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PhET™ Labs

PhET Lab experiments represent real interactive, and research-based simulations of physical phenomena from the PhET™ project at the University of Colorado. For teachers and students around the world, the PhET project provides interactive simulations that are based on extensive education research and support more effective science education. Going beyond traditional educational resources, PhET simulations offer an intuitive, game-like environment where students can learn through scientist-like exploration, where dynamic visual representations make the invisible visible, and where science ideas are connected to real-world phenomena. Unlike most educational software, PhET simulations are free, easily translated into multiple languages, and available either online or offline, especially important for areas with poor or no internet connectivity. With their flexible design, the simulations can be used in many ways - as demos, homework, or inexpensive yet accurate and realistic lab alternatives.

All PhET simulations are freely available from the PhET website and are easy to use and incorporate into the classroom. They are written in Java and Flash, and can be run using a standard web browser as long as Flash and Java are installed.

Explore a few of the PhET Labs simulations on several Science disciplines:

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
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Build a gene network! The lac operon is a set of genes which are responsible for the metabolism of lactose in some bacterial cells. Explore the effects of mutations within the lac operon by adding or removing genes from the DNA.

Details and get access to Gene Machine; The Lac Operon

Check out Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
Membrane Channels
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Insert channels in a membrane and see what happens. See how different types of channels allow particles to move through the membrane.

Details and get access to Membrane Channels

Check out Membrane Channels
Natural Selection
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Explore natural selection by controlling the environment and causing mutations in bunnies.

Details and get access to Natural Selection

Check out Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
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Stimulate a neuron and monitor what happens. Pause, rewind, and move forward in time in order to observe the ions as they move across the neuron membrane.

Details and get access to Neuron

Check out Natural Selection
Stretching DNA
Screen Shot of virtual lab
Explore stretching just a single strand of DNA using optical tweezers or fluid flow. Experiment with the forces involved and measure the relationship between the stretched DNA length and the force required to keep it stretched. Is DNA more like a rope or like a spring?

Details and get access to Stretching DNA

Check out Stretching DNA


Biology Labs On-Line

These are collection of lab activities developed from the Virtual Courseware Project at Cal State University-Los Angeles. The following experiments offer a series of interactive, inquiry-based biology simulations and exercises designed for college and AP high school biology students.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
CardioLab screenshot
Students explore the concept of homeostasis using arterial blood pressure as an example. The interaction of variables related to heart rate, vessel radius, blood viscocity, and stroke volume can be studied by direct manipulation, or indirectly through interventions, such as hemorrhage, exercise, dehydration, shock, intravenous infusion, epinephrine, and foxglove. Nerve impulses can be monitored under the experimental conditions. Realistic case studies such as hypertension and congestive heart failure are also available for investigation.

Details and get access to CardioLab.

Check out CardioLab
Demographylab screenshot
Students investigate how differences in population size, age-structure, and age-specific fertility and mortality rates affect human population growth. This lab can be used to investigate phenomena such as exponential growth, stable age structure, zero population growth, and demographic momentum.

Details and get access to DemographyLab.

Check out DemographyLab
EnzymeLab screenshot
Students study properties of enzymatic reactions by photometrically measuring the initial rate of synthesis of a product. Enzyme principles that can be investigated with this lab are pH and temperature optimums, Michaelis-Menton constants such as Km, Ki and Vmax, and the different classes of inhibitors.

Details and get access to EnzymeLab.

Check out EnzymeLab
EvolutionLab ScreenShot
Students investigate the process of adaptation by natural selection by manipulating various parameters of a bird species, such as initial mean beak size, variability, heritability, and population size, and various parameters of the environment such as precipitation and island size. This lab can be used to investigate evolutionary principles such as directional, disruptive and balancing selection, the dependence of natural selection on the variability and heritability of a trait, founder effects, genetic drift, and extinction.

Details and get access to EvolutionLab.

Check out EvolutionLab
FlyLab Screenshot
Students learn the principles of genetic inheritance by designing matings between female and male fruit flies carrying one or more genetic mutations. This lab can be used to demonstrate genetic principles such as dominant versus recessive traits, independent assortment, sex-linked inheritance, linkage and chromosome maps, and modifications to Mendelian ratios caused by lethal mutations and epistasis.

Details and get access to FlyLab.

Check out FlyLab
HemoglobinLab Screenshot
Students study the relationship of the structure and function of hemoglobin to the structure and function of human red blood cells. They use techniques such as gel electrophoresis, peptide sequencing, and computer modeling to study hemoglobin structure. They can investigate how mutations in hemoglobin genes affect its polypeptide sequence and relate these effects to the symptoms of individual case studies.

Details and get access to HemoglobinLab.

