UNSW Research Infrastructure COVID-19 Information

Latest updates from PVCRI on research infrastructure and facilities

Research Infrastructure staff are available for consultation, including strategic support for infrastructure grants, but are working remotely where possible, and training courses, Hacky Hours and seminars have largely moved online.

Experimental facilities such as the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre (MWAC) and Research Imaging NSW (3T MRI facility) remain operational, although with amended protocols, including remote instrument access and a sample drop-off mechanism to assist in running samples for you where feasible. Updated advice has been sent directly to all involved in animal research on service provision and approval procedures. Continuity of cryogen supply is under active management.

Below is a summary for individual services and research facilities with links to the individual areas for more detailed information where available. Other updates from the Division of Research, including information on the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Fund, can be found here

Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre (MWAC)

Updates from BMIF, BMSF, BRIL (including Biorepository and Flow Cytometry), CCL, EMU, MICRO-CT, NMR (including Spectroscopy), SSEAU (XRF, XRD, XPS) and Stats Central.

MWAC staff will continue to run samples and perform data analysis as usual, to our normal high standards and rapid delivery.  

However, in line with the Government advice, the COVID-19 situation dictates that everyone needs to minimise any non-essential face-to-face contact and practice social distancing of 1.5m between individuals.  Remote methods of communication will replace face-to-face communication where possible.  A contact number for each Unit will be displayed at their entrance door.

 Please refer to changes summarised below to ensure safety for all users of all Units. 

  1.  If you are feeling unwell, please self-isolate and do not visit UNSW.  If you show symptoms while in our labs, you will be asked to leave.
  2. Hand sanitizer will be supplied (where possible) at entrances for Visitors to use.
  3. Disposable latex gloves will be available for ANY equipment usage (including keyboards).  MWAC Units will take extra care to observe good hygiene practices e.g. cleaning surfaces but you should not rely on these.
  4. Wash your hands with soap (for 20 seconds) prior to entry to all Units. 5. Maintain a safe distance of at least 1.5m from others including staff and others at all times.

Thank you all for your understanding and patience.  We wish you well.

Below are additional details for each of the Facilities:

Biomedical Imaging Facility (BMIF)

Imaging Lab - Instruments may be used by previously trained researchers. In line with social distancing advice we will not be holding trainings or inductions until notified otherwise. You should be using lab coats once and then placing them in the wash bin. You should also be wearing gloves and re/placing glad wrap over eye pieces at the start of the session (this will be provided at the facility).

Any troubleshooting or assistance by should be requested by contacting staff by phone, email or TEAMS and then leaving the facility. The user should then return to the MWAC facility later after he or she has been notified electronically that the problem has been rectified.

Specimen Preparation -The histology lab and slide scanning services will continue during this time. Unfortunately training and inductions will not be possible at this time. Please submit samples with their form to Rm 454 in Wallace Wurth on the desk with correctly filled-in forms. Should you have specific questions or suggestions for the samples, feel free to contact the relevant staff member directly by phone or e-mail. 

Image Analysis - All the main pipelines are currently set up with Moxyviewer so you can access them remotely. No training in software will be available at this time.  However, BMIF staff will assist in moving files, submitting searches or setting up other data analysis if they possibly can.

Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry Facility (BMSF)

BMSF staff has ceased all face-to-face instrument or data analysis familiarisation or training, inductions for new users and meetings with vendors.   

Staff may run samples and complete data analysis as usual.  Dropping off samples should be done with some caution and avoiding close contact followed by handling samples with care.

Any meetings or discussions of results should be done by remotely utilizing email, TEAMS video, TeamViewer, Moxy, phone or some combination of these. 

Students who are already inducted and trained to operate instruments may still come to setup their own samples, but they should leave once this is done and monitor the instrument and data collection via TeamViewer.  Data analysis should be done remotely (with TeamViewer) by the student or staff may assist by moving files, submitting searches or setting up other data analysis.  Any staff troubleshooting or assistance should be completed, as much as possible, without close contact.  If assistance with problems is needed the first approach should be by phone, email and TEAMS.   

Any questions please contact Mark (m.raftery@unsw.edu.au) or the staff member who is assisting with your project.

Biological Resources Imaging Laboratory (BRIL)

Preclinical Imaging:
BRIL staff will continue to support research but face-to-face contact will be limited as much as possible. The Director of Animal Services has indicated that all Animal Services facilities (Lowy, Wallace Wurth, Randwick and St George) will continue to operate (with a changed roster to limit interpersonal contact). BRIL has adopted a similar approach for ongoing/critical animal experiments in BRIL.  

Sample Imaging:
For imaging of non-living specimens (MRI, MicroCT), please contact BRIL staff to arrange collection for imaging.

