Advice For Academic Supervisors

The Electron Microscope Unit provides support to a large number of research projects being prosecuted across UNSW and elsewhere in the Australian research community.

The following section provides advice to academic supervisors who are considering sending researchers (honours students, postgraduate students or research staff) to use the facilities.

The EM Unit currently has 17 frontline instruments and provides nearly 20,000 beam hours each year to over 400 researchers. As such, many instruments are in high demand, and you are encouraged to plan ahead with experiments that may involve electron microscopy. The Unit is especially busy late in the academic year so it is particularly important to ensure honours students, who have tight deadlines, plan ahead to ensure they can complete their projects in a timely way.

Researchers who are new to the Unit must be formally inducted into the Unit. This involves a “new user” meeting, where the researcher will meet with the technical staff member(s) they will work with to establish training protocols, specimen preparation methods, training sessions etc. We require that the meeting is attended by either the supervisor or a senior member of the group. Academic staff are encouraged to arrange a meeting with the Director of the EMU (Prof. Richard Tilley) to discuss their research goals if they have not made extensive use of the facility before.

Many projects that pass through the Unit are relatively routine and involve well established methods and practice. The Unit’s technical staff is highly experienced and is able to support these projects effectively. Occasionally, projects are presented to us which are not routine and involve the development of new methods or complex analyses. The Unit has on staff two academic staff members (Director and Deputy Director) together with several research staff members who may be required to become significantly involved in such projects. It is not unusual for such collaborations to involve project co-supervision or lead to joint authorship of papers etc.

The EM Unit is a founding node of the Microscopy Australia (MA), funded through the NCRIS program. As part of this network, UNSW researchers have access to MA facilities located at other nodes. This provides access to equipment and expertise not available at UNSW. If you wish to access facilities at other nodes, you should first contact the node Director. Details of the available facilities and contact information can be found at Microscopy Australia.

A charge is levied for electron microscope use. This is a nominal cost and represents ~ 25% of the actual cost of beam time. Users of the facility are asked to provide us with valid UNSW account codes prior to performing experimental work. 

Some staff perform ‘fee-for-service’ contract work, often through New South Global or directly for a corporate client.  If you are involved in a commercial project which involves access to the Electron Microscope Unit then the full cost of any microscopy performed must be passed to the client. Academic supervisors should discuss these projects with the Director before the work begins.

Whilst the Unit has a large array of instruments, we are constantly attempting to keep the suite of equipment in the Unit up to date. Most years we make applications through ARC-LIEF, UNSW MREII etc for funding for new instruments. We welcome suggestions for new instruments or capabilities which will assist us to support the University’s research effort. We regularly invite active researchers to join such applications as Chief Investigators. 

Our principal mission is to support good research. If you have any comments or suggestions on how we seek to achieve this please contact the Unit’s Director.