View Vacancy -- Scientific Specialist in Cryo-Electron Microscopy - RCaH 1418

Open Date
12/11/2020, 14:30
Close Date
06/12/2020, 23:55
Research Complex at Harwell

The Research Complex at Harwell is a joint initiative of the Research Councils (BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC and STFC) and the Diamond Light Source, to provide a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research laboratory on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) site. Research Complex is a Medical Research Council (MRC) run establishment (on behalf of the stakeholders) which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).


Research Complex currently has a core staff of 15 to run the facility, and accommodates over 180 physical, life and laser scientists who are funded by external grants to carry out cutting edge multidisciplinary research. The research concentrates on areas requiring the use of the RAL major facilities such as the Diamond Light Source and electron microscopy centres (eBIC and ePSIC), ISIS neutron and muon source and the Central Laser Facility (CLF), and the Rosalind Franklin Institute (currently based within the Research Complex whilst the building on the Harwell Campus is built).


The Research Complex's terms of reference are:

  • To provide operational generic laboratory space for life, physical and laser sciences research that will attract world-class scientists.
  • To provide common spaces and shared facilities to encourage interaction between life, physical and laser scientists, and users of Diamond, ISIS and CLF.
  • To be sufficiently adaptable in design in order to respond to changes in research requirements and opportunities in the future.


Research Complex is a world-class science-led national resource with a mission to enable and add value to outstanding new science that benefits, and benefits from, the UK’s large-scale facilities at RAL. Many major advances in science take place at the boundaries between the traditional disciplines, and increasingly utilise advanced technologies available at centralised facilities. The Research Complex houses a number of long-, medium- and short-term research groups in life and physical sciences who will benefit from the proximity of the major facilities and the synergy generated by the multidisciplinary environment.


Some of the main groups present at the Research Complex provide a service element to the UK research community:


  • The Protein Production UK (PPUK) facility specialising in high-throughput methodologies for expressing, crystallising and determining three-dimensional crystal structures of proteins, especially human proteins of biomedical interest.
  • A grouping from the STFC Central Laser facility specialising in the development and use of advanced laser technologies for physical and life sciences applications.
  • The STFC Collaborative Computing Project No.4 (CCP4) group specialising in the generation and maintenance of the most widely used software for protein crystallography.


All these groups provide a service element to the UK research community. Other, grant funded research groups, have been selected on a competitive basis, in areas such as:

  • Structural studies on membrane proteins and multi-protein complexes
  • High throughput functional and structural genomics related to disease and molecular mechanism in biology
  • Biological imaging, including living cells
  • Application of novel physical techniques in life sciences
  • Catalysis
  • Drug development and delivery
  • Chemical processing
  • Surface science
  • Nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • Energy research
  • Advanced manufacturing
UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, more information can be found at

MRC - 4
Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire
£31,305 -£40,069 per annum (depending on experience)
Full Time

Overall purpose:

To provide scientific and technical support for the Glacios cryo-electron microscope, which is physically located at eBIC, Diamond Light Source, as well as additional support for the transmission and scanning electron microscopes at Research Complex.


Main duties:

  • Provide operational support for the electron microscopes (principally the cryo-EM) including responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the systems.
  • Provide training and support on cryo-electron microscopy for short and long term Research Complex users.
  • Act as a single point of contact (Local Contact) for a proportion of user experiments providing specialist technical/scientific advice and assistance to Research Complex users with sample preparation procedures and protocol.
  • Provide maintenance and calibration of the cryo-EM equipment (Thermo Glacios), as well as the additional electron microscopy instrumentation at Research Complex (Jeol 2100).
  • Ensure (in cooperation with eBIC) that the cryo-EM facility meets current safety standards and requirements, including sample preparation and user samples.
  • Perform microscope analysis and image processing, such as for example serialEM software analysis.
  • Collaborate with eBIC on upgrades and development projects.
  • Procurement of instrument components, including writing system specifications, the management of contracts and liaison with suppliers.
  • Diagnose and repair faults on the TEM and other electron microscopy instruments and ancillary equipment. The post-holder will be capable of solving problems encountered with such equipment themselves or make use of external support, as appropriate.
  • Keep records of the usage of instruments and manage the booking system to maximise the efficient and effective use of the facility.
  • Liaise with EM users about their experimental samples and material including COSHH and risk assessments.
  • Manage the development, procurement, testing, installation, and maintenance of bespoke scientific equipment and software to perform novel experiments at Research Complex and the peripheral laboratories.
  • Advise on the development of data acquisition, visualization and analysis software and be involved in commissioning of new software.
  • Promote Research Complex externally; including for example public outreach activity and engaging with the scientific community.
  • Personally keep up to date with technical developments in electron microscopy, implement them at Research Complex where appropriate and advise users on such developments and new opportunities.


