much of your biotech desirables). This really does take citizen science to a new level, allowing the common public access the tools needed to do real science that would otherwise be far beyond their reach in both price and facilities (The Citizen Science Lab’s price, listed here, is fairly reasonable for one serious about the idea in my opinion). Whereas many Citizen Science projects are more about big data crowdsourcing through websites, this actually gives individuals the chance to get their hands dirty in the lab.
Any Examples of Their Work?
You can check out some of the special events they have coming up on their calendar here. When I took a peek, I saw events giving the public the chance to learn about things like DNA extraction, bacterial staining, the science of cosmetics, and fluorescent microscopy. In other words, they’re taking things a step beyond the ooze and flashy lights we often see in science outreach (nothing wrong with those mind you!) and bringing in some cutting edge, real science.
And of course, since we all love pictures, you can check out their Instagram here.
How to Connect
As I don’t know the members of the group personally, at best I can only link to what contact information they publicly have available. As such, check out The Citizen Science Lab on
We need more open spaces for the public to get involved in current science out there, so if you run across any great examples, send them my way in the comments or on Twitter @joshkking!