Technical Specialist (Transmission Electron Microscopy) – School of Metallurgy and Materials

Full-time Permanent University of Birmingham in Specialist/Professional Email Job
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Job Description


Position Details

School of Metallurgy and Materials, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK

Full time starting salary is normally in the range £34,980 to £44,263 with potential progression once in post to £46,974

Grade: 7

Full Time, Permanent

Closing date: 31st July 2024


Our offer to you

People are at the heart of what we are and do.

The University of Birmingham is proud to have been a part of the City of Birmingham and the wider region for over 100 years, and we are equally proud to be recognised as a leading global university. We want to attract talented people from across the city and beyond, support them to succeed, and celebrate their success.

We are committed to helping the people who work here to develop through our sector-leading Birmingham Professional programme which provides all professional services staff with development opportunities and the encouragement to reach their full potential. With almost 5,000 professional services jobs in a wide-range of functions in Edgbaston and in our campus in Dubai, there are plenty of opportunities for you to be able to develop your career at the University.

We believe there is no such thing as a typical member of staff and that diversity is a source of strength that underpins the exchange of ideas, innovation, and debate. We warmly welcome people from all backgrounds and are committed to fostering an inclusive environment where diversity is at the heart of who and what we are, and how we work.

Supporting our people to achieve a healthy work/life balance is important both to our employees and to the success of the University and, depending on the role, we offer a variety of flexible working arrangements. We therefore welcome discussions on all forms of flexible working. In addition, you will receive a generous package of benefits including 40 days paid holiday a year, one paid day a year for volunteering, occupational sick pay, and a pension scheme. We also have three high quality subsidised day nurseries.

The University is situated in leafy Edgbaston and there are excellent transport links to our beautiful campus, including main bus routes and a train station on site. On campus we have a state-of-the-art sports centre with pool, shops, places to eat and drink, our own art gallery, museum and botanical gardens.

Find out more about the benefits of working for the University of Birmingham


The Centre for Electron Microscopy (CEM) is based within the School of Metallurgy and Materials. The CEM supports and provides access to state-of-the art equipment for more than 70 research groups across 3 academic colleges at the University of Birmingham: Engineering & Physical Sciences, Life & Environmental Sciences, and Medical & Dental Sciences, as well as to more than 20 external academic and industrial partners. The CEM has over 200 individual users on a fleet of 10 electron microscopes which includes 3 Transmission Electron Microscopes (TEM). Other services provided include sample preparation, coating and cleaning, and specimen sectioning on ultramicrotomes.

Role Summary

The post holder will be a technical specialist for Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), providing technical expertise, support, and guidance to users in the CEM to strengthen the service we offer. The post holder will support the CEM and its users through operation and maintenance of TEMs, sample preparation activities, and training and supervision of users.

As a member of the technical team, the post holder will assist in maintaining the CEM and its lab spaces. This includes equipment such as a Scanning Electron Microscopes, Transmission Electron Microscopes, micro CT scanners, ultramicrotomes, coating machines, and other sample preparation equipment.

The post holder will work closely with postdoctoral research staff and PhD students from across the University of Birmingham, external Universities, and other industrial/commercial contacts. The post holder will provide training in the use of equipment and safety procedures to UoB staff, students, and external companies.

The post holder will contribute to safe operation of relevant equipment and services by ensuring that safety paperwork is up to date and is being followed by users, and any statutory inspections are carried out on time. This will include safety systems for compressed air/gas, vacuum, pressure, cryogenics, cooling, ionizing radiation and laser applications. The post holder will also perform duties associated with keeping the buildings safe and operational as advised by the Technical Manager and Building Superintendent at the UoB campus.

The post holder will be required to lead on daily, weekly, and monthly tasks without daily supervision, leading on projects with medium to longer term horizons also. They may be involved in monitoring of research and will be able to investigate, modify, and adapt protocols after consulting relevant senior staff.

The post holder will need an in-depth understanding of the research questions, techniques, and experimental protocols. They will be able to use their knowledge and experience to advise on procedures, diagnose and resolve problems, and proactively suggest solutions to issues which arise. The post holder may need to operate out of normal working hours to accommodate experimental procedures.

The post holder will form part of a large, diverse team of technical staff who collectively support the research and teaching activities in the School of Metallurgy and Materials. You will provide support to colleagues and students at all levels in the school, and will be expected to act as a role model and coach others as appropriate. The post holder will be line managed by the CEM Manager in the School of Metallurgy and Materials.

