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Home News & Events Articles 2020 CSSB microscopy facilities receive a grant

CSSB microscopy facilities receive a grant to ensure safe operation during corona pandemic

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The coronavirus, which has infected over three and a half million people worldwide, is presenting societies around the globe with unprecedented challenges. Scientists, including those at CSSB, are responding to this crisis with exceptional speed and ingenuity.

The social distancing requirements necessary to minimize the spread of the corona virus present the scientists running CSSB facilities with some unexpected logistical challenges. As our facility managers prepare to make their services available for new Covid-19 projects, they have had to consider not only how to support existing users but also how to find different ways to train new users. CSSB’s Advanced Light and Fluorescence Microscopy (ALFM) and Electron cryo-microscopy (Cryo-EM) facilities operated by the Universität Hamburg have recently received a “Was zählt!-Fund for Teaching and Learning” grant from the Claussen-Simon Foundation to facilitate the implementation of new training and safety procedures.

Typically, all new users of the microscopy facilities at CSSB receive one or more introductions and training sessions on the equipment. “Up to now this has been done in sessions for small groups of students directly at the microscopes,” explains Roland Thuenauer, ALFM facility head “This is of course no longer an option going forward.”  To minimize contact during future trainings, facility heads Roland Thuenauer and Carolin Seuring have developed a solution which combines remote control software and a web camera both financed by the new grant. “This solution allows a user to observe facility staff at the microscope while accessing the microscope via a computer,” explains Seuring “as the user gains more experiences the roles will be exchanged and the user will have the possibility to operate and control the microscope with remote assistance from our staff.”

Although these measures will replace most of the personal contact which would normally take place at the microscopes, proving a small amount of personal support will not be avoidable. Therefore, when two individuals are using the facility at the same time personal protective equipment must be worn. Some of the grant monies will therefore be used to purchase respiratory masks, disposable laboratory coats and protective goggles for facility staff and users.

“We are confident that the plan we have put in place will ensure that all future trainings run in a manner that ensures the safety of both staff and users,” states Thuenauer. The 12 light microscopes in the ALFM facility along with the five microscopes in the cryo-EM facility will be available with priority to users working on Covid-19 related projects but will also be available for other projects while once the facilities begin a limited operation.  “We are looking forward to supporting CSSB and guest scientists in their effort to understand the molecular mechanisms of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2,” affirms Seuring.