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Policies

Organization

The SRNML Director is the individual in direct charge of the SRNML and answers directly to the VPRP. Their responsibilities include:

  1. Overseeing the daily operation of SRNML.
  2. Supervising the staff of SRNML and ensuring proper use of staff time.
  3. Developing long range plans for the SRNML.
  4. Managing the budget of the SRNML.
  5. Advising and reporting to the VPRP concerning all aspects involved in running the SRNML.
  6. Interacting on a routine and regular basis (at least quarterly) with the SRNML Steering Committee.
  7. Carrying out the policy of the SRNML.
  8. Consulting the Steering Committee when any change in policy is anticipated.
  9. Making faculty across the campus aware of the SRNML and its availability.
  10. Collaborate with OU researchers to develop plans and proposals for new shared microscopy resources.

SRNML Research Associates

SRNML Research Associates are employees of the SRNML and thus, are supervised by the SRNML Director. Their primary responsibilities are to the shared facility; no individual researcher should expect to receive preferential help from them. Overall responsibilities of Research Associates include:

  1. Consultation and communication with potential users.
  2. Maintenance/repair of the microscopes and logging of instrument performance / issues.
  3. Training of potential users in sample preparation, imaging/analysis, and data analysis methods both individually and with short courses for small groups.
  4. Determining when an individual has qualified to operate one of the microscopes.
  5. Keeping a log of how each day's time is spent and posting a schedule of use of the microscopes.
  6. Assisting in the preparation of specimens for microscopic analysis and performing the imaging and analysis data collection for researchers (faculty, students, post-doctorates, research staff or visiting scientists) who are not qualified microscope operators.
  7. As time permits, aiding qualified operators in any aspect of their research which needs the facilities of SRNML.
  8. As time permits, aiding researchers in the interpretation of data and writing of manuscripts (when co-authorship has been agreed).
  9. As appropriate, participating in proposal development and writing for equipment and research related to SRNML resources.
  10. Coordinating demonstrations of the SRNML facilities for interested parties, both on and off-campus.

With respect to point (5) and (6), it is emphasized that researchers who need to use the SRNML on a routine basis should become qualified operators, so they can be responsible for most of their microscopy needs.

Associate Directorship

SRNML Research Associates may be appointed by the VPRP into Associate Directorship roles, specializing in Advanced Light, Electron, or other microscopy technologies. Associate Directors should work with the SRNML Director to develop and update lab policies, participate in strategic planning, and contribute to teams of researchers working to obtain external support for new microscopy-related research technologies to be included in the SRNML.

SRNML Steering Committee 

The SRNML Steering Committee functions to aid the SRNML Personnel and VPRP in the management of the SRNML. As such, the Steering Committee is asked to make recommendations through the SRNML Director to the VPRP on such matters as: 

  1. Daily operations of the SRNML
  2. Policy and procedures of the SRNML
  3. Enhancement of the laboratory programs
  4. Equipment acquisitions
  5. Personnel needs
  6. Budget
  7. Priorities for the SRNML

Membership of SRNML Steering Committee

The Advisory Board will consist of six faculty members appointed by the VPRP in consultation with the SRNML Director and other interested parties. Each term of appointment, subject to one re-appointment, will be for three years. Terms will be staggered such that two new members will be appointed each year. The representation on the Steering Committee will be as broad as possible, including faculty members from a range of departments on campus and regional institutions outside of OU.

SRNML Users

Any faculty member, student, post-doctorate, visiting scientist or research staff at the University of Oklahoma may be a user of the SRNML. All users must be trained by SRNML personnel before using facilities and equipment. Trainings and consultations are also available for sample preparation and image analysis. External researchers may be able to perform as an occasional user working with SRNML Research Associates following consultation with the SRNML Director and Research Associates. Users will be considered ‘qualified’ or ‘occasional’.

  1. Qualified instrument operators. Researchers whose work requires the use of one or more of the microscopes and the support equipment are encouraged to become qualified operators of the instruments and to do their own work.
  2. Occasional users. Researchers who have only a limited need for the facilities of the SRNML may arrange for all or portions of the work to be performed or assisted by SRNML Research Associates, on a time available basis.

