My short bio: We're launching a new biohacker space in Oakland, CA and some of us have been running another biohacker space in Sunnyvale, CA. We're here to answer questions about how science and genetic engineering can and must happen outside of academia and industry and to promote our kickstarter to fund the new lab

My Proof:

EDIT: We reached our Kickstarter Goal! Big thanks to everyone who supported us! Our first stretch goal is for a -80 degree centigrade freezer (important for long-term storage of cell cultures) at $5000 with just over two days left!

EDIT 2: Thank you for the gold anonymous!

EDIT 3: It's 2 am here so we're shutting down. Thanks for all the comments!

EDIT 4: Ok we decided to re-open the AMA. We might be slow to respond for a few hours but leave your question and we'll get to it as soon as we wake up!

EDIT 5: We somehow got tagged as "business". To avoid any confusion: We are a 100% volunteer-run non-profit dedicated to open science and engineering.

EDIT 6: 11 hours left on the kickstarter! We're doing one last push to see if we can reach our stretch-goal for a -80 C freezer! Thank you for all the questions!

Edit 7: Our kickstarter has ended. We're closing the AMA. Thanks to everyone!

Comments: 134 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

niceweatherhere11 karma

Can someone with no bio knowledge join you?

PatrikD3 karma

Also - we don't just do biology! We intentionally kept "bio" out of the name, because we want to be open to all sorts of sciences. We have some people playing with acoustics, we've got a Tesla coil and a Geiger counter under construction, we've got some people wanting to play with low-melt alloys and electroplating, and so on...

SuperDuckQ1 karma

Interesting timing, I'm an acoustician who may be moving to Sunnyvale( ish) in the next few months if a job offer comes through. I will keep this in mind. :)

CounterCultureLabs1 karma

You should definitely come by our lab! If you're interested in the bio side of things then also look up Biocurious which is our sister lab located in Sunnyvale!

tbrockett7 karma

Are there any (even tenuous) plans to offer training for those of us whose fascination with biology hasn't faded, but knowledge of specifics has, particularly lab procedure?

CounterCultureLabs7 karma

Yes! In fact we have had a hands on class series that taught Genetic Engineering 101, which we plan to repeat in our new (much larger) location once we have a few upgrades in place to make the work area more sterile. We also just had a class on introduction to mushroom identification using microscopy and we have several upcoming intro classes listed on our meetup

SufferingSaxifrage7 karma

While very cool and inspirational , do you ever start telling people what you do and say to yourself,"oh my god I'm the opening 10 minutes of a planetary disaster summer blockbuster" ?

CounterCultureLabs5 karma

Haha! Well when we had people in our lab working on improvements to the ebola suits used in Africa (to make them tolerable to wear in the high heat), even though we never had anything to do with the actual ebola, I think it occurred to most of us how it might look to someone just walking in from the street :)

nah895 karma

This is so freaking cool! I love the idea of a communal science lab and if I lived close I would be all over this, even though I'm more of a chemistry nerd. You're setting up that hopefully could pop all over and really change the dynamic of the sciences as something hard to approach. Have you seen anyone else want to set up similar things across the country?

Goodluck with everything!

CounterCultureLabs2 karma

Yay! There are several labs around the world already. Probably about 20 labs that are independent from universities world-wide. Check out which lists local groups and labs around the world. It's not complete (e.g. a lab just started in sydney) but it has most of them.

CounterCultureLabs2 karma

Also, many of these labs are being incubated in hackerspaces, so check for a space near you if you want to find both space and people to get a lab going!

Mordaunt_3 karma

What's the learning curve like in your Open Science Lab? How quickly can I go from swiping my card to crossbreeding an elephant with a Darwin's Bark spider for purposes of creating a space elevator out of their resulting silk?

CounterCultureLabs2 karma

Hah! Well we are just now, using the funding from the Kickstarter, able to get our lab into a fully working state for this kind of research so it's hard to tell. It certainly is completely dependent on your ability to teach yourself. People who already have a higher technical education in another field or are self-taught in something technical or scientific will have a much easier time. We definitely offer classes and we have group projects that will teach you many of these skills, and definitely joining our iGEM team can get you the skills for porting biosynthesis pathways from one species to another if you're really dedicated and complement the group activities with self-study but how fast is mostly dependent on you.

tculpepper3 karma

Are there any serious security issues and what are your standard operating procedures to prevent issues?

CounterCultureLabs3 karma

Security is an interesting question. As opposed to safety it usually implies some level of maliciousness. We currently do not allow non-food-safe projects to take place in our lab without approval from our biosafety officer. We are using this kickstarter campaign to get our lab to a place where we can do work at biosafety level 1 according to the CDC guidelines, and do not currently allow work above BSL-1, which excludes most things with any serious security implications. None of what we are currently working with is especially difficult to replicate in your own home.

Etrigone2 karma

Please excuse the confrontational question, but I'm curious... what is it about academia - or industry (or both in conjunction?) that's the issue(s)? I'm guessing it's some intrinsic & unavoidable limitations of either. Industry is mostly profit drive, academia reliant on variable funding, or something else?

CounterCultureLabs4 karma

Good question! You mentioned some of the issues. Funding definitely has a big say in what gets researched, both in industry and academia.

From industry we also have a lack of openness, both in sharing information and in preventing others from using the discoveries that they do share.

From academia we get more open sharing, but many of the scientific journals are still very expensive, so realistically most people cannot access even the results of government-funded research.

That's just the end result of research. If you want to learn how research happens, the process not just the end result, then academia is not very open either. If you go even further and want to not just understand but participate in science or engineering within the realm of biology then there are very few options. Some places offer lab space for rent to anyone interested, but those places are usually for start-ups and people who already have the education and experience. We are trying to all aspects of science and engineering (with a focus on biology) accessible to anyone, with as small a barrier to entry as is feasible and safe. This includes access to education, both theoretical and hands-on, and access to a well-stocked lab with skilled people to help and group projects where anyone can participate.

CounterCultureLabs3 karma

Those are the two main issues. A community lab gives people the freedom to work on whatever they want, not just what the boss approves because it will be economically feasible. Most people who are interested in doing science do not work at a job which lets them do exactly what they want do be working on at all times.

tasty892 karma

I have a bachelors degree in biology and currently work in a bacterial vaccinology lab, can I join?

CounterCultureLabs2 karma

Oh definitely! :D Come on by one of our biohacker and mad scientists socials. Every Tuesday at 7 pm. They're also listed on out meetup page

xilvar2 karma

Can I have laser eyes?

CounterCultureLabs1 karma

You should talk to the grinders about that.

ATLfarmHack1 karma

I tried (and failed) to start up a bio/food lab in the maker community in Atlanta. I was excited about the opportunities but failed to find like-minded people in my city. What is it about the Best Coast that makes a world of difference?

CounterCultureLabs1 karma

I don't know much about Atlanta, but having lots of biotech industry around us helps both with finding skilled individuals and finding cheap used equipment. Rent is expensive, so that part isn't so easy. We get quite a lot of interest from people working in IT who are interested in biotech. That being said, getting enough members to pay the monthly lab costs is not easy.