Labster Recommends: Our favorite simulations so far
Behind the scenes, the team at Labster dedicate a lot of love, time and careful thought to making each and every lab simulation unique.
This includes making the most of the cool things possible when working in a virtual world, like imaginative story-lines, cutting-edge experiments, and dynamic visualizations of the otherwise invisible. Whether it’s adding 3-D holograms or giving you a chance to work alongside Einstein, the Simulation Directors’ creative touch helps to make each simulation such an enjoyable and effective learning experience.
We decided to ask the team, as those who know them best: “What is your favorite Labster simulation, and why?”:
While for some it proved difficult to choose just one, here are the topics they picked:
Elisabeth Glomseth, Project Development Manager
“My favorite simulation is one of our Labster classics: the Evolution lab. The story introduces you to a real-life beached animal, and through conducting DNA tests you not only identify it, but trace its evolution through thousands of years. Without spoiling it - who knew such a colossal sea creature could have evolved from such a small and insignificant four-legged one? Mind. Blown.”
In the Evolution lab, your first task will be to identify an unknown sea creature that was washed ashore in Cambodia in 2013. By sequencing its DNA, you can compare it with other organisms in the sequencing database and construct a phylogenetic tree to depict its relatedness to other organisms.
Give it a go to perfect your understanding of the basic mechanisms of evolution and learn about the role of random mutations in natural selection.
2. Regeneration Biology
Wilko Duprez, Simulation Director
“My favorite simulation is Regeneration Biology, because you play with cute little axolotls, but you also create weird hybrids such as fluorescent axolotls or axolotls with too many limbs. The science behind the weird regenerative properties of axolotls is fascinating and super informative, and I learned so much - like that even us humans are able to regenerate some parts of our fingers under specific conditions!”
Play the Regeneration simulation to join Dr. Prometheus in his research to determine why some wounds can regenerate, yet others cannot. You can dissect axolotls (without having to worry about the ethical implications), and observe the cells responsible for the restoration of missing limbs under the microscope.
Read more about this cute little amphibian here.
Ainara Lopez-Cordoba, Content lead link and research project manager
“You cannot ask the Content Lead Link to pick one of the simulation babies as her favorite!
But, if I have to pick one, maybe I'd go for the ‘Equilibrium’ simulation. It is a very key topic in chemistry and one that is not so easy to grasp. This simulation teaches it in a very visual and interactive way, allowing students to play around with the equilibrium and to see what happens at the molecular level. And you can even make an explosion if you make a mistake.
And, on top of all of that, it has a little bit of history as well with Fritz-Haber as your mentor in the lab.”
Check out the equilibrium simulation here to learn how to influence and predict the directionality of reversible reactions. You can then apply what you’ve learned to try and help Fritz Haber, the famous inventor of the Haber-Bosch process, to increase fertilizer yields in the face of an impending global famine!
4. Animal Genetics
Tobias Bolt Botnen, Scientific Simulation Director, Biology
“Only one? There’s a favorite simulation for each topic! The new (unreleased) ecology sims are going to be different, educational and amazing in a way not seen before!”
These ecology simulations will be released in the brand-new Labster VR. In VR, you’ll be able to visit an exoplanet called Astakos IV, a newly discovered location being explored as a potential habitat for humans. Taking on the role of an ecologist, you’ll learn all about the ecological dynamics of the environment, the landscape, population growth and the various ecological niches carved out by the creatures inhabiting this mysterious land.
“If we can't choose the ones not released yet I'd say ‘Animal Genetics’. Two topics I've always found fascinating, animals (in this case cattle) and genetics. From all the Labster simulations I've tried so far, this one stayed with me.”
The Animal Genetics lab, which you can try out here, teaches you the genetics behind double-muscled calves using linkage analysis. You’ll go on a mission to develop a reliable DNA test to determine whether commercially-sold meat labelled as “organic” really holds up to its claim.
5. Cellular Respiration
Alex Gilmore, Marketing Intern
“For me, it’s got to be ‘Cellular Respiration’. This is a topic I have always found especially challenging with traditional teaching because it feels quite abstract, and I would describe myself as a very visual learner. The virtual lab allowed me to experiment with mice (something I would never have the chance to do otherwise), and even travel inside the mitochondria to visualize the otherwise abstract details of the electron transport chain.”
