Biosafety: Step inside the labs testing the novel coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has put science in the spotlight. 

As the global research community races toward a vaccine, interest in STEM education and curiosity about scientists and their work has surged. But what working conditions do scientists battling highly infectious agents like coronavirus face? For some members of the research community, the pandemic means suiting up to enter one of the world’s rarest and most secure laboratories.

What is a Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory?

Biological research on coronaviruses is risky business, but must be done if we are to ever create a vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines state that the most dangerous research, like growing more virus for experiments, must only proceed in Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratories. These rare, high-security labs are uniquely designed, constructed, and organized. The labs use strict protocols to prevent the escape of dangerous pathogens, ensuring the safety of scientists and the wider community.

Step inside the lab

Unprecedented events like the COVID-19 pandemic offer the opportunity to inspire future scientists. There is no better way to do so than to step behind the scenes and experience the environment of professional scientific researchers first-hand. 

Virtual lab simulations like Labster’s create access to labs and research equipment that teachers and students may never otherwise experience. For this reason, Labster is opening up free access to our 3D virtual Biosafety Simulation. Here, students can experience what it’s like to work with hazardous pathogens in one of the world’s rarest and most high-tech laboratories.

Here’s a look at what you’ll experience in this virtual simulation:

1. The simulation begins with a HAZMAT team collecting a potentially dangerous pathogen. The Biosafety simulation asks you to investigate a possible bioterrorism event.

2. You approach the Biosafety containment level III (BLSL-3) laboratory and learn about the strict protocols for gaining access.

3. You’ll enter the lab after putting on your personal protective equipment (PPE) and learning the safety guidelines in place to keep you safe. Once inside, you must carefully consider every movement, step, and interaction.

4. You’ll be shown around by your lab buddy and introduced to key equipment such as the all-important Biosafety Cabinet.

5. You’ll answer questions to make sure you understand what to do—and what not to do—as you progress.

5. Then you’ll get into the biosafety cabinet and start running tests. Is the powder sample collected by the HAZMAT team anthrax? Play the simulation to find out!

You can access the Biosafety simulation here, or visit www.labster.com for more information.

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Dr. Brian Harfe
University of Florida

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