Check out HemoglobinLab
LeafLab Screenshot
Students measure photosynthetic rates of leaves by carbon dioxide assimilation. They investigate how photosynthetic rates change as a function of light intensity, light quality, temperature, and ambient carbon dioxide. This lab can be used to demonstrate concepts such as dark respiration, photochemical efficiency, carbon dioxide conductance, light compensation points, photosynthetic saturation, and differences in photosynthetic rates of C-3 versus C-4 plants, sun versus shade plants, and different levels of polyploidy.

Details and get access to LeafLab.

Check out LeafLab
MitochondriaLab screenshot
Students measure the oxygen consumption of mitochondrial extracts in the presence of different substrates, inhibitors, and ADP to investigate the TCA cycle, electron transport, and oxidative phosphorylation. Seven substrates and six inhibitors can be used in any order or combination by the student, providing the flexibility for a number of different experiments.

Details and get access to MitochondriaLab.

Check out MitochondriaLab
PedigreeLab Screenshot
Students use pedigree analysis to study the inheritance of genes for human genetic disorders and RFLP analysis to study recombination in humans. Using RFLPs as genetic markers, students search a simulated pedigree database to obtain recombination data that allows them to determine the location of human genes on chromosomes.

Details and get access to PedigreeLab.

Check out PedigreeLab
PopEcho Lab Screenshot
Students investigate principles of population ecology by manipulating various attributes of three bird species: two competing sparrows and a hawk predator. Users can vary initial population numbers, clutch size, life span, competition coefficients, predation rates and resource availability. This lab can be used to investigate ecological principles such as carrying capacity, extinction, overpopulation, competitive coexistence, competitive exclusion, predator-prey cycles, and predator-mediated coexistence.

Details and get access to PopEcoLab.

Check out PopEcoLab
Pop Gen Lab screenshot
Students track changes in the genotype and allele frequencies in populations of moths to study population genetic principles such as Hardy-Weinberg ratios, genetic drift, natural selection, migration, assortative matiing, and population bottlenecks. Experiments can be conducted by manipulating parameters such as the initial genotype frequencies, the carrying capacity of each population, the rates of predation on the moth phenotypes, the migration rates among populations, mating preferences among phenotypes, and the frequency of population "crashes."

Details and get access to PopGenLab.

Check out PopGenLab
TranslationLab Screenshot
Students create simple RNA sequences and then translate these in a virtual "in vitro" cell-free system. From the proteins produced by the translation mix, students determine the characteristics of the genetic code and assign codons to amino acids. This lab was modeled after some of the original experiments used to determine the genetic code.

Details and get access to TranslationLab.

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Smart Science® Online Science Labs

Below, you will find a small selection from the Smart Science library of nearly 200 online science labs. View a dozen labs designed for CSU general education biology courses. Use any of these labs free in your courses as part of the CSU system-wide virtual lab initiative.

Smart Science real online science labs provide instructors and students with uniquely hands-on real lab experiments instead of simulations. Students collect data interactively from real experiments point-by-point using their own care and judgment just as in traditional labs. They predict or hypothesize before or during the experimental activity.

The Smart Science approach ensures that students understand the nature of science, learn scientific thinking skills, and come to appreciate the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work. Smart Science labs include quizzes and online lab reports showing all student lab data and more.

Smart Science labs are delivered in HTML5 for compatibility with all modern platforms.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
screen shot of virtual lab
Real lab. Students classify cells on a slide according to stages of mitosis. The bar graph compares the quantities of cells in each stage. A variety of slides are available for analysis.

Details and get access to Mitosis.

Check out Mitosis link opens new window
Seed Germination and Pollution
screen shot of virtual lab
Real lab. Petri dishes with sponges and 20 seeds each are tracked over a long time. The sponge contains water (control) and different concentrations of contaminants: HCl, NaOH, NaCl, and isopropyl alcohol. Students click on each seed as it germinates using their own judgment to determine when the germination is visible.

Details and get access to Seed Germination and Pollution.

Check out Seed Germination and Pollution link opens new window
Animal Behavior
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Real lab. Pill bugs (aka sow bugs or isopods) are placed in a "choice" apparatus consisting of two Petri dishes connected and with porous paper on the bottom. The two halves have different solutions applied (except for the control). Ten bugs are initially placed on each side. Student count and record the number of bugs on one side for 75 seconds. They then apply chi-square analysis to determine whether the bugs have a preference or not.

Details and get access to Animal Behavior.

Check out Animal Behavior link opens new window
Photosynthesis and Light
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Real lab. Students track circular leaf segments as they float to the surface of a carbonate solution. The experiments use red, yellow, green, and blue light at a single intensity and white light at four intensities. As photosynthesis proceeds, the leaf sections fill with oxygen gas to make them float.

Details and get access to Photosynthesis & Light.

Check out Photosynthesis and Light link opens new window
Plant Transpiration
screen shot of virtual lab
Real lab. Students observe plant cuttings in different environments: room, wind, heat, and plastic bag. A potometer holds the cuttings, and students track the drop in the water level in the capillary.

