Technical Help at Microscopy Facilities
The amount of technical training offered by microscopy facilities varies from facility to facility around the country and even on the same campus, and is dependent on staffing (which is strongly influenced by institutional priorities and funding).
Ideally students would receive adequate training. However, determining what constitutes adequate depends on the learner's previous experience with microscopy, their general aptitude with software/instrumentation, their grasp of technical English, how complex their research project is, and their willingness to be teachable. The flip side of this coin is that not all core facility staff are good teachers or experienced in all areas of microscopy and it may be that the core facility staff need additional training before they are able to give students adequate training.
For a laser scanning confocal microscope, as used in the Case Study, 6 hours is probably a minimum. In a typical research setting, this amount would get about 80% of the trainees ready to go. Another 15% would probably need a few more hours of help. There are usually one or two individuals who show up each year who cause trainers to scratch their heads and wonder how they made it into an academic environment at all because, for example, they are unable to follow instructions or rules, or their English language skills are so poor as to make communication extremely difficult, etc.
A core facility manager walks a fine line between providing open access to shared equipment and protecting the equipment so that it functions correctly and to specifications. A single careless or uncooperative individual can ruin an environment for everyone. Therefore facility managers have reason to be vigilant and often need to seek corrective action. Involving faculty members can be necessary to solve certain issues; on rare occasions, access to equipment is denied to certain individuals.
Microscopy facility directors are in heaven when they have adequate numbers of highly trained staff who have a passion for their craft. Under such conditions, staff would be engaged with the users on a regular basis and would enjoy the interactions. The users would find the staff approachable and would include the staff in their publications as appropriate. The university would support the facility staff with institutional funds because they believe that properly run facilities lead to better research. Oh, and there would be adequate funds to keep the equipment under service contracts and reasonably up-to-date.