Scientists for a day: 150 students celebrate National Lab Day at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Elementary and high school students from LI and NYC tour working labs to experience what it's like to be a scientist

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. - World-renowned molecular biologist Gregory Hannon opened the doors of his 3-story laboratory building to more than 150 fifth and ninth graders in celebration of National Lab Day on May 12 and 13.   Dr. Hannon, a CSHL professor who, several years ago, helped discover the mechanism behind a previously unknown mode of gene regulation called RNA interference, did not merely tell kids what working in a biology laboratory is like.  Instead, he showed them, in a demonstration that included many members of his lab and lasted for hours.

CSHL Prof. Gregory Hannon

It was only part of a full day’s activities for aspiring Long Island scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, as it took part in a program that has brought together more than 4,000 working scientists to work with teachers and students across the country.

“The kids were able to interact with cancer and neurobiology researchers in my lab who include graduate students working on their Ph.D.’s and postdoctoral fellows taking the final steps in the path that ends in their becoming independent investigators with labs of their own,” said Hannon, who is also among the most popular and respected lecturers at CSHL’s Watson School of Biological Sciences, a grad school in biology that grants the Ph.D. degree.  “At CSHL,” said Hannon, “we share the mission of National Lab Day to connect kids to science by providing experiences for them to learn through experimentation and discovery.”

The fifth graders who visited the Hannon lab were from Long Island’s Locust Valley Elementary School; the ninth graders were from Manhattan’s Hunter Science High School.  They got a chance to look at lung cancer cells and fruit fly neurons, courtesy of graduate student Fred Rollins. They also heard from Dr. Hannon and postdoc Emily Hodges about their latest discovery.  Hannon and Hodges were part of an international team that reported this past Thursday on the results of genome scans showing that Neandertals – our cave-dwelling ancestors who died out about 30,000 years ago – are virtually identical to modern humans at the level of genes and proteins.

Fred Rollins, graduate student

Earlier in the day, the students participated in hands-on experiments at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Dolan DNA Learning Center, where close to 50,000 students from Long Island visit each year as part of a collaborative program with local school districts.

To learn more about National Lab Day, please visit:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering.  For more information, visit

Written by: Dagnia Zeidlickis, VP of Communications | | 516-367-8455