Salk Mobile Science Lab

Salk Institute for Biological Studies - EDUCATION OUTREACH - Salk Mobile Science Lab

Salk Mobile Science Lab

Salk Mobile Science Lab FlyerThe Salk Mobile Science Lab is a free three-day biotechnology program serving middle schools throughout San Diego County. This program provides a unique opportunity for students to learn about genetics and DNA from real Salk Institute scientists. The Salk Institute is a world-renowned laboratory on the cutting edge of genetics research. During the three-day Salk Mobile Science Lab curriculum students conduct experiments designed to illustrate that traits are coded for by a set of instructions called DNA. Students not only learn about the structure and function of DNA but also the techniques that are used every day in real labs to analyze DNA. On the first day, students look at populations of fruit flies under a microscope to learn about the uses of model organisms, the effects of genetic transmission and mutations. On the second day, they extract actual DNA from wheat germ. Finally, on the third day, students simulate techniques used to analyze DNA fragments by performing gel electrophoresis. All the necessary equipment is brought directly to the classroom where up to 160 students practice hands-on, interactive science for three days.

The program’s success relies on volunteers from Salk and the surrounding scientific community, primarily postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. These volunteers help distinguish the Salk Mobile Science Lab from other educational outreach programs due to the special opportunity students have to be exposed not only to content and biotechnology techniques, but to research scientists as well. Each volunteer works for one to three days with a small group of 6-8 students, which gives the students the unique experience of working closely with a researcher. Our scientists are passionate about their field of study and enjoy sharing it with young people, and this enthusiasm is often a key factor in changing students’ perceptions about science.

Salk Mobile Science Lab

This program is undergoing curriculum enhancements before returning to full in-classroom programming for the 2023-2024 academic year. For the last two years, EO’s team of credentialed classroom educators transitioned a 3-day in-classroom MSL to a 3-day over-Zoom hands-on lab experience aligned with NGSS standards. For the 2022-2023 academic year we are piloting an updated in-classroom lab experience occurring in the spring of 2023. A big thank you to all of the educators who participated in our fall survey and submitted an application for a spot to be a pilot school.

In a typical academic year, there are 15-20 spots available via an open application each August. We hope to return to that frequency in the 2023-2024 academic year. If you would like to sign-up to be in the know when the next registration opens, click here to sign-up for our teacher newsletter or email with any questions.

Salk Mobile Science Lab donors

Thank you to the following donors whose contributions have allowed the Mobile Science Lab to serve 2,300+ students and 50+ teachers across San Diego County in the 2021-2022 school year through virtual school visits, classroom activity kits and teacher trainings.

The Samuel I. & John Henry Fox Foundation
Samuel H. French, III and Katherine Weaver French Fund
Genentech Inc.
William H. Hannon Foundation
Johnston-Fix Foundation
La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club
Las Patronas
Nordson Corporation Foundation
Arthur P. and Jeanette Gladys Pratt Memorial Fund
Price Philanthropies Foundation
San Diego Gas & Electric Co.