Nano Systems Biology



    The Center for Advanced Bioimaging at the University of Ulster has one of the most comprehensive collections of bioimaging microscopes in the world. This includes all major modalities of light and electron microscopes, as well as the latest software from Explora Nova for the implementation of one-stop stereology.

    Light Microscopy

    - A wide range of wide field light microscopes, including fluorescence, polarising, DIC, etc;
    - Several confocal microscope configurations, including beam scanning, slit scanning, Nipkow disc, dual photon;
    - Laser micro-dissection microscopy;
    - Full suite of stereological light microscopes.

    Electron Microscopy (EM)/Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

    - FEI Environmental Scanning Microscope;
    - FEI Technai-12 Biotwin EM (capable of tomographic scanning of thick sections);
    - FEI Dual-beam Cryo-focussed Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscope;
    - Atomic Force Microscope (interfaced with real time confocal microscopy for single receptor functional characterisation).

    Bioimaging Laboratories

    The BRG has dedicated cell, tissue and organism culture laboratories with full phase and fluorescence facilities for digital recording of results. There are also central glassware washing and sterilisation facilities.

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    Confocal Laboratory: multiphoton microscope, three video rate confocal microscopes, BioRad MRC 600 confocal microscope, deconvolution and three dimensional reconstruction software installed on all machines. One instrument configured in inverted mode for use in live cell recording, micro-injection and cell lineage tracing.

    Confocal Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM): combined AFM confocal set-up for simultaneous imaging of AFM tip sample interaction and inverted recording of changes in ion movement or other dynamic events. Confocal data streamed to a RAID system and overflow therafter to a jukebox server. This instrument has been fabricated in house and is temperature controlled so that agonists/ antagonists from three switchable reservoirs can be perfused through the slide preparation whilst single ligand receptor molecule interactions are measured.

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    Fluorescence Imaging and DNA damage: four fluorescence microscopes dedicated to measurement of DNA damage and repair, one with motorised stage and filters for fast channel changing. These microscopes are also used for sister chromatid exchange, autoradiograms, chromaticity and other forms of image analysis.

    Histology Laboratory: automated tissue processing, automated slide staining and coverslipping, motorised cryostat, rotary microtomes (wax), rotary microtomes (resin). Microscope slide archiving facilities, Leitz brightfield microscopes, microwave ovens for histochemistry.

    Photomicrography: facilities for fluorescence, phase contrast, darkground and brightfield microscopy on both inverted and compound microscope stands as well as stereo zoom. Three dimensional reconstruction software and deconvolution. PALM laser capture micro-dissection microscope equipped with motorised programmable stage and sample holder for slides and multiwell plates. Eppendorf capture facility for up to six different sample types. Intelligent software for calculation of area, volume, etc.

    Stereology: two fully equipped stereology laboratories with a range of microscope/computer configurations for the measurement of 1st and 2nd-order stereological estimators.

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    analysis tumour

    FEI Centre for Advanced Imaging (CFAI)

    The CFAI is a new facility that has been developed within the Bioimaging Research Group, following a £1.3 million investment by the Department for Employment and Learning and the Office of Science and Innovation through the UK Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF 2006-2008) and the purchase of equipment from FEI Company, a world leader in providing advanced characterization and analysis Tools for NanotechTM.

    The Centre will support many areas of research activity and will supply electron microscope solutions for all major research areas within the molecular biosciences; for academic research from other faculties both within our institution and from other universities; and for industrial research and development.

    The Centre contains a remarkable array of electron microscopes and technologies within its comprehensive facility. We have recently acquired three state-of-the-art instruments comprising Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM), tomographic cryo-transmission electron microscopy and the world’s first cryo-dualbeam system (this latter item incorporates advances in design that have been developed through constructive collaborations between our Dr George McKerr and FEI Company).

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    Dr George McKerr with the world’s first cryo-dualbeam nanolab microscope, housed at the University’s Centre for Advanced Imaging

    The BRG will continue to collaborate with FEI Company in developing this Centre for Advanced Imaging and there are two post-doctoral researchers responsible for helping to develop the instrumentation, especially the cryo-dual beam SEM system.

