my professor just gave me a difficult assignment and I really don't know where to start with the design.
Do you have any suggestions for an academic-grade, state of the art, scientific laboratory?
What should a site like this look like or could you direct me to any site useful?
Sorry if I sound like I'm lasy, I'm not, I just want a professional opinion, if there is one. I really want to make good with this site, so that's why I'm asking...
I think the very first question you need to answer is:
Who is the audience for this site?
What would appeal to them? What do they expect? Are there other (similar) sites to which THEY would compare yours?
It depends upon what type of Lab it is I have worked in various Science Labs and they all have different styles of websites depending upon what type of research they do or services they perform. Though like Maleika said their content and wording tends to be 'no-nonsense' as you would expect.
I recently did a site for a medical research facility and their biggest questions did not revolve around anything involving their lab, equipment, etc, but how they wanted their material presented to their audience. This is more of a question of good, strong content presentation than anything else.
This is one of my favorite "science" sites. It's not a lab site, but it presents scientific information in an easily accessible, engaging manner. 99% of what this site does can and should be done by every site out there, from sites about My Dog Fifi to sites hawking Krusty Krunchy Krackers. Good design and content presentation is the first concern of a Web designer no matter what the site.
Maybe that's the underlying question of the assignment...?
I let the post simmer for a few days to see what ideas I could rustle up. I will probably build the site on WP and will go for a design as clean and as sober as possible. Since I am doing this project on a voluntary basis, because my professor asked me to, I am not expected to achieve an incredible site - but I honestly didn't have any idea of how a science lab/portal would look, and that's why I was asking the community, and thanks to Black Max for the link - I am thinking of creating something in the same style, but with post previews (to have featured images for the posts) and maybe a grid view, with a featured content area, and project area, something like this, link, but with a more sober style - without the flash gallery on top (replace it with something more useful, like a recent articles panel, and a news panel), and some more information on the post previews.
Since the site is being built in my free time I would not have to spend hours upon hours designing from scratch.