Frequently Asked Questions

Topics: General questions, Membership, Volunteering, Safety, and Community Projects

General

Who comes to BioCurious?

BioCurious is a community that includes people from many different backgrounds from those who last took biology in high school to professional scientists, and even artists and social scientists.

Who is a Citizen Scientist?

A Citizen Scientist is an amateur or non-professional scientist participating in scientific research. The goals of Citizen Science can include creating an open dialogue and collaboration between professional research and general public for the benefit of society. Research can often take place in a Makerspace or Hackerspace.

What is a Hackerspace / Makerspace?

A Hackerspace / Makerspace is a “community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronicart, can meet, socialize and/or collaborate.”

Can I visit?

Yes, we suggest that people visit during one of our Meetup events or during a volunteer staffer’s shift. See the events calendar for timing. There is no need to schedule an appointment.

I have a group that is very interested in BioCurious, can you arrange a tour and meeting for us?

Yes. If you are a small group (under 10), please refer to the above guidelines for visiting. If you would like to bring a large number of people to the lab such as for a corporate tour, please e-mail info@biocurious.org and tell us more about your group and what your needs are.

How do I support BioCurious?

We welcome many different forms of support. If you would like to support us with a financial donation please go to our donation page. If you have lab equipment or supplies that you’d like to donate, please contact our Equipment team at equipment@biocurious.org.

Do I have to be a member to participate in activities in your lab?

Our classes and Meetup events are open to both members and non-members alike.

What is currently happening at Biocurious?

The easiest way to see what events are taking place is to look at the Meetup Calendar.

Is BioCurious available to rent out for special events?

On occasion, we may rent part of our space for special events. Please e-mail info@biocurious.org.

Do you have any jobs?

BioCurious is an organization run completely by volunteers.

I would like to know more about topic X (e.g. magnetotactic bacteria). Does BioCurious have information for me?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to respond to all inquiries for scientific information, but if you would like to ask our larger community feel free to post on our forum.

I want to start my own biology lab hackerspace where I live, can you help me?

Though we would like to support all those who approach us, we don’t have the resources to respond to all inquiries. You may want to approach the DIYBio Google Group to find more people in your area.

I’m in elementary/middle/high school. Do you have anyone who wants to mentor me?

BioCurious does not have a formal mentorship program. However if you would like to inquire within our larger community feel free to post on our forum.

Do you have (x) piece of equipment in your lab?

Inquire by emailing equipment@biocurious.org.

My children are really interested in science, can I bring them to the lab?

Though we welcome children visiting, we ask that they meet the age requirements of the specific Meetup event they are attending. We do not provide supervision for children and ask that they always be accompanied by an adult. Any time that anyone under the age of 18 is in our wetlab, they must be directly supervised by an adult who has undergone our safety orientation.

Tissue Culture Room Access

We have expanded BioCurious with a new service, offering access to an onsite Tissue Culture Room, for an additional fee. Access to the room is an additional $150/month in addition to your regular membership fees. The Tissue Culture room is a seperate room in the BioCurious building that allows users to culture and experiment on BSL-1 cell lines. The room is equipped with three CO2 incubators, an inverted light microscope, a sterile biological safety cabinet, a high volume centrifuge, and a dedicated fridge/freezer. All users must have an in-person orientation before experiments begin. All projects and cell lines must be approved by the safety board of BioCurious before working in the tissue culture room.

What are some acceptable cell lines?

Nearly every hybridoma cell line, Vero, CHO, A549, K562, MDCK, and as a few examples.

What cell lines are not allowed?

HeLa cells and HEK293 cells have active viruses and are not permitted at BioCurious. Only cell lines designated BSL1 are currently allowed.

Volunteering

How do I become a volunteer?

BioCurious is supported by many volunteers, from front desk staffers to teachers. If you are over 18 and interested in volunteering on a regular basis, please contact info@biocurious.org with information about yourself and how you’d like to plug in.

I’m in high school, can I volunteer in your lab?

We ask that all volunteers be at least 18 years old.

Membership

How do I become a member?

You can sign up for membership either in person or online. We ask that members fill out a membership agreement and pay membership dues.