Irradiator, body composition analysis, surgery will also be maintained and available to users.

Data Analysis:
A computer (level 4 analysis computer 2) has been set up with remote access via Moxyviewer. It will allow users to access the network drive and some software (LivingImage - IVIS SpectrumCT; Vevolab- Visualsonics Ultrasound; IRW- Inveon microCT data) for analysis.  If you require access to this computer, please contact Tzong-Tyng (t.hung@unsw.edu.au). BRIL staff can also assist with analysis remotely on the computer.

We ask that you make appropriate plans and contact us if you have any concerns or questions.

FLOW Cytometry

The Flow Facility is following the MWAC guidelines and remaining open for all essential services, however only one staff member will be working in the lab each day to ensure ongoing continuity of service. We ask that users limit non-essential lab work where possible. Contact details for staff will be posted in the lab.

Cell Sorting
Cell sorters will be open for bookings, though booking times will be limited to reflect reduced staff availability. Please plan accordingly.

Cell Analysers and Particle Analysers
User-operated instruments will be available for booking as usual. Staff will perform appropriate start-up and QC each morning but will limit interaction with users, assisting remotely as much as possible. Individual instruments may not be started if there isn’t a booking for a given day. 

Biorepository

The Biorepository will continue to operate.

Specimen drop-off - Specimens delivered to Upper Campus Stores will be collected as usual. Dropping-off specimens should be done with some caution and avoiding close contact. Users dropping off specimens in person should check with their Biorepository contacts (by phone or e-mail) about these new procedures, even if these have been arranged previously.

Instrument use by researchers - Researchers who are already inducted and trained to operate instruments can still come to setup their own samples, but where possible they should leave once this is done. All Biorepository equipment is located within PC2 facilities, please continue to use the correct PPE.

Inductions - Vapour Phase tank room inductions for new users can only be done in person and will only be available in essential circumstances, this will be dealt with on a case by case basis by the Biorepository Manager.

Chemical Consulting Laboratory (CCL)

Please contact CCL staff by telephone to check latest arrangement for analyses.  Please always contact prior to dropping of samples.

Electron Microscope Unit (EMU)

Training inductions and meetings for new users are cancelled for the coming weeks.  Please check in advance with EMU Staff to check if your booked training is going ahead.  Users who are already trained and independent are very welcome to use the instruments. There will be staff on site to support this work.

MICRO-CT

  1. Anyone who would like to submit any new samples, please contact micro-CT staff for further arrangements. 
  2. The Tyree micro-CT lab will remain open and operational but the staff will be taking turns in coming to UNSW as per the University’s social distancing advice. At any time during working hours, there will be only one staff onsite (either Amalia or Priya) for you to contact while the other staff will still provide support remotely.
  3. Please notify micro-CT staff regarding your plan in accessing the computer lab (TETB LG24) as we try to comply with the social distancing advice. Swipe access to this room will be wiped and everyone will lose their access unless they discuss their plan in using the computer lab with microCT staff.

Regarding data analysis, we are trying our best to accommodate, however, we only have limited license of the software. Currently, we only allow students who are close to finishing to remotely access the computer using Moxy. It's going to be a bit tricky to let many users accessing remotely, not only because of the limited license, but also because connection of the software to UNSW server via VPN - if software crash etc, we need the IT guy to reset the server. At the moment limiting access is what we found best.

NMR (including Spectroscopy)

  1. Automation will continue as normal on Gauss with the reminder that only one user is permitted at the instrument at any given time.
  2. Booked instruments access will continue for users with valid certificates on any given instrument.
  3. Training or advice for experimental development will be handled through the Moxy Chat function or if the user has access to it, Microsoft Teams.
  4. One-on-one physical training of new users will cease immediately. Contact NMR Facility staff or Anne Rich in the Spec Lab for information about remote training.
  5. Email nmr@unsw.edu.au to obtain access to Moxy for remote viewing of instruments
  6. The processing lab in NMR and the analysis computers in the Spec Lab will only be accessible remotely. The computers can be booked as any other instrument through the ACLS and then accessed through Moxy. To request access email nmr@unsw.edu.au or Anne Rich in the Spec Lab.

Solid State & Elemental Analysis Unit (SSEAU) Laboratories

Our laboratories are still available for analysis but if you need access to the lab:

  • Please use the hand wash on entry
  • Request gloves if you want them
  • Minimise face-to-face contact with our staff  

Surface Analysis (XPS), XRF and ICP Laboratories
You should notify staff about your analytical requirements by email, then deposit your samples and the sample request form in the container outside the lab. Results will be provided by email.  Note, if we are required to close at short notice, this will delay your analysis.  

