COVID-19 Update: 13 July 2020

Advice to MCEM users at 13 July 2020

Thank you again for your patience during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Over the last weeks, MCEM has welcomed back users with After Hours licences, as well as undertaken urgent experiments for many other researchers. As the University continues its staged return to research activity, MCEM is delighted to broaden access further from Monday 15 June, as follows:
  • Researchers with “Business Hours” and “Supervised Use” licences will be able to conduct experiments themselves.
  • The 7001F SEM hours will be extended for users with an After Hours licence with an additional session on Monday – Friday between 5:30pm and 8:30am. (After Hours access to other instruments will be introduced in a staged process).

Operations at MCEM have changed to ensure we meet COVID-19 OHS requirements. If you have not accessed MCEM since lockdown, here is some useful information to get you restarted:

1) iLab Registration

Firstly, a reminder, MCEM has moved to the iLab booking system. You need to be registered in iLab and have received an iLab MCEM Project Number to access MCEM. If you have not yet registered, please go here for instructions.

2) Building Access
To reactivate your access to the MCEM building, you need to complete a short Moodle OHS course “COVID19 User Induction”, (Everyone with an iLab project number is automatically enrolled in this course.)

3) Microscope Booking Arrangements
Your first microscope booking needs to be confirmed by the Microscope Manager. If necessary, they will arrange for an MCEM staff member to be available to provide instruction in new procedures and/or refresher training.

For the moment, under the current stage of COVID-19 restrictions, there are two microscope sessions per day from 9:00am to 12:45pm and from 1:15pm until 5:00pm. (The 30-minute mid-day period is for staff to clean instruments and replenish liquid nitrogen).

The 7001F is also available After Hours (as per above). (You will be contacted directly by the Microscope Manager when other microscopes open up for After Hours use.)

To ensure that all users have microscope access as soon as possible, the number of bookings per month is capped. However, if there is unbooked time available in the upcoming week you can email the relevant Microscope Manager from 10:00am on the preceding Friday to request to book an extra session.

For SEM users, sample coating will be carried out on Monday and Thursday as normal.

4) Training:
Unfortunately, due to OHS restrictions, all training of new users and training of existing users on new equipment continues to be postponed until further notice. This includes accredited courses CEM6881 and CEM6882 that will not run in Semester 2 2020. We will let you know as soon as training recommences.

As always, MCEM staff will endeavour to help you with your research in whatever way we can.  Not all staff are on-site but everyone is available via email, phone and zoom. Please contact the Microscope Manager if you have an urgent deadline to meet.

We look forward to seeing you in MCEM again soon to continue your research and we look forward to returning to more normal operation as restrictions are progressively relaxed.

MCEM Covid 19 Key Risk Controls and Operating Protocols at 12 June 2020

MCEM is aware of several COVID-19 clusters arising from electron microscope use in international facilities. To ensure the risk of transmission is minimised, MCEM is operating under risk controls which have been developed in consultation with University OHS and other national and international electron microscopy facilities. The key risk controls are:

  • No person may enter MCEM if they are unwell or have one or more of the possible COVID-19 symptoms. (Fever, Breathing difficulties, Breathlessness, Cough, Sore throat, Runny Nose, Fatigue or Tiredness.)
  • No person may enter MCEM if they have had contact with a known COVID 19 case within the previous 14 days, or have returned from overseas within the last 14 days.
  • Face masks must be worn at MCEM. These are provided in the reception area.
  • Hand sanitiser must be used frequently and, in particular, before and after use of instruments. Sanitiser is provided throughout the building.
  • 1.5m social distancing is enforced.
  • Users must bring their own laboratory coat, safety glasses and pen.
  • Where possible, MCEM staff will provide remote assistance to users via phone. If physical presence is required 1.5m distancing will be enforced.
  • MCEM staff will clean electron microscopes between each use.
  • The MCEM kitchen and some toilets are reserved for staff use only.

Building access

Access to the MCEM building will be provided from 8:45am to 5:30pm on University business days. Access to instruments will be at less frequent intervals but microscope sessions will be longer.

You must register your entry and exit to the building via swipe card at the computer station in the foyer (this is to facilitate contact tracing, should an infected person use the building).

You must not bring a visitor into the building. If there are any special circumstances, e.g. user disability, a special exemption may be requested by contacting the MCEM Manager.

Maintaining 1.5m distancing rule

Microscope laboratories:
  • Only one person may occupy a microscope lab at any time, except at the discretion of an MCEM staff member.
  • If you are working in an MCEM lab and require staff assistance, please stay in the lab and phone the relevant staff member (phone numbers are listed on the lab notice board). If the problem cannot be resolved by phone, the staff member will attend and social distancing must be maintained at all times (this may require the user to leave the room or stand at the door).
  • Users must complete their session on time and leave the room promptly to allow staff time to sterilise instrument controls prior to the next session.
  • Session times have been extended, to minimise the number of users entering the lab per day. Please plan your experiments to maximise usage of this time (e.g. wait until you have several specimens to examine).

Specimen preparation laboratories are limited to 1-5 people depending on the size of the room. See notices on doors.

Computer room: Computers in the computer room must be accessed remotely via TeamViewer.

Meetings and communications: Wherever possible communication with MCEM staff members will be by email, telephone or Zoom. Assistance on instruments may be conducted via TeamViewer.

Use of liquid nitrogen (LN2)

For TEM users and cryo-PIPS users:

TEM users and cryo-PIPS users will no longer be permitted to fill LN2 dewars from the 160lt vessel in the gas store. Instead, MCEM staff members will provide LN2 in 2lt containers in labs to top up cold traps. TEM users and cryo-PIPS users must bring and wear their own LN2-appropriate safety glasses, laboratory coat and footwear when handling LN2 from 2lt dewars. Please contact the relevant instrument manager for training in the new procedure for handling LN2.

For cryo-fracture and cryo-ultramicrotomy: Please contact an MCEM staff member if you need to undertake cryo-fracture or cryo-ultramicrotomy.

New Project Requests

New Project Requests will be processed and new Project numbers will be allocated in iLab for existing projects without any significant changes. New Project Meetings will be conducted by Zoom.


We regret that all training of new users and training of existing users on new equipment is postponed until further notice, this includes accredited courses CEM6881 and CEM6882.

“Refresher training” for an existing user will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

General user support

  • As always, MCEM staff will endeavour to assist you with your research in whatever ways are possible. Please contact the MCEM Manager or Instrument Manager with any queries you may have.
  • MCEM staff are working on a rotating roster. Staff are separated into two teams operating one week onsite/one offsite. This is to ensure continued operation in the instance that a team member comes in contact with an infected person. Available staff will be listed in the MCEM foyer. We regret that this may reduce our capacity to provide assistance as quickly as we would like.
  • As always, if a suitably-qualified MCEM user wishes to undertake microscopy work for other members in their group on a registered project, this can be organised by contacting and providing the project number and the name of the group member the user wants to assist. (Remember, microscope booking time is allocated per project, so there is no penalty to your allocation of instrument time.)

Further information

Monash University is regularly updating a fact-sheet