    The instrumentation in the FEI Centre for Advanced Imaging include:

    - Nova Nanolab cryo-dualbeam system with FEGSEM. This system is housed within its own laboratory and is served by two computers for rapid storage and retrieval of results;
    - Tecnai 12 Spirit TEM’s latest model from FEI Company capable of tomographic imaging structures within a section six times thicker than those used by other instruments. Full software suite for image processing and analysis of x, y, and z-dimensional data plus reconstruction;
    - ESEM operates at both ambient pressure (100% humidity) and ultra high vacuum. Peltier stage which can operate between 20°C and +150°C. Dual computer control and additional software licence for remote analysis;
    - Ultramicrotomy: two RMC ultramicrotomes, one for resin section and one for cryo-ultramictrotomy.
    - Data storage: all instruments report back to a 10 Terabytes storage server. Individuals can call up their own files only from the University network.

    Bioimaging Laboratories

    Imaging research and consultancy available at the University of Ulster

    - Â£5Million state of the art instrumentation

    - Over 30 years experience

    - Reference laboratory status

    - All instruments comprehensively serviced and calibrated by manufacturer’s engineers

    Imaging labs at the University of Ulster have:

    - Very active academic research base

    - International recognition

    - Extensive collaborative links with global industries

    - Over 2 decades of productive collaborations with instrument manufacturers and software developers

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    Stereo Zoom Microscopy

    - Bulk samples

    - Fluorescence tracking

    - Environmental monitoring

    - Custom imaging solutions

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    Fluorescence Microscopy

    - Measurement of DNA damage eg. comet assay

    - Multiple antigen detection

    - Quantitative analyses (eco-toxicology, cell based experiments, engineered tissues)

    - Preparation of full and confidential reports eg patent protection, new product development and prototyping

    Laser Micro-dissection

    - Laser dissection and manipulation

    - Subcellular and single micro-organism collection

    - Training and collaborative projects

    - Assistance with lead up to grant applications and proof of concept

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    Cryo-Ultramicrotomy and preparatory techniques

    - Expert assistance with highly skilled techniques

    - Accurate imaging of sensitive structures in food, pharma and emulsions

    - Individually tailored preparation regimes

    - Comprehensive analysis of results

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    Transmission Electron Microscopy

    - Support and innovation

    - Spatial analysis by tomography and reconstruction

    - Low electron dose imaging of fragile frozen samples

    - Imaging and counting of nano-particles

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    Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy

    - Novel imaging of hydrated specimens

    - Recording of dynamic events in gels and creams

    - Full access to trained partners

    - Workshops to update all customers

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    Cryo-Focused Ion Beam/ Scanning Electron Microscopy

    - Unique access to market leading nano-fabrication facility

    - In-axis nano-manipulation

    - Site specific modification of deep cooled samples

    - Partnership, in product testing and defect tracing

    STED Super Resolution
    - Brand new technology in super-resolution
    - UU Leica Centre for tissue engineering, offers opportunities in numerous areas of life sciences, food production, pharmacology and nano-medicine
    - Dynamic imaging of delivery systems within cells and deep tissues in x,y,z and time (hours to days)
    - Comprehensive support

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    I.T. Infrastructure

    High Performance Computing (HPC)
    - 48-cores Opteron System with 512GB of RAM
    - High-performance visualization and reconstruction workstation with Amira and OpenCAR pre-installed
    - A dedicated video and image processing high-end workstation.

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    - virtualized architechture with multi core servers running virtual machines (web, groupware , Globus Grid server, file server)

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    - Storage Area Network : 20 Tera Bytes.

    Operating systems
    Linux : OpenSuse server (32 and 64 bits os), Debian, Redhat.

    50 machines (PCS, Macs and Mips) including fast multicore workstations

    - Mysql, postgres

    - Connection to JANET network : 34Mbps
    - internal Gigabit switches


cryo-dualbeam nanolab microscope