Rhodes>EMU>Using the Unit

Use of the EM Unit

The role of the technical staff in the EM Unit is to assist users. However, if they have time, the unit's staff will undertake technical work (e.g. specimen preparation and section cutting) for academic staff of Rhodes University, and other external users. Work for external users must, however, be cleared with either Professor Hodgson or Ms Pinchuck. Undergraduates and postgraduates are expected to be able to do their own work, once they have received appropriate training. Thus EMU staff will train users in the use of equipment, and give advice on the options available for preparing samples for use with either the light or electron microscopes.

Opening Times

The unit is open during the week (Monday to Friday) from 8.00 am until 5.00 pm. The unit cannot be used after hours, week-ends or public holidays for safety and security reasons.

Who can use the unit 

The EMU is a service facility of the university and anyone is welcome as a user. The EMU also serves as a regional facility and welcomes users external to the university. The staff of the unit will provide instruction on how to prepare specimens and use all equipment.

How to get access to facilities

Whilst specimen preparation can be done at any time in the unit, use of the equipment (e.g. ultramicrotomes, microscopes) is through a strict booking process. Booking sheets for each piece of equipment are posted within the unit.

What will it cost?

Because the EMU has to cover a number of different costs, there are charges for microscope time, processing samples and facility use. Users from Rhodes will therefore be asked to provide a signed Internal Departmental Order (IDO) with an account number to which charges can be made; external users will be sent an invoice. Please contact a staff member for current charges.


General policies and safety

Microscopy involves the use of expensive equipment and often the use of hazardous chemicals during specimen preparation. Users of the EMU will be given a brief lecture on safety procedures, including what to do in the event of a fire alert. Anyone undertaking specimen preparation is required to wear a lab coat and to work with toxic chemicals in one of the fume hoods. Gloves and safety glasses are also provided. Users will be shown how to dispose of toxic chemicals. Users should also wear closed shoes (not slip slops). In line with university and government policy nobody may smoke inside the unit.

Chemical storage – If you make up any chemicals and store them in the designated refrigerator in the EM Unit, the bottle with the chemical should be labelled – name and concentration of chemical, when it was made up (date), and who it belongs to. Labels are available in the EM Unit. Any unlabelled bottles containing chemicals will be disposed of. 

There are some chemicals used in the preparation of tissues for EM that are toxic and/or unpleasant.  CAREFUL ATTENTION should be paid to the warning on the bottles and in the tissue-preparation handbooks. Anyone in doubt should seek assistance, and if any dangerous chemical has been spilled, the area should be evacuated immediately.



The EMU has a small library that includes books on preparation techniques for LM and TEM. These books may be consulted within the EMU. Ms Pinchuck or Mr Randall can direct users to these books.

Last Modified: Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:36:36 SAST