DNA Learning Center sign on red brick background

About the CSHL DNA Learning Center

We stand at the threshold of a new century with the whole human genome stretched out before us.

The mission of the DNA Learning Center is to prepare students and families to thrive in the gene age. We envision a day when all elementary students are exposed to principles of genetics and disease risk; when all high school students have the opportunity to do hands-on experiments with DNA; and when all families have access to genetic information they need to make informed health care choices.

In 1988, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory established the DNA Learning Center (DNALC) as the world's first science center devoted entirely to public genetics education. Founder and executive director David Micklos anticipated that there would be huge gaps in science curricula taught at even the finest schools and conceived a program that would better prepare students in 5th through 12th grades and their families to thrive in the gene age.

The DNALC is the largest provider of biotechnology instruction at the precollege level in the United States, operating 13 teaching laboratories in Cold Spring Harbor, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Sleepy Hollow, with Passaic County coming in early 2024. Each year 30,000 precollege students conduct hands-on experiments at a DNALC or receive intensive lab instruction from DNALC staff at their schools. More than 27,000 middle and high school students have attended our week-long summer camps.

DNA Learning Center Locations


Dolan DNA Learning Center

Dolan DNA Learning Center building on a sunny day framed by green trees and grass
  • Established in 1988
  • Field Trips & Summer Camps
  • Laboratory Classrooms (4)
  • Bioformatics Laboratory
  • Museum Exhibition
  • Auditorium
  • Lunchroom
  • Directions to Dolan DNALC

The Dolan DNA Learning Center on Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor was the first building dedicated to the educational outreach programs of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), and serves as home-base to all DNALC locations.

The building was an excessed, Neo-Georgianstyle elementary school located about a mile from CSHL's main campus. CSHL entered a lease/option to buy the building from the Cold Spring Harbor School system. Beautiful on the outside, it had been subdivided into a warren of temporary offices and it charmingly retained all of the original features from its construction in 1925—including pint-sized toilets and a multipurpose auditorium with proscenium stage and two basketball hoops.

In the fall of 1987, we began to renovate the building. Emblematic of our goal to be a "hands-on" science center, a 32-seat lab was the first space renovated, and in the spring of 1988 we conducted the first laboratory field trips during which students cut and separated viral DNA or inserted an antibiotic resistance gene into bacteria. We installed an exhibit, The Search for Life, borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. The exhibit's intricate system of aluminum trusses and theatrical lights occupied the entire front hall, gym/auditorium, and two of four original classrooms. The official opening/dedication of the DNA Learning Center was on September 18, 1988.

A two-story addition completed in spring 2001 more than doubled the size of the DNALC. The DNALC features four laboratory classrooms, a computer laboratory, 104-seat auditorium, nearly 2,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, visitor lunchroom, office space for more than 25 staff members, prep labs, video studio, conference room, and staff lounge.


DNA Learning Center NYC at City Tech

DNA Learning Center NYC at City Tech street view from Tillary and Adams Streets
  • Temporary location established in 2019, new facility opened 2021
  • Field Trips & Summer Camps
  • Laboratory Classrooms (6)
  • Bioformatics Laboratories (2)
  • Museum Exhibition (partially developed)
  • Lunchroom
  • Download the DNALC NYC brochure (PDF)

DNALC NYC at City Tech, a collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY), is located at New York City College of Technology (City Tech) in Brooklyn. In spring 2021 construction of a new space at City Tech was completed—including six teaching labs with state-of-the-art equipment, two bioinformatics labs, and a planned exhibition. We look forward to welcoming students in the summer!

DNALC NYC at City Tech brings all the great molecular genetics labs offered at the Dolan DNALC in CSH, in a location more accessible to schools in Brooklyn, Queens, lower Manhattan, and central New Jersey. Staffed by veteran DNALC educators, DNALC NYC at City Tech offers cutting-edge field trip experiences and summer camps for middle and high school students from the tri-state area.