Try it yourself to learn about the Krebs cycle using 3D molecules and experiment on mice to help some street basketball players understand how the food they eat gets converted to energy.
6. Bacterial Isolation
Philip Wismer, Researcher
"I like ‘Bacterial Isolation’, because it is one of the most open-ended simulations, giving high degrees of freedom to students to make mistakes and repeat experiments (productive failure). The students get real-time feedback about their experiments on a screen, which allows them to reflect their actions at any time. This is even better than in real life!"
In this simulation, you’ll be tasked with identifying and isolating the bacteria responsible for a meat contamination at a local chicken farm, and preventing an epidemic.
The simulation challenges you to independently isolate a colony under sterile conditions with little instruction (have a go here). But don’t worry, you can freely make mistakes and repeat the experiment until you’ve nailed it. Read more about the theory behind so-called ‘productive failure’ here.
7. Confocal Microscopy
Michael Bodekaer, Co-founder and CTO
“‘Confocal Microscopy’, because it was built together with students at Exeter, has expensive microscopes freely available, and has an awesome immersive 3D hologram of the 3D Confocal scans which students normally can't even experience with a real laboratory.”
Click here to try it out and use an expensive confocal microscope. You can even see inside it to properly understand how its inner workings make razor-sharp fluorescent images. Can you use it to successfully identify and treat the mysterious plant disease threatening your virtual uncle’s crops?
8. Exercise Physiology
Tina Katika, Simulation Director
“My favorite is `Exercise Physiology.` This simulation inspired me to include HIIT [high-intensity interval training] during my workouts. Without complicated theory and lab exercises it taught me how to become more fit and push my limits”
You’ll take on the role of a supervisor in a clinical trial in the Exercise Physiology simulation (which you can play here), helping to determine the impact of HIIT on a man with a sedentary lifestyle.
9. Invertebrate Model Systems
Lindsay Petley-Ragan, Simulation Director
“My favorite is the [unreleased] `Chemistry of Carbon` simulation because of the animations bringing electron orbitals to life (which can be a very difficult concept for students to visualize) and because you get to play with adding and removing atoms to a molecule!
But if I had to pick another one (yay!) I'd choose ‘Invertebrate Model Systems’ because it feels very realistic in terms of how you analyze the C. elegans for experiments. And it guides you through all the steps of a screen so clearly which is one of the most historical and central principles of genetics and cell biology.”
Since this is a virtual lab, you can perform a complete genetic screening in this invertebrate model system in one-tenth of the time it would take in real life!
Try it to help a group of doctors decipher the cause of a rare disease through performing a genetic screen on the animal model C. elegans.
10. The Kjeldahl Method
Frederik Clauson-Kaas, Simulation Director
“My favorite at the moment is the Kjeldahl Method, because it was the first simulation I helped deliver to launch. It showcases some sweet new machines with intuitive interactions, includes high-end mass spectrum interpretation, and just keeps adjusting the color of your sample solution to how it would look in real life. As a nice bonus feature, no one seems to know how to pronounce it's name!”
In this lab, you’ll receive a batch samples of milk powder from 3 different producers, but rumor has it they may have been tampered with.
Check it out to learn all about how scientists can analyze a sample using the Kjeldahl method in order to determine the exact protein content, and to make sure this is consistent with the reported value.
11. Light and Polarization
Rodrigo Guzmán, Simulation Director
“If I had to pick one right now from those in the catalog, I'd pick the Light and Polarization simulation, because it explains complex concepts in physics in a very interactive way, so I feel I can learn physics without memorizing tedious formulas... and Einstein is helping me during the process! How cool is that? You don't have the chance to chat with a Nobel prize winner every day!”
Einstein teaches you about electromagnetic waves in this lab, and you can become an expert in reflection and refraction by playing with lasers, mirrors and polarizing filters. You’ll even go to Antarctica and connect what you learn to photography, as you try to capture the magnificent scenery!
This one is so good that Rodrigo wasn’t the only one to pick it.
Robert MacKenzie, Head of engineering
“My current favorite is `Light and Polarization'. It's engaging, has Einstein and penguins and I think it's both a simple, yet thoughtful way of approaching some of the basic concepts of light”
Try it now here to meet Einstein and learn all about electromagnetic waves.
Check out the full range of simulations available here (maybe you’ll find your own favorite!).
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