Key responsibilities:

  • To ensure that users are well trained and have regular access to a well-maintained Research Complex EM instrumentation.
  • To ensure the safe and efficient use of Research Complex EM equipment.
  • To ensure the safety aspects of running EM instruments and of sample preparation equipment and procedures.
  • To liaise with users about EM instrument’s availability and bookings.
  • To complete and organise the services and maintenance of EM facility equipment.


These lists are not exhaustive, and you will be expected to help cover roles when colleagues are away.


Working relationships:

This post reports to the Operations Manager and the role involves interaction with the scientists, students and visitors within the based at Research Complex, as well as the core team. The post holder will also provide information on equipment usage, and equipment procurement details or forecasts.


Education / Qualifications / Training required:


  • Appropriate scientific degree.
  • Appropriate PhD in biophysics/physics/material sciences/engineering or related disciplines and proven relevant experience. 


  • Appropriate post-doctoral experience in electron microscopy.
  • Appropriate post-doctoral experience in cryo-electron microscopy.

Previous work experience required:


  • Experience in running and maintaining electron microscopes, preferably in a research environment.


  • Experience of working in, and assisting in the management and operation of an EM facility.


Knowledge and experience:


  • Experience with the operation of an electron microscope.
  • Experience of working with biological samples.
  • Ability to perform tasks requiring a high degree of manual dexterity.
  • Experience with Windows/Linux/Unix.
  • Experience with image processing.
  • Ability to adapt to new procedures concerning work in the electron microscope laboratory.


  • Experience preparing biological samples.
  • Experience in scripting (E.g. Python) or programming.
  • Experience with operating, maintaining and troubleshooting an SEM or FIB-SEM.
  • Experience in maintaining and troubleshooting a state-of-the-art cryo electron microscope.
  • Experience co-ordinating manufacturer field service engineers and commissioning novel hardware and software.



Personal skills/behaviours/qualities:


  • Scientific and technical interest in the field of electron microscopy and its applications for various life and physical sciences projects.
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with users and supervisors.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication and presentational skills.
  • Ability to interact with staff and facility users at all levels.
  • Ability and initiative to get to the heart of the problem and take it effectively through to completion.
  • Excellent organisational and planning skills and methodical record keeping.
  • Self-motivated and able to work independently.
  • Ability to work flexibly with occasional weekend and out-of hours working.
  • Must be available to travel occasionally within the UK and abroad, including overnight absences.
  • Ability to design, plan, organise, and implement projects and tasks within an allotted timeframe.


We are looking for an individual who can help us run the state-of-the-art Research Complex instrumentation within our laboratories. Multidisciplinary research of this scale is unusual in the UK and we are looking for a flexible individual who can adapt to need and circumstance and does not shy away from a challenge. Electron microscopy is a major expansion area of activity on the RAL site, and is developing into an internationally leading facility. The recent acquisition of a Thermo Fisher Glacios cryo-electron microscope is the next step in this improvement and enhances already significant capability at RAL.


As this job does not fulfil the UK Government minimum salary criterion for obtaining sponsored migrant worker status, we will be unable to apply for sponsorship for anyone not eligible to work in the UK.  At interview, all shortlisted candidates are required to present identification documents and original documents that prove they hold or can obtain the right to work in the UK.  You can check your eligibility here:


Other benefits also include a flexible pay and reward policy, excellent holiday entitlement, MRC defined salary pension scheme.


The closing date for applications is Sunday 6th December 2020.


Interviews will be held on Wednesday 16th December 2020.


The MRC is a great place to work and progress your career, be it in scientific research or the support functions.The MRC is a unique working environment where our researchers are rewarded by world class innovation and collaboration opportunities that the MRC name brings. The MRC is an excellent place to develop yourself further and a range of training & development opportunities will be available to you, including professional registration with the Science Council.

Choosing to come to work at the MRC (part of UKRI) means that you will have access to a whole host of benefits from a defined benefit pension scheme and excellent holiday entitlement to access to employee shopping/travel discounts and salary sacrifice cycle to work scheme, as well as the chance to put the MRC and UKRI on your CV in the future.

Our success is dependent upon our ability to embrace diversity and draw on the skills, understanding and experience of all our people. We welcome applications from all sections of the community irrespective of gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or age. As "Disability Confident" employers, we guarantee to interview all applicants with disabilities who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

UKRI supports research in areas that include animal health, agriculture and food security, and bioscience for health which includes research on animals, genetic modification and stem cell research. Whilst you may not have direct involvement in this type of research, you should consider whether this conflicts with your personal values or beliefs.

We will conduct a full and comprehensive pre-employment check as an essential part of the recruitment process on all individuals that are offered a position with UKRI. This will include a security check and an extreme organisations affiliation check.

This opportunity is closed to applications.