Any faculty member, student, postdoctoral fellow, visiting scientist or research staff at Middle Tennessee State University may be a user of the MIMIC. Collaborators or other guests may also use the Center if time is available. Users fall into two categories:
- Independent Operators: Researchers whose work requires the use of one or more of the microscopes (instruments) and the support equipment are encouraged to become qualified operators of the instruments and to do their own work.
- Occasional Users: Researchers who have only a limited need for the facilities of MIMIC may arrange with the Technical Manager for all or portions of the work to be performed by MIMIC technicians, on a time available basis.
Requirements and Privileges for Independent Users
To become an independent instrument operator, a researcher must be certified by the MIMIC Director (or a designate) that he/she is qualified to operate a particular instrument. Certification based on user experience and demonstrated ability to operate the instrument. All users are expected to follow Center policies and MIMIC User Procedures.
Certified operators will be classified as follows:
- Learner: Users in training may use the instrument during the regular operating hours of the MIMIC only under the supervision of an instructor designated by the MIMIC Director.
- Assisted Operator: Day operators may use the instrument without direct supervision during the regular operating hours of MIMIC when a staff professional is in the Center. In general, day operators will be expected to demonstrate an ability to operate the instrument properly and to understand instrument operation well enough to recognize problems when they arise and to seek help in solving the problem.
- Unassisted Operator: Unassisted operators may use the instrument at any time and will be authorized by the MIMIC Director to have a key or code to the facility. Operators in this category will be expected to be familiar enough with the operation of the instrument and will have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the MIMIC Director that they can be trusted with the responsibility of operating the instrument without supervision.
Although experienced users may be familiar with maintenance and trouble-shooting on MIMIC instruments, the MIMIC management asks that the Technical Director Technical Manager be involved in any repairs. Most instruments have service contracts that will allow for professional technical help with serious problems.
In order to train new operators in the use of the instruments and other facilities in MIMIC, the MIMIC staff and its associated faculty will offer instruction and training of various types that are designed to meet the varied needs of potential users of the MIMIC. Our philosophy is that is it much better and more efficient to have users doing their own measurements than to ask a technician or director to do the work. Training to faculty and staff of the University is free; students are expected to take courses for credit. The types of instruction now include the following:
- Short, Intensive Training in Instrument Operation: This training is intended to teach the fundamentals of instrument operation and is designed for users who have already learned or are learning the basics of specimen preparation for their particular interest area. It is primarily intended for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and some graduate students who have neither the time nor the need for a more formal course. Introductory training will be offered as needed by the MIMIC staff to from one to three individuals at a time. Interested persons should make arrangements for such training with the MIMIC Technical Manager.
- Courses in Microscopy for Academic Credit: These courses are intended for graduate and advanced undergraduate students who wish to learn microscopy as a research tool. Faculty members of the various academic departments are encouraged to organize and to teach such courses that cover specific methodological needs of their disciplines. New courses should be coordinated with the MIMIC Technical Director. As part of these courses, the MIMIC Technical Manager will be available to assist in or to carry out hands-on instruction in the use of specific instruments and MIMIC facilities. Arrangements for instrument time needed and expendable supplies for such courses must be made in advance with the MIMIC Technical Manager.
- Other Training: Various courses, training sessions, workshops and symposia may be offered from time to time, especially in the summer.
To defray costs of service contracts, supplies, replacement equipment, and repairs necessary to keep the Center running, time on all instruments in MIMIC will be charged to users according to an hourly fee schedule. The exception is for instruments purchased with federal funding for instructional use, which is free to internal users during the grant period. Fees differ for internal and external users, and extra costs are associated with samples run and/or prepared by a technician.
- Self service: Assisted and unassisted operators using the instrument are subject to internal, consulting, or external user fees.
- Technician service: Users who require the technician to run or prepare samples for them will be charged technician fees in addition to instrument time. Learners who take more than 4 supervised sessions to become assisted operators will be charged for technician time or be asked to take a formal course
- Students Enrolled in Instrumentation Courses: While taking an instrument course, students may use that instrument without additional charges, provided that course time limits are not exceeded and excessive supplies are paid from another source.
Available Technician Services
External Users: Most external users will gain access to the Center through samples prepared and/or run by the technician. The option for remote access is also available for SEM/EDX and TEM. This must be arranged through the Technical Manager. TEM is not available to commercial users until Fall 2010.
- Internal Users: If a technician runs and/or prepares samples, technician fees apply and samples are run in order of receipt as time is available.
Funding for MIMIC Users
For short-term instrument use, consult your Department Chair for financial support (based on the project estimate) and a departmental charge number.
Instrument time for extended projects in excess of the number of hours your department is willing to support is available through internal funding programs such as the FRCPC or external funding programs. The Center plans to offer user time grants. One example of this is grants of time for faculty developing courses or applications/lab experiments using MIMIC equipment.
Loss of MIMIC Privileges
Until certified as a qualified operator, a user should not attempt to use a microscope unless he/she is taking a training course and is being directly supervised by a MIMIC technician. Use by a non-certified operator will result in loss of use of the facility.
A certified operator who is observed by a MIMIC technician or a MIMIC Director not following proper protocol, not correctly using an instrument, or using an instrument for which he/she has not been certified, will have his/her qualified status revoked. If the user wants reinstatement as a certified operator, he/she must go through the approval process again.