Chicago Materials Research Center


Policy Overview

Effective July 2021

A key aspect of the lab is extensive one-on-one training with experienced PhD-level staff. After extensive training that covers operational procedures and safety training, it is possible for all users, from undergrads, graduate students, and postdocs, to REU summer students and external users of all levels, to operate instruments by themselves. Qualified users are given 24/7 access to the instruments. MPML staff may also provide direct service on an as-needed basis.


MRSEC Shared Facilities are open-access and available to trained users 24/7. All resources are made accessible to academic, educational, and industrial users. Approved training must be completed before independent use is granted.


All users who intend to operate an instrument independently are required to receive training. Users must learn approved procedures for the safe, appropriate, and efficient operation of instrumentation unique to our labs. Typically, one-on-one training is conducted only by a Manager. In special cases, a Manager may appoint senior users to train new users. These arrangements must be made in advance and the Manager should be notified when training is complete. After satisfactory completion of training, users will be given permission to use the instrument independently and granted access to the on-line scheduling system for reservation of time slots. For users with pilot or limited duration projects, Managers will assist with operation and training may not be required.

Equipment Use

All users must strictly follow approved instrument operating procedures. Any deviations must be pre-authorized by a Manager beforehand. Users must not attempt to repair, modify, service, or alter any hardware or software without Manager approval. Repair or replacement of a damaged instrument or compoent due to misuse, abuse, or unauthorized use will be billed to the user’s research group. Any issue or accident must be promptly reported to a Manager. At the end of a reservation period, users are responsible for properly shutting down an instrument, removing samples, turning off computers, returning accessories to storage areas, and leaving workspaces clean and orderly.


Users are responsible for bringing their own consumable supplies. The Shared Facilities does not provide consumables such as chemicals, solvents, syringes, gloves, aluminum foil, microscope slides, or SEM sample mounts. Users are required to comply with our Chemical Hygiene Plan and the CHP of their home lab.


Access to tools is supported by a quarterly Access Fee. Some instruments carry additional hourly recharge costs intended to cover service contracts, repair and replacement, or other ongoing instrument support costs. The current recharge fee schedule is online at our Rates page.

Instrument Logbooks

Most instruments have logbooks for recording actual usage. All users must sign into the logbook when beginning to use an instrument and out of the logbook when their work is finished. These logbooks allow users to report any errors or problems with an instrument so that Managers can take appropriate actions to address them. The logbooks provide the basis for recharge calculations and essential compiled usage statistics that are reported back to the NSF.

Lab Room Access

Door access to lab rooms is managed by an internal card reader system. Users will need to provide their UChicago ID card to a manager to scan into the system prior to using tools. Each ID card has a unique ID number that must be rescanned if a user gets a new or replacement card. Cards must be physically scanned. Please do not email any card images, ID numbers, or other identifying information. GCIS access can be obtained by contacting the GCIS Building Manager.

Online Reservation

The Shared Facilities us a Bookitlab online scheduler to reserve and coordinate instrument usage. All users must create a reservation before using an instrument. Reservations can be made up to 7 days in advance. Users should try to plan their work to fill the reserved time as closely as possible. Overbooking periods of time longer than necessary blocks access for other users. Users that consistently overbook will be warned and may face revocation of access or other penalties. Similarly, users should cancel or modify upcoming reservations if they do not plan to use an instrument for as long as originally reserved.

Grace Period

Users are given a grace period of 30 minutes to start working. If a user is late by more than 30 minutes, the reservation will be considered a No Show and the remaining time will be made available to any other users.


Reservations must be cancelled in advance to avoid a No Show if a user cannot arrive on time or use their reserved time. For tools with hourly charges, e.g.: the SEMs, reservations canceled with less than 12 hours advance notice will be charged at 50% of the scheduled time. This charge can be avoided by cancelling with sufficient notice or transferring the reservation to another user before the start time. As sometimes things happen, users will be allowed one free short notice cancellation per month at no charge. Frequent short notice cancellations may lead to loss of independent scheduling access. Penalties may be reduced or avoided by notifying a Manager of any issues via email in a timely manner.

No-show Penalties

If a user reserves a time slot but does not show up and start working on time, other users are blocked from using the instrument. Users must honor all advance reservations and arrive on time and ready to work.

No-Show reservations for tools with hourly fees will be charged at 50% of the reserved time with a minimum 1 hour charge. Frequent No-Shows may lead to loss of independent scheduling access. No-Show charges may be reduced or avoided by notifying a Manager via email in a timely manner.


In an emergency situation such as Fire, Flood, Explosion, Chemical Spill, or other, users must follow standard University procedures and immediately issue a report to the University Police (Dial 123 on any phone). Managers and GCIS building manager must then be notified by phone or email with the following contact information.

Computer Use and Data transfer

All users are responsible for their own data. Users must transfer their data using the provided UChicago Box system at the end of each experiment. No guarantees are made that local copies of the data will remain on instrument computers. No USB Flash drives, personal email, personal web browsing, social media, remote desktop, network drives, video chat, or other personal use of tool computers is permitted. Users must use their own personal devices for these things and not lab computers.

Acknowledgement of Support

MRSEC appreciates your continued support. Please include the following acknowledgement when presenting and/or publishing results made possible with the assistance of MRSEC Shared Facilities: “We acknowledge the MRSEC Shared User Facilities at the University of Chicago (NSF DMR-2011854)”

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