Details and get access to Plant Transpiration.

Check out Plant Transpiration link opens new window

Please contact Smart Science at 855-4-SCIENCE (855-472-4362) or email us at to get started now.

For additional contact information and to learn more about Smart Science, see this announcement.


LearnSmart Labs

Created with the same world-class adaptive technology as LearnSmart, LearnSmart Labs is a revolutionary, outcome-based lab simulation. It assesses a student's knowledge and adaptively corrects deficiencies before they enter the real lab space. Students learn faster, achieve greater understanding of both conceptual and practical skills, and retain more knowledge so that their actual laboratory experience is more focused, less wasteful, and ultimately more successful.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
Microscopy Biology
screen shot of virtual lab
Students learn how to operate the parts of a light microscope, and how to prepare a wet mount slide. Students then apply these skills to observe human epithelial and onion epidermal cells in one module, and different types of microorganisms found in pond water in a second module.

Details and get access to Microscopy Biology

Cell Anatomy
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Students compare and contrast the cell anatomy of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells in one module. In a second module, students examine the differences in cell anatomy between animal and plant cells. Students observe elodea leaves in solutions of different tonicity in order to locate examples of cell membranes, central vacuoles, chloroplasts, and cell walls.

Details and get access to Cell Anatomy

screen shot of virtual lab
Students learn the core concepts of diffusion. The diffusion in different media module allows students to investigate how concentration gradients affect the rate of diffusion, and how molecules diffuse through different densities of media (semi-solid, liquid, or air). The diffusion across a membrane experiment allows students to explore how the properties of different molecules affect their abilities to diffuse across a selectively permeable membrane.

Details and get access to Diffusion

pH & Cells
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Students investigate how the human body regulates pH and combats excessive acidity. Students first design an experiment that tests the properties of artificial cytoplasm. A second experiment allows students to investigate which antacid is the most effective at neutralizing stomach acid.

Details and get access to pH & Cells

screen shot of virtual lab
Students review the core concepts involved with photosynthesis. Students first learn how to use paper chromatography, and then use a volumeter to measure the rate of photosynthesis in an elodea plant exposed to white and green light. In the fourth experiment, students identify the uptake of carbon dioxide due to photosynthesis using a phenol red solution.

Details and get access to Photosynthesis

Sampling Ecosystems
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Students investigate the abiotic and biotic factors affecting ecosystems. Students sample a specific site for available plants and animals, and then calculate the Simpson's biodiversity index for this ecosystem. In the second module, students compare two sampling sites to evaluate the differences in abiotic and biotic factors due to various changes in the environment, such as elevation, or proximity to water.

Details and get access to Sampling Ecosystems


North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO)

The North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO) is an international collaboration using open source licensing to construct a network of online, internet controllable, real-time, teaching laboratories. Currently in its third year, North American Network of Science Labs Online's (NANSLO's) goal is to provide real-time operational access to challenging inquiry-based laboratory procedures run on high-quality scientific instrumentation to students outside traditional laboratory environments. North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO) offers open-source inquiry-based laboratory procedures that can be modified to suit any science course. Presently we offer experiments in first year biology, chemistry, and physics courses. In its current implementation the Denver lab was built to serve the Colorado Community College system. The lab has a simultaneous capacity of 30 students, which equates to 120 students in an 8 hour operational day. This assumes a lab period of 2 hours and group size of 5 students. We currently have 8 different lab activities that the Colorado Community College System has been using. We expect to be serving 20 activities by the fall of 2014. From its inception the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO) project has been designed for scalability by ether expanding existing nodes or replicating existing facilities in new locations.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
Introduction to Microscopy
screen shot of virtual lab
In this lab you will learn the underlying principles that allow a microscope to function and you will learn to operate a microscope.

Detailed protocols for this lab (docx)

Details and get access to Introduction to Microscopy

Mitosis and Meiosis
image of virtual lab and actual microscope
In this lab you will be examining the underlying processes that make up the cell cycle.

Detailed protocols for this lab (docx)

Details and get access to Mitosis and Meiosis


Biology Simulations in MERLOT sorted by sub-categories:

Website: Topics:
Screenshot of MERLOT


ADD Free Virtual Labs You're Using or Authored Into MERLOT

Are you using free Virtual Lab materials you found on the web in your teaching or your learning? Have you posted free Virtual Labs online that are open for others to use? We invite you to catalog these Virtual Labs you use or authored in MERLOT. Your colleagues and students around the world will thank you!


First: Become a member of MERLOT (It will take about 2 minutes and it’s FREE).

Second: Fill out the online form to Contribute a Material. (It will take about 4 minutes the first time and step-by-step instructions for contributing materials to MERLOT are available).

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