Learn more about what we offer at DNALC NYC

Coming soon

DNA Learning Center at Passaic County Technical Institute Biotech Innovation Center

Architects drawing of in development DNALC in Wayne, NJ.
  • Expected to open in 2024
  • Field Trips & Summer Camps
  • Laboratory Classrooms (2)
  • Bioinformatics Laboratory (1)
  • Research/Supply Chain Laboratory
  • Lunchroom

In May 2023, the Board of Education of the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) approved a license agreement for a DNA Learning Center (DNALC) at the Biotech Innovation Center in Wayne, New Jersey. The Biotech Innovation Center bridges the campuses of a 5,000-student vocational-technical high school and a community college. The 6,500-square-foot Passaic DNALC is due to open in 2024 and will include two teaching labs, a bioinformatics lab, research/supply chain lab, prep lab, and staff offices. Like other locations in the New York metropolitan area, the center will be staffed and directly run as part of the core DNALC enterprise.

The Passaic DNALC will support students in a PCTI dual-degree program with specialized biotech lab and research experiences, including a “supply chain” lab in which students will run a “company” that produces biotech reagents for use in high schools throughout Passaic County. This will include producing Taq polymerase, the key reagent of the widely-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Our facility will also serve approximately 1,000 students enrolled at a science magnate school on the PCTI campus. Pre-college age students from throughout Passaic County will also have access to the DNALC’s full menu of academic year lab field trips and summer DNA camps.


Harlem DNA Lab

Harlem DNA Lab in the John S. Roberts Educational Complex (JHS 45) in East Harlem

Harlem DNA Lab was the first DNALC facility to serve the students and teachers of New York City. In 2007, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein provided exclusive use of a 1,200-square-foot classroom in the John S. Roberts Educational Complex (JHS 45) in East Harlem. Then, in winter 2007-08, the Division of School Facilities renovated the space according to our specifications—including our signature student lab desks. One area of the lab is specifically designed for assembling footlockers and restocking reagent kits to be used in NYC schools. With a soft opening in the spring, Harlem DNA Lab was dedicated on September 23, 2008 by Chancellor Klein, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Vice President Peter Bruns, and CSHL President Bruce Stillman.

Harlem DNA Lab is directly administered by the DNALC and is staffed by educators and Ph.D. biologists who have been trained to deliver an exceptional learning experience for every visitor. In Harlem we provide the same range of middle and high school lab field trips as offered at our Cold Spring Harbor, Brooklyn, and Sleepy Hollow facilities. Harlem DNA Lab is also a hub for the Urban Barcode Project and Urban Barcode Research Project summer training workshops and open labs.

Genetics and biotechnology footlocker Kits are available from DNALC NYC for use in your school. Each kit contains all the equipment and replenishable materials for classes to complete a lab. Learn More


Regeneron DNA Learning Center

Regeneron DNA Learning Center building with Hudson River in the background

With the opening of Regeneron DNALC in fall 2019, we began an exciting collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The new center is situated in the heart of Westchester County with convenient access from Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, and Rockland counties in New York; Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties in New Jersey; and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut.

Regeneron is a leading biotechnology company that invents life-transforming medicines for people with serious diseases. Founded and led for over 30 years by physician-scientists, their unique ability to repeatedly and consistently translate science into medicine has led to nine FDA-approved treatments and numerous product candidates in development, nearly all of which were homegrown in their laboratories. Their medicines and pipeline are designed to help patients with eye diseases, allergic and inflammatory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, pain, hematologic diseases, infectious diseases, and rare diseases. They believe that scientists should be the world’s heroes and are committed to fostering the next generation of scientific talent through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education efforts.

Regeneron DNALC occupies a 4,700-square-foot space at Regeneron’s Sleepy Hollow facility. Two teaching labs with state-of-the-art equipment accommodate middle and high school field trips during the academic year, week-long summer camps, and semester or year-long research projects. Mentor training for teachers and mobile equipment footlockers support in-school experiments. Regeneron DNALC is staffed by educators and Ph.D. biologists who have been trained to deliver an exceptional learning experience to every visitor.


DNA Learning Center West (Closed)

NA Learning Center West
  • Established in 2002
  • Closed in May 2020

The DNA Learning Center West opened in June 2002 with the strong support of CSHL trustee Arthur Spiro. With his help, we collaborated with the Research Institute of the North Shore–Long Island Jewish (NS–LIJ) Health System, now Northwell Health, to establish the new center in Lake Success, New York. DNALC West included a teaching lab, prep lab, lunchroom, and office.

Before closing in May 2020, DNALC West offered all the great molecular genetics labs offered at the Dolan DNALC, in a location more accessible to schools sited in Nassau and Queens.