CBC Exploratory Workshop:
Seeing better together – Strategic Cross-Institutional Microscopy Initiatives
DATE: February 7, 2016
LOCATION: Wieboldt Hall, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
February 4, 2016
Josh Rappoport, Center for Advanced Microscopy and Nikon Imaging Center, Northwestern University
Vytas Bindokas, Integrated Microscopy Core Facility, University of Chicago
Peter Toth, Imaging Center Research Service Facility, University of Illinois, Chicago
Microscopy represents a platform technology employed across bio-medical disciplines. Due to the expensive nature of modern cutting-edge microscope systems and the degree of expertise required to manage and maintain them, microscopy core facilities are essential hubs for research. Northwestern University (NU), the University of Chicago (UofC) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), all maintain microscopy core facilities that are essential to the research missions of these universities. Additionally, in particular facilitated by the CBC, cross-institutional access to these technologies and specialized expertise is growing. Thus we ran a one-day workshop for microscopy core facility staff and users in order to discuss the current integrated nature of microscopy resources across the CBC, as well as the potential for future initiatives and investments in this area. To this end representatives from industrial vendors in this area were invited to present information regarding newly available microscopy technologies. Over 30 individuals attended the workshop and several key points for follow-up were identified, including greater potential for shared user training and education, possible future grant applications that are more strategically integrated, as well as better conduits for sharing information regarding core facility management, instrument maintenance and repair, and professional development of core facility staff. The three hosts are continuing these discussions and developing a strategic plan to more forward to accomplish the goals identified.
Description of Workshop:
Our workshop included core facility staff, users and industrial representatives. Although members of university research administration were invited, none attended. The day began with introductions to available microscopy resources at NU, UofC and UIC by the three hosts, Josh Rappoport (NU), Vytas Bindokas (UChicago) and Peter Toth (UIC). These highlighted equipment and expertise, focusing of what differentiated each facility and where complementarity and room for integrated growth existed. After a coffee break we had presentations from users, one from each university: Volodya Gelfand (NU), Jiping Yue and Seung (Steve) Lee (UChicago) and Ben Gantner (UIC). These included description of microscopy work performed in the core facilities, as well as perceived areas where growth or additional availability of alternative resources could provide significant benefits. After lunch there were presentations from industrial vendors which focused on what was new and exciting in their product lines. Finally we held an open discussion to formalize the main points which emerged throughout the day.
Main Points of Discussion:
One issue that came up again and again was user training and education. Although each facility currently performs regular activities in this area, it was decided that an integrated cross institutional “Chicago Microscopy Course” could be extremely beneficial. This was enthusiastically supported by the user base present and the representatives from the industrial vendors all confirmed that this is something with which the microscopy companies could assist, for example by providing instruments for instruction. A second major point of agreement was the increasing requirement and cost of instrument service contacts. We agreed to compile and share a list of alternative sources of instrument repair, such as freelance technicians. We also discussed instruments that are needed within the cores represented, and engaged in a very useful dialogue with the industrial representatives on current R&D going on inside their respective companies. Other issues that were discussed included the increasing, and increasingly stressful, role of cost recovery in core facility management, and the role of core facilities in data management and storage, as well as image processing and analysis. Overall the day was extremely fruitful and the three groups represented (core staff, users and industrial vendors) communicated extremely effectively. Thus we feel very strongly that the day was a success as follow up discussions and plans for future activities integrated across the three institutions are already in motion.