How the Unit works
Users of the Unit's facilities are usually expected to become familiar with the instruments they need to use. The director and Unit's technical officers are there to advise you on how best to achieve your aims within the limits of their experience. They will also be on call to help you with any instrumental problems that arise. However you will be responsible for your experimental strategy, the preparation of your samples, choice of instrumental operating conditions, the aesthetics of the images and ensuring that the images do not get mislaid. The Unit offers many services which are intended to help users in achieving their goal but the responsibility for the results ultimately rests with the user. Under certain circumstances, and with the express permission of the Director, the Unit will collaborate with the users in the microscopy. In this case, officers of the Unit will assume greater responsibility for the work as agreed with the user.
If you need to use one of our services you should contact the Unit. The telephone number for our enquiries desk is (021) 650 2818. Other telephone numbers are listed on our staff page. You may also use e-mail or the online contact form on our Contact page. If you are a student or a staff member who does not control a budget, it may be a good idea to discuss your needs with your supervisor before approaching the Unit. At your first meeting with a member of the Unit's staff a plan which meets your immediate needs will be formulated and you will need to register with the Unit by filling in a registration form.
Learning the instruments
Before you begin in earnest you will probably be required to learn how to operate some of the instruments. The responsible Unit officer (usually Mohamed Jaffer, Nasheeta hanief, or Miranda Waldron) will assign specific tasks to you and will sit with you at the instrument until he/she judges that you are safe to be left alone. During this phase of your learning you should make sure that your instructor is available whenever you need to book the instrument. After you have had some experience and are able to operate the instrument safely and competently, you will be allowed to book the instrument whenever you please. If you have previous experience on an instrument of the type you wish to use, all you will need to do is take note of the conventions and practices of the Unit and convince one of the Unit officers that you are competent. After that you are welcome to book the instrument whenever you need it.
If you know how to use the preparation instruments you may, of course, prepare your own specimens. The Unit does however offer a SEM sample preparation service which includes critical point drying, mounting and sputter coating. We encourage users to prepare their own TEM samples, under supervision of either Mohamed Jaffer or Nasheeta Hanief.
You must be registered with the Unit before you can make instrument bookings. To register, contact the Unit Office for information on how to register on our booking system. Time on one of the electron microscopes can usually be booked up to a week in advance, although special arrangement for booking further in advance can be made if circumstances warrant it. You may book as much time as you need. If you wish to cancel a booking please do so 24 or more hours in advance. For more info, see our Bookings Page.
Recording Usage and Consumables
When you have finished your session in the Unit you must record the actual time you spent using an instrument in the appropriate log book even if you are not being charged for the session. The logbook is used for billing purposes and for drawing up usage statistics. The statistics are used to justify the purchase of new instruments, therefore you do a disservice to future users if you do not co-operate in this. The money raised from the usage fees is for the maintenance of the instruments. Without this money the Unit cannot keep the instruments in first class condition. All consumables must be paid for. This includes everything you use except those things that are taken for granted in the prep lab (e.g. distilled water and paper towels). There are no exceptions when it comes to paying for consumables. The invoice will be sent to your supervisor or finance officer at the end of each month and the account entity under which you operate will automatically be debited.
When you have finished your session
Please tidy up, fill in the appropriate log book, and inform a Unit staff member that you are leaving.