Popular culture often depicts science laboratories in spaceships, volcanoes, skyscrapers, or top-secret bunkers. In reality, most labs are just regular offices or warehouses. However, some real-life research centres occupy jaw-dropping complexes in the most extreme environments imaginable. They’re a far cry from your average lab, but these outlandish scientific laboratories conduct excellent research in tough conditions.

They also get more people interested in science, and that’s a win across all disciplines. As Professor Shane Bergin of Trinity College Dublin puts it, ‘all good science stems from conversations about science’. As such, let’s discuss the six most impressive science laboratories in the world.

The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility, University of Edinburgh Science Laboratories

Central Edinburgh isn’t exactly a spaceship or a volcano. However, this research centre in a Scottish university is pretty unique. Many scientific laboratories use laboratory flasks, test tubes, and microscopes to conduct experiments. FloWave uses something else entirely. The centre hosts an 82 ft wide circular wave pool surrounded by 168 automated paddles. These paddles move in patterns to simulate the open ocean, mimicking all sorts of wave speeds and shapes. Researchers use FloWave to test the offshore energy industry equipment, re-creating everything the ocean throws at turbines and oil rigs. They can even generate a 90 ft vertical spike wave.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama

Scientific laboratories pop up in rainy cities and sun-soaked jungles alike. Exemplifying the latter here, the STRI on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, deserves a shoutout as one of the world’s most impressive science laboratories. Engineers created Barro Colorado Island when the region was flooded for the Panama canal, and US researchers established a research station there in 1923. Biologists in the STRI have researched jungle ecology, particularly primate studies, on a beautiful tropical island ever since.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Switzerland

Science Laboratories

For another drastic change of scenery, it’s time to look at CERN in the French and Swiss alps. Spanning two countries and 5.5 square kilometres, CERN is the biggest research facility on the planet. Founded by 12 members states in 1954, the mountainous complex now hosts researchers from more than 70 countries and, most famously, the large hadron collider (LHC). The 27-kilometre ring of superconductive magnetic particle accelerators made history when they helped discover the Higgs Boson in 2014.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica

Antarctica, the only continent with more scientific laboratories than places of worship, is a major hub for the scientific community. The US founded their Amundsen-Scott station in 1957, and the centre still generates insightful oceanographic and atmospheric research to this day. Polar missions demand a lot from each researcher, and they often span a full year on the isolated station. However, the Amundsen-Scott centre still makes the bucket list for many intrepid scientists around the world.

Aquarius Science Laboratories, Florida

Aquarius, the closest thing to the deep-sea base from James Bond, is the world’s only underwater laboratory. Scientists swim down 50 ft to this seabed lab to study coral reefs, marine life, tidal nutrients, and climate change. The lab hosts up to six scientists on 10-day missions, offering the researchers creature comforts like showers and microwave ovens deep below the waves.

The International Space Station (ISS)

Despite tough competition, there’s only one winner of the most impressive science laboratories in the world- or 250 miles above the world, to be precise. The ISS took a decade and over $150 billion to build. It’s a monument to scientific research and international cooperation, where scientists conduct cutting-edge microgravity research while hurtling through orbit at 17,227 mph.

Conclusions: The World’s Most Impressive Science Laboratories

The scientific centres described above create eye-catching studies in picturesque locations. Crucially, however, they share the same curiosity, goals, and often the same equipment as every other laboratory in the world. With the right team and the right tools, anything is possible, no matter the location.