After signing up online, members must become familiar with our safety policies and pass our safety test before entering the lab. You will receive an email with this information upon joining.

Family Membership

What is the Family Membership?

Any person wanting to do lab work that is under 18 requires a family membership. A Family Membership is for 1 parent/guardian and 1 teen (under 18). Both the parent and the teen need to take the online safety training and pass the safety quiz. The project they are working on must be approved by the Safety Group. Parents are required to be onsite and supervise their child anytime the teen is at BioCurious.

What is the cost of a Family Membership?

A Family membership is $150/month and has a separate signup link – https://biocurious.recurly.com/subscribe/family. Additional students with the same parent/guardian are $50/month. If you are working in the lab you must be a member and have had your project approved by Safety: Project Approval form. This MUST be submitted and approved before entering the lab area.

Things to consider about Science Fair projects

We are approached about science fair projects regularly. Some of the things that you should consider before approaching us are the time and cost commitment involved in a long term science project. Spring is generally science fair season. The most successful students spend the summer and/or the fall learning techniques and biotechnology skills so they can quickly make progress on their science fair project in the spring. A complex project can take a large time commitment from you and your students (you will need to be onsite with them) of several evenings a week and one half day a weekend at a bare minimum. The costs of your organisms, reagents, and consumables (plastics etc) should be part of planning out the project budget, along with the cost of a membership at BioCurious.

Can I leave my teen to work at BioCurious

We do not allow unaccompanied minors in BioCurious. We have no paid staff, and no ability to supervise the safety of minors in the lab. Underage teens (<18) cannot be at BioCurious unaccompanied at any time (classes and community meetings are exceptions). If they are meeting a mentor, you need to wait with them until the mentor arrives and you must be there before the mentor leaves. It is your responsibility to confirm that the mentor is aware and approves the supervision and time commitment. Do not assume the mentor is present or available, arrange this before arriving at BioCurious. Under no circumstances can any person under the age of 18 be left alone at BioCurious.

I joined the BioCurious Meetup Group, doesn’t that make me a member already?

We appreciate all those who express an interest in BioCurious through our Meetup group, but membership in our lab requires signing our membership agreement and paying our membership dues.

Why do you charge for membership? Wouldn’t free memberships make biotechnology even more accessible?

We understand the fee may prevent some people from becoming members. For that reason, we offer many free and open-to-the-public community projects and, sometimes, sponsored classes. We encourage you to join one – or a few – to get to know others around the lab!

It’s important to understand that we aim to lower barriers to entry in biology, especially for those that have no access to it outside of our lab. We are only able to do that with support from the community. Lots of people volunteer their time to make BioCurious work and members help us keep the doors open. Volunteering is another great way to get involved. We have a number of scientists and academics that volunteer as educators and mentors, or who just pitch in anywhere needed.

Community Projects

What is a Community Project?

Our community projects are member led and participant driven group projects that meet regularly to collaborate.

Who can come to Community Projects?

Everyone is welcome to join us at our community projects. We ask that children must be accompanied by adults.

Safety

Who do I contact if I have Safety questions?

Email safety@biocurious.org for all safety questions.

Isn’t allowing people to work in a biology lab dangerous?

Our biology lab functions at a Biosafety Level – 1 level (BSL-1), which is equivalent to what you would find in a high school biology lab. We require all our members to undergo safety orientation.

I have a science background and experience in the lab. Do I really need to take your safety orientation?

Yes, we require all members working in the wet lab to go through our safety orientation regardless of formal education or past training. Every lab has its own rules specific to itself.

Can I work with (x) organism?

Work with any organism that is not already on the approved list needs to go through the safety committee.

If not, what steps can I take to be able to work with (x) organism?

Once the safety committee has a chance to review your experimental design and intended use we will approve, modify, or reject your request. (The same review process goes for use of hazardous chemicals not on the approved list).

What is BioCurious' safety policy?

BioCurious is a BSL-1 facility that has adopted widely recognized lab safety protocols. In addition, we encourage the thoughtful practice of science, with community members and the environment in mind.

Click here to review our entire safety policy.