Rep. Scott Peters talks to students learning to extract DNA at the new lab. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Rep. Scott Peters talks to students learning to extract DNA at the new lab. Photo by Chris Jennewein

San Diego opened what may be the first public biotech laboratory anywhere at a city branch library on Tuesday, giving a boost to the growing citizen-science movement.

Rep. Scott Peters joined Mayor Kevin Faulconer and to open the laboratory at the La Jolla/Riford branch library.

“Students, parents and anyone with a real curiosity about science will have access to scientific equipment  that you wouldn’t see outside of a university or a commercial laboratory,” he said.

“This biotech lab is a game changer for San Diego,” said Faulconer, who added the facility will help encourage creative thinking in San Diego.

The new lab, which joins one at the Fab Lab in the Makers Quarter downtown that is open to the public on a membership basis, will offer classes and workshops to educate students and other residents on biology.

The project is a partnership between the library system, the Salk Institute and The Wet Lab, a nonprofit group that operates the lab downtown.

Laura Jordan-Smith, public outreach director for the The Web Lab, said the organization’s goal is to bring do-it-yourself biological science to San Diego and connect curious amateurs with professionals.

“Our collective goal is to provide a cost-free, safe and stimulating experience to people of all ages who are interested in gaining lab experience and exploring the world of molecular biology,” said Jordan-Smith. “We believe that science should be accessible to everyone.”

Peters said building the laboratory represents the next step for libraries in San Diego and nationwide.

“You may remember when it was revolutionary to have computers in libraries,” he said. “This is the next adaptation. It’s needed to help prepare our kids to take on the opportunities of the future.”

The public will have the opportunity to use equipment like microscopes, centrifuges and DNA amplifiers that are typically only available to universities and private researchers.

The Wet Lab is also scheduling a series of free lectures on a variety of topics related to science both in La Jolla and downtown.

A technician works with a 3D printer at the new public biotech lab at the La Jolla/Riford Library. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.