Hey, everyone! This week, I will be discussing what I think are the four best online stores for purchasing science lab equipment of all types. I have experience working with and/or purchasing from all four companies in either an educational or industrial setting. Enjoy!
Most Universal: CAROLINA BIOLOGICAL SUPPLY COMPANY
Probably the most well-known and certainly the most universal is Carolina Biological Supply Supply. Commonly referred to as just Carolina in the science education community, the most enticing aspects of the company are their prices and their availability of resources from virtually all science disciplines. I have personally purchased products from Carolina and, from personally experience, do not let the price deceive you. Their products are great quality. My purchases include simple Eppendorf tubes (which are really hard to produce low quality), forensics tools, and specimens for dissection. Educators can even purchase live organisms, if need be! Categories of live organisms on the site include animals, insects, fungi, prokaryotes, plants, protists, and protists. Since handling and shipping live organisms has strict regulations, Carolina was smart enough to include regularly updated USDA permits to stay compliant with local and federal laws. The company even offers products for distance learning “with more than 190 hands-on investigations” available for purchase. This is perfect for those homeschool teachers or students taking online classes.
Carolina also benefits the international education community. Living in Guatemala makes finding quality laboratory resources rather difficult to find. Even if you do, the materials are not cheap. I personally have communicated with Carolina representative of Guatemala for purchasing equipment and their boundaries extend across the entire globe!
Most Specialized: BIO-RAD LABORATORIES, INC.
The next on the list, Bio-Rad Laboratories, is a supply company that specializes in the life sciences. I only have one purchasing experience from Bio-Rad, but the quality was superb! Back in 2014, I bought the pGLO Bacterial Transformation Kit for my 11th Grade Biology class. pGLO is a green fluorescent protein (GFP) that is actually trademarked by Bio-Rad themselves. The premise of the lab is that E. coli cells are innoculated with a plasmid containing the GFP that was originally isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. Having never conducted the lab previously, I was definitely a little nervous that it would not work. Lo and behold, virtually all of my lab groups had a successful E. coli transformation! This clearly shows that Bio-Rad’s products are certainly of high quality. Bio-Rad also offers products for clinical diagnostics, spectroscopy, and, most uniquely, food science!
Most Professional: FISHER SCIENCE EDUCATION
I have not had any personal experience with Fisher Scientific in an educational setting but rather in a professional setting. When I worked as a research assistant studying the ecology of fungal endophytes at the University of Arizona, there was plenty of Fisher Scientific equipment in the lab. As with most science equipment in academia and industry, it was of the highest quality.
The Fisher Scientific Education website offers products for the scientific disciplines of biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, and earth and environmental sciences. If you are looking for higher quality products, if you or your school can afford it of course, then this is your stop! Possibly the best perk of the site is its Education LabOutfitter. This tool is best used for those who are either homeschooling students or working at a new school who is on the search for supplies. The LabOutfitter creates recommended product lists that is customizable by many different categories including grade level, subject, and class size! A great place to start if you are in this situation and at a loss of where to go.
MOST AFFORDABLE: NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS, INC.
Based in Ipswich, Massachusetts, New England BioLabs (NEB) is by far my favorite on the list. At first glance, you may wonder why as it is chock full of products for applications that go way above level of the average middle or high school student. In fact, if a teacher does not have professional experience in some of these applications, it may go over their head, too! Right away you see that their product offerings are for tools such as genome editing, epigenetics, cloning, and glycobiology.
Where NEB shines is this – providing reagents and technical support to high school and collegiate teaching labs absolutely FREE. This is no joke. I have requested PCR reagents and enzymes and received them promptly and securely. The downsides to this opportunity is that (1) your classroom must be equipped with the correct equipment to use these reagents (think PCR machines and gel electrophoresis) and (2) the selection of free product is not open to their entire catalogue. The educational support request form is extremely simple to fill out. On the form, you need to provide basic shipping information, published protocols and procedures that your course will use, and which products you are requesting. The form does state that “requests for items not on the standard list will be considered, but will be delayed due to the need to review the request.” I have not yet had experience with this, but imagine it is not that difficult.