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Multi-Imaging Centre in the School of the Biological Sciences: Notice


The Multi-Imaging Centre is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, interdepartmental facility dedicated to microscopical imaging and in situ chemical analysis of biological, organic, and hydrated material by means of high energy electron beam instrumentation and coherent light optics. The Centre, which is located in the lower ground floor of the Department of Anatomy, was established by a substantial grant from the Wellcome Trust together with additional support from the School of the Biological Sciences and the Department of Archaeology.


To provide access to state-of-the-art instrumentation for projects requiring confocal laser scanning microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and x-ray microanalysis, primarily of bio-organic material. The Centre's facilities are available for research and teaching, and provide a service to all members of the University of Cambridge. Comprehensive training in the use of this instrumentation is provided.


The Centre is equipped with a single photon confocal laser scanning microscope, two transmission electron microscopes, one analogue scanning electron microscope, and one digital field emission scanning electron microscope. Facilities are available for all aspects of specimen preparation including low temperature methods, ultramicrotomy, histology, freeze-fracture replication, conductive coating, immunocytochemistry, enzyme histochemistry, and stereology.

 The Leica TCS-NT confocal laser scanning microscope is based on an inverted bright field and epi-fluorescence light microscope stand. It is equipped with a three line mixed gas visible laser and a second ultraviolet laser. It is used for immunofluorescence imaging, in vitro physiological imaging, and reflectance imaging. The software has now been updated with extremely user-friendly PC Windows NT 4.0 software.

 The Philips CM100 is a high brightness, high contrast transmission electron microscope designed specifically for the life sciences. It is a high resolution instrument in which all modes of operation are under user-friendly microprocessor control. The instrument is equipped with a Gatan video camera and monitor to facilitate teaching and to allow on-line estimation of morphometric indices.

 The Philips EM400 is a scanning transmission electron microscope fitted with an Oxford Instruments low temperature, low background holder and an EDAX 9800 SiLi energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer.

 The Philips 505 is an analogue scanning electron microscope fitted with SE, BSE and cathodeluminescence detectors.

 The Philips XL30 is a high resolution digital scanning electron microscope fitted with a high brightness Schottky field emission electron gun which has been optimized for both low voltage and low-dose operation for both SE and BSE imaging. The instrument, which is computer-mouse operated, is equipped with an Oxford Instruments cold stage, and an Oxford Link ISIS light element Ge energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer.

 The digital instruments are all PC based and are linked to a central file server which is used for primary storage of images. PC users may archive images to Zip discs or Jaz cartridges or FTP them directly to their own storage systems. Mac or Unix users will be assigned temporary storage space so that they can then access them via the University computer network. CD writing is available for permanent archiving. Hard copy images are available as photographic negatives, laser prints or video prints, and arrangements can be made for slides, dye sublimation prints, and photographic prints.

Personnel and Expertise

  Tony Burgess: Low temperature specimen preparation and scanning electron microscopy.

Lin Carter: Specimen preparation, microtomy, and photography

Patrick Echlin: Low temperature specimen preparation, x-ray microanalysis, and scanning electron microscopy.

Peter Harrall: Transmission electron microscopy and x-ray microanalysis.

Austin Hockaday: Confocal microscopy and x-ray microanalysis.

Gill King: Histology.

Janet Powell: Low temperature methods for immunocytochemistry, ultramicrotomy, and transmission electron microscopy.

Jeremy Skepper: Confocal laser scanning microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, x-ray microanalysis, immunocytochemistry, specimen preparation, cytochemistry, and stereology.

Management structure

The activities of the Centre are directed by Dr P. Echlin (Department of Plant Sciences) and managed by Dr J. Skepper (Department of Anatomy), who in turn receive advice from a management committee. The management committee consists of Drs Echlin and Skepper, the Secretary of the School of the Biological Sciences, and one representative from each of the University Departments making regular use of the facility. The long term planning and financial administration of the Centre is formulated by a steering committee appointed by the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences.

Operational procedures

The Centre is staffed five days a week and the microscopes are available for a minimum access of two hours. The following daily slots are offered: 09.00-11.00; 11.00-13.00; 14.00-16.00; and 16.00-1800. The Centre is also available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, to suitably trained and registered users, by arrangement. The staff of the Centre will be pleased to give advice on sample preparation and the most appropriate instrumentation to use for a given application. The Centre operates on a fee-for-use basis for each microscope to cover the cost of the instrument maintenance contract, the consumable supplies directly associated with the instrument, and the labour costs associated with daily maintenance. The Director can advise people applying for research grants the charges which are likely to be made over a three-year period. All users are given free initial training on a one-to-one basis on the instrumentation they need to use. Specific courses will be run on demand and will be advertised via departmental representatives. Charges will be made for technician time where appropriate and for specimen preparation. Self access to the Centre's preparative facilities is encouraged. A pro rata charge will be made for all discs, hard copy images, and negatives. Please call Dr Skepper or Dr Echlin to discuss research projects requiring microscopy. Instrument availability, booking schedules, and current charges can be obtained by calling (3) 33774.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 5th November 1997
Copyright © 1997 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.