Design and Function of a Light-Microscopy Facility
Modern biological research depends on a wide variety of specialized techniques, which collectively are beyond the grasp of a single research group. Research infrastructure, in the form of services and facilities, is therefore an increasingly important foundation for a competitive research institution. A lightmicroscopy facility is a place of dynamic interaction among users, staff, and equipment. Staff provide the organization, continuity, and expert knowledge required to manage the laser-safe interaction between demanding, selfish, high-performance users and delicate, expensive, high-performance equipment. They introduce novice users to fundamental principles of image acquisition and analysis, often beginning with fluorescence basics, but collaborate with advanced users in the development of new imaging techniques. Intimate knowledge of the experimental needs of the user research groups is required to maximize the effectiveness of equipment purchases, which are also informed by critical evaluation of local sales and support teams. Equipment management encompasses evaluation, purchase, installation, operation, and maintenance, and depends critically on good relations with competent local technical support. Special care should be given to the architectural design of an imaging facility to maximize the utility and comfort of the user environment and the long-term performance stability of the equipment. Finally, we present the details of a web-based equipment scheduling database as an essential organizational tool for running an imaging facility, and outline the important points underlying the estimation of hourly instrument costs in a fee-for-use setting.
KeywordsTime Basis Support Ratio Cost Recovery Purchase Cost User Environment
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