XRD Laboratory
There will be no more XRD training until further notice.   Trained users can still access the powder XRD instruments in G65 and the single-crystal instrument in G61/63. We have reduced staffing, but staff are still available to help you with your measurements or to assist with instrument problems. Please minimise your time in the laboratory and your face-to-face interactions with our staff.  

Data analysis can be performed remotely by booking a processing computer using the Moxy system. Contact the XRD staff about this and they will send an invitation by email.

Stats Central

To those seeking assistance from Stats Central, you can submit a consultation request here. You can also email a consultant directly, or use the Stats Central general email address (stats.central@unsw.edu.au). All consultations will be undertaken remotely, via email, phone or video. All services offered by Stats Central are available.  These include:

  • Study design advice
  • Guidance on statistical analysis
  • Grant proposal review
  • Advice on response to reviewer comments
  • Short courses (Current offerings)

 

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Research Imaging NSW (3T MRI facility)

RINSW is currently fully operational and our research staff are on-site to assist with your experiments and answer your inquiries. Consultations are also available remotely. Should the hospital require spare MRI capacity due to COVID-19, we will temporarily suspend research scanning until the situation improves. We will provide regular updates on the current status here as well as on the RINSW website.

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Animal Services

Animal welfare is an extremely high priority for the University. A university wide plan is in place to ensure our normal high standards of animal care and to support staff providing essential animal services. This is being coordinated by Dr Malcolm France and Dr Josephine Joya. FAQ's and further information is available here.

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Research Technology Services

Research Technology Services (ResTech) are continuing to provide all services but are limiting face-to-face interactions given the current circumstances. 

All in-person training courses have been cancelled until further notice as arrangements are made to move classes online - details to be released shortly. Anyone already registered for a course will receive updates with an online link.

Our weekly Hacky Hour sessions and REDCap clinic are now taking place online through Microsoft Teams, in the Hacky Hour Channel. Lunch & Learns and ResTech Seminar series will be hosted online where possible. 

Unfortunately ResBaz Sydney will be postponed until 2021. 

For information about our services and events please visit our FAQ page. You can also contact us via Microsoft Teams or email at restech@unsw.edu.au

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Cold Storage

Below are answers to FAQs around UNSW Cold Storage Services:

Q: Is the bulk cryogen supply being maintained on campus?

A: Yes, Our bulk cryogen suppliers, Air Liquide and Core Gas, have advised that at this stage it is business as usual in terms of cryogen supply. Vessels levels are being monitored daily and we are in regular communication with the cryogen providers.

Q: What will happen if the cryogen supply is disrupted?

A:. With a few exceptions, cryogen is an equally important commodity to all users. In the unlikely event that supply is reduced and we were required to ration between the bulk vessels, consolidation of experiments and a controlled shutdown of equipment may be required.

Q: What control measures are in place if a fridge/freezer fails?

A: The UNSW BMS and Wireless Monitoring alarm systems are operational, however these systems are not centrally monitored and rely on the individual alarm recipients to take the necessary action in the event of an alarm. It is recommended that all critical samples and or reagents are located within BMS or Wireless Monitored refrigerated cabinets.

Q: Is there back-up cold storage available in the event of an emergency?

A: Yes, there are back-up -30°C and  -80°C freezers on the upper and lower campus for temporary use in an emergency, a list of available backup freezers can be viewed here. Many schools and faculties also have designated back-up freezers available. Please follow your school/faculty procedures.

If you have any other questions, please contact Paul O’Brien (paul.obrien1@unsw.edu.au), Manager Cold Storage Services.

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Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF)

ANFF is still open, but under modified operating conditions. In summary:

  • To meet government guidelines for social distancing, reduced Maximum Room Occupancy levels have been set for ANFF Labs and Offices to ensure users are able to maintain both 1.5m clearance and < 1 person per 4m2.
  • The ANFF-NSW UNSW clean rooms remain open at this time, with reduced staffing availability, but users must comply with enhanced operational protocols to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
  • User training is suspended until further notice.
  • Access to the ANFF Office has been restricted to residents of the office and visitors with formal appointments. Access to hotdesks for Raith/WVASE/COMSOL is via TeamViewer only. Meetings are held remotely wherever possible. 

Full details have been sent to all users and are also available here.

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External Facilities

ANSTO Lucas Heights and the Australian Synchrotron

All user programs in these research infrastructure platforms are suspended until further notice. This suspension will also impact commercial access and services. The only exception to this is support for critical investigations into COVID-19 virus. 

ANSTO offers special rapid access to Australian Synchrotron beamlines for users currently involved in COVID-19 research. Access would consist of short shifts of beamtime (minimum of 2 hours, available as needed.

More information and contact details are available here. Requests for access can be submitted via the Australian Synchrotron User Portal. 

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