If you're really interested in the sciences, you've probably been exposed to some labs before. Whether it was during your middle school days when your class dissected a squid or as an intern at medical school, labs are an integral part of the scientific world. From time to time, you've wondered about national laboratories. What exactly is the deal with them? Read on to find out!
They Exist Everywhere
Well, "everywhere" might be a bit of an overstatement, but they do have a presence across the country. You might assume that they exist only in places in and around Washington D.C., or that they appear only in areas that have huge populations. The fact is that they can pop up in many places, and you might be able to find one near you to go visit. Of course, in order to qualify as a national laboratory, they do have to meet some certain criteria.
So what exactly is the definition of a national laboratory? Well, according to Wikipedia, "The United States Department of Energy National Laboratories and Technology Centers are a system of facilities and laboratories overseen by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) for the purpose of advancing science and technology to fulfill the DOE mission." 17 of these laboratories exist across the country, and they are all dedicated to fulfilling this particular mission and requirement.
What This Means
As you probably know, the words on a page often have deeper meaning than they appear. Essentially, each lab is going to have some of its own freedom; however, they are likely all governed by some certain specific rules that come directly from the United States Department of Energy. Note that these labs seek to "fulfill the DOE mission." Through researching on the Department of Energy's website, you can likely get a better sense of what this actually means. These labs are likely required to meet certain energy standards and, in this day and age, fulfill certain requirements that are friendly to the environment.
Visiting These Labs
As implied earlier, it is quite possible for you to go on a tour of these laboratories. Of course, you will need to see when they are open to the general public, if they allow photography and so forth. If you are teaching a science course, a trip to one of these labs can really be an excellent opportunity for your students to work with professionals. Before you go on the trip, be sure to explain what this lab actually is, and a brief history lesson on the lab would really be excellent. These trips give your students opportunities to learn with the professionals and to engage in some experiments of their own. Such a trip will likely leave a lasting impression on your class.
National laboratories exist in quite a number of areas, and you likely have one that is within driving distance from your home. Take advantage opportunities provided to tour the labs and meet with the highly intelligent professionals who work there.
Richard Jimenez writes about science and education. His most well-known work is on Online MHA Degrees.