Qualified Users

To become a qualified operator, a researcher must be certified by the SRNML Director that he/she is qualified to operate a particular instrument. Certification must be obtained for each instrument separately. Qualified operators will be classified as follows:

  1. Learner. Learners may use the instrument during the regular operating hours of the SRNML only under the supervision of a qualified instructor designated by the SRNML Director. 
  2. Day Operator. Day operators may use the instrument without direct supervision during the regular operating hours of the SRNML. 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. 
  3. Day/Night Operator. Day/night operators may use the instrument at any time and will be authorized by SRNML personnel to have a key to the instrument room. Operators in this category will be expected to be familiar enough with the operation of the instrument to trouble shoot minor problems, such as blown out filaments, and moreover, they will have demonstrated to the satisfaction of SRNML personnel that they can be trusted with the responsibility of operating the instrument without supervision.

Instrument operators will be assigned to one of the above categories for each instrument by the SRNML Director and Research Associates on the basis of their experience and demonstrated ability to operate the instrument.

Training Courses

In order to train new operators in the use of the instruments and other facilities of the SRNML, the SRNML personnel and associated faculty will offer instruction and training of various types that are designed to meet the varied needs of potential users of the SRNML. The types of instruction will include (but will not be limited to) the following:

  1. 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. It is primarily intended for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, technicians and graduate students who have neither the time nor the need for a more formal course. Training will be offered as needed by SRNML personnel to from one to six individuals at a time. Interested persons should make arrangements for such training with an SRNML technician.
  2. Short courses in specimen preparation or data analysis. This training will be provided to faculty, postdoctoral researchers, technicians and graduate students who wish to learn specific aspects of specimen preparation or data analysis that are related to their research programs. Training will be offered by SRNML technicians on a request basis.
  3. Courses in microscopy for academic credit. These courses (existing or new) 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. These courses should be coordinated with the SRNML Director and SRNML Research Associates. As part of these courses, SRNML technicians will be available to assist in or to carry out instruction in the use of specific instruments and SRNML facilities. In order to maximize instruction and to avoid duplication of effort, faculty in related academic disciplines are requested to coordinate their efforts and to design cross listed courses. Instructors of all such courses that require the use of any SRNML facilities must schedule the use of the SRNML and arrange for the use of the time of SRNML Research Associates at the time class schedules for the semester in which the course will be taught are due. Arrangements for expendable supplies to be used in such courses must be made in advance with the SRNML Director. 
  4. Other training. Various courses, training sessions, workshops and symposia may be offered from time to time.

Steps for initiating SRNML resource access are provided on our webpage.

Loss of SRNML Privileges

Until certified as a qualified operator, a user should not attempt to personally use a microscope unless they are taking a training course and is being directly supervised by SRNML personnel. Use by a non-qualified operator will result in loss of use of the facility.

A qualified operator, who is observed by SRNML personnel not following proper protocol, not correctly using the microscope or using a microscope for which they have not been certified, or not storing/labeling/cleaning their materials adequately will have their qualified status revoked. If the user wants reinstatement as a qualified operator, they must again be certified as qualified.

Schedule and instrument scheduling

The regular hours of the SRNML will be from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., if the University is on that summer schedule). The facility will be open at other times only to qualified day/night operators or by special arrangement with SRNML personnel.

Instrument scheduling: Qualified users will be granted access to online scheduling calendars; all other scheduling will be done by users contacting SRNML personnel. If an SRNML Research Associate is needed to conduct a researcher's microscopy, the researcher should contact them a week or two (the earlier the better) prior to needing the microscopy work. At that time, the SRNML technician can determine their availability, how much time will be needed, and block out these times on the online calendar. If scheduled maintenance/repair or if time for training is needed on an instrument, time will be blocked off on the sign-up sheet by SRNML technicians. The SRNML reserves the right to preempt normal use for maintenance/repair, installations or special circumstances which cannot be successfully predicted and scheduled. Note that electron and advanced light microscopes may have different scheduling policies; refer to the specific instructions for the lab in use. Furthermore, SRNML personnel reserve the right to limit the scheduling of individual researchers who reserve several blocks of time in a single week to allow a range of researchers access to equipment.

No-shows: Anyone scheduled to use the SRNML facilities is expected to do so at the assigned time. If a person repeatedly does not use the microscope at an assigned time, privileges for use of the SRNML facilities will be restricted to open blocks of time during the week the microscopy is to be accomplished.

