Home labs

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Coturnix made me notice that you can isolate DNA and run gels using legos and products from asian groceries. This got me thinking about what experiments I would run if I set this up. I think I could probably keep bugs of various sorts around and dissect out nervous systems. Could I select for certain traits in the right system? Could I discover anything new about biology in a DIY lab? There was a time when Rita Levi-Montalcini could make a huge contribution studying chicken embryos on a farm. What would you do with your home genetics lab? Are we at a point where the endeavor could only be a pastime or is there still something important to discover in our living room?


  1. Studies of animal behaviour, learning, perception, etc, don’t always need elaborate equipment. 99.9999….% of species have never been studied at all.

  2. Do-it-yourself laboratory equipment improvised from Legos or similar toys and easily procured, if somewhat esoteric, food items could be a massive boon to parents teaching their children at home. This includes both so-called home-schoolers and families that simply want to supplement that which is available at the public school in their community. In many cases, it might not be necessary to discover new things in one’s living room to do something for the good of science. Teaching one’s child the properties of cell reproduction, rudiments of recombinant DNA know-how, properties of antibiotics, et cetera might not lead to the next paradigm shift in biology. However, the aggregate effect of releasing into the world some more young people with stronger backgrounds in biology might make itself felt in subtle yet important ways.

  3. This will get alot better once decent microfluidics technology hits the market.

  4. My general impression is that getting together the equipment for productive home research is as easy as ever (thanks to EBay, rapid churn of capital equipment, and generally cheaper manufacturing) … but the intellectual bar for a lot of research is set pretty high.

  5. I don’t like fooling around with lab equipment, but I have been wondering if the DNA profiles which are commercially available could be used for genetic research by amateurs. For example, do we know enough about the way these genetic markers are inherited to locate a particular gene on particular chromasome by studying the genetic profiles of our extended families?