External usage: External usage of the SRNML is restricted to academic and non-academic projects requiring microscopic services for the purpose of conducting original research. Prices for external usage will be based on all costs incurred by the SRNML in the operation of the facility, including: (1) direct usage and specimen preparation costs; (2) maintenance costs; (3) amortization of research equipment and facilities; (4) operator salaries; (5) fringe benefits; (6) administrative costs; and (7) indirect costs.

Log Books: Log books are provided for each piece of equipment in the SRNML. Each time a piece of equipment is utilized an entry must be placed in the log book. Entries will vary, but will include the name of the user, nature of use, date, and time (starting and finishing) of use. It is essential that these logs be maintained to facilitate instrument maintenance and to determine amount of use each instrument receives.

Health and safety

University EHSO policies and manual

All SRNML activities are governed by the University lab manual. Users should refer to the online updated manual. The following policies for the most part reiterate key aspects of the OU policies that are most relevant to working in the SRNML. Other useful University EHSO information can be found here.

Emergency

The emergency phone number is 911. Mobile phone numbers for SRNML Personnel are listed on each lab door; users are welcome to call.

Training requirement

For safe use of the lab, users should assume they are not allowed to operate or use any equipment until trained. Descriptions of training are provided elsewhere. Furthermore, all users should be current on their laboratory safety, hazard communication, etc. trainings through onpoint.ou.edu. SRNML personnel should provide users a lab/safety orientation for any spaces in the SRNML that the user will be working.

Cleanliness and citizenship

As a multi-user facility, safe and efficient operation requires that all users leave the lab in the same or better condition in which they found it. Return borrowed items to their proper storage location, dispose of waste, clean any used countertops, and return equipment to default settings. Failure to be a good lab citizen may result in loss of access/use privileges.

The SRNML is not responsible for your personal items, specimens, or data. Any items kept in the lab facilities should be labelled with your name. Permission must be requested before storing materials, chemicals, or specimens in lab facilities. SRNML personnel reserve the right to remove or dispose of materials or data in lab facilities.

Food and drink are not allowed outside of offices and conference rooms.

Hazardous or infectious materials

Users must declare all hazardous or infectious materials brought to the lab. The SRNML is not equipped to work with infection materials unless previously fixed and inactivated. Users are responsible for removal and safe disposal of all hazardous materials when the work is complete.

Chemicals

SRNML users and lab personnel work with many hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals.

Start with the assumption that any chemical you encounter is hazardous.

Any chemicals or specimen containers brought to the lab by users must be labelled with the user’s name, contents, and date.

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with chemicals, particularly gloves and eye protection.

Volatile chemicals should be used only in a fume hood.

Notify SRNML personnel immediately of any spills or ask questions when uncertain of appropriate procedures.

Note that many of the fixation and staining chemicals contain hazardous materials; treat materials with respect and care. Clean after you work appropriately.

Liquid nitrogen / cryogenic work

Liquid nitrogen use in SRNML facilities is routine, but care should be taken. Eye protection along with appropriate hand, leg, and foot protection must be worn when transfers of liquid nitrogen; cryo gloves are also available. Note that contact with skin can cause burns, can boil explosively, or displace room air/oxygen.  Only store and transfer liquid nitrogen or other cryogens in approved designated containers and use only with approval. Never leave containers containing cryogens unsealed or unattended.

Radiation safety

Normal use of SRNML facilities will not result in radiation exposure. However, electron microscopes in particular generate ionizing radiation. Internal shielding precludes the need to use personal protection or monitoring. On the other hand, it is important that you do not use equipment outside the bounds of operating procedures for which you were trained. Radiation safety surveys are performed to ensure safe use.  Additionally, uranium-based solutions are sometimes used as part of sample preparation and staining. Such concentrations are safe when used appropriately, but exposure should be minimized and appropriate PPE utilized. Please ask regarding any questions or concerns. You have the right to contact University and State radiation safety officials anytime.

Laser safety

Use of microscopes with lasers requires special operator and laser safety training in consultation with SRNML staff; hazards vary and are specific to each microscope. As with all equipment, use only after training and only in the manner to which the training has been completed.