The post holder will be expected to Line Manage, supervise, and mentor Technical Staff, as well as providing guidance to Postgraduate Students and Post-Doctoral Research Staff. The post holder will provide necessary information to ensure compliance with local standard operating procedures, and all Health and Safety policies.

Main Duties

  • Support the Centre of Electron Microscopy and its users through specialist operation and maintenance of transmission electron microscopes and the related sample preparation.
  • Line-manage other members of technical staff.
  • Assist in managing the laboratory areas including maintaining high standards of Health & Safety.
  • Use in depth knowledge of methods and procedures to advise and lead on experimental techniques being used by researchers and/or students. This will involve communicating with colleagues and students at a range of experience levels.
  • It will be essential to contribute to effective knowledge transfer in the context of user training and teaching new users, and in presenting at technical and scientific meetings and workshops for knowledge and skill exchange.
  • Diagnose and resolve problems and suggest solutions regarding techniques and experiments. Problem solving, including diagnosis of mechanical, electronic or vacuum problems in the microscopes. Liaison with service engineers to ensure as little down time with equipment as possible, using own judgment on when to call a service engineer.
  • Carry out work with a large amount of autonomy.
  • Responsible for proactively managing and maintaining the equipment of the CEM. Calibrate and maintain equipment as required. This includes but is not limited to measuring ionizing radiation, maintaining vacuum systems, filter changes, calibrating instruments.
  • Organise disposal of waste materials though the correct processes.
  • Be able to diagnose and resolve problems, proactively identifying solutions regarding techniques and experiments and acting as an escalation point.
  • Develop cutting edge services and systems to anticipate and meet customer needs and improve the available facilities.
  • Maintain accurate records of all techniques and experimental procedures carried out, and for any other research activities involved.
  • Contribute to internal and external audit procedures and to regulatory inspections.
  • Comply with and promote safe operating procedures for the area, including the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and samples. Several of the materials will be classified as hazardous substances so will require specialist handling.
  • Advise and train staff, students, apprentices and internal/external visitors in the safe operation of general equipment as appropriate.
  • Managing IT systems administration, with operations including file transfer, scheduled back-ups and long-term archiving of data.

Health and Safety management

  • Knowledge of the regulations and safety implications of dealing with vacuum, pressure, cryogenics, ionizing and laser radiation.
  • Ensuring that regular maintenance processes are carried out and that appropriate records are maintained.
  • Responsible for ensuring all facility users, working within the area of responsibility, comply with all University, College, and School Health & Safety policies. This will include compliance by all staff with current rules governing work with hazardous substances and processes, and ensuring all required assessments are in place, approved and up to date.
  • Write and maintain Risk Assessments, COSHH assessments, and Standard Operating Procedures in line with the relevant policies.
  • Reporting any breaches or non-compliance with Health and Safety procedures to the Health and Safety Coordinators and/or College Health and Safety Manager.
  • Ensuring the correct waste disposal protocols are complied with for laboratory, recycled, and general waste, as governed by the College and the local policy for the laboratory.
  • Proactively assisting with the implementation of carbon reduction and energy saving measures.
  • Post holders may be asked to undergo training as a Fire Warden and First Aider.

Facilities Management 

  • Managing consumables orders linked to each project. If necessary, generating purchase order requisitions via the web-based ordering system.
  • Support equipment purchases for the CEM. Assessment of needs for new equipment and arranging the necessary alterations to meet these needs.
  • Manage large equipment deliveries, collaborating with suppliers/shippers to arrange adequate resources for offloading and transport into the building.
  • Receiving and correctly storing consumables and chemical reagents.
  • Ensuring that the facilities are maintained in a clean, functional, and safe condition, reporting any problems through the appropriate channels.
  • Assisting the CEM Manager in identifying and tracking items held on the University Asset Register.

Finance, procurement and purchasing

  • Identify any issues with orders, invoices and/or suppliers and taking the appropriate corrective action on own initiative.
  • Ensuring all financial rules and procedures are followed, including assisting and guiding others through learning these systems.
  • Assisting the CEM team, when required, with arranging and following up contract work for external customers for use of facilities and equipment.

People Management 

  • Working with the CEM Manager to ensure that the goals and objectives for staff in the CEM support the development and delivery of a quality, customer-focussed service.
  • Prioritising and allocating work to meet day to day needs, and future planning across different projects.
  • Checking on quality of work and customer feedback.
  • Undertaking supportive interventions where staff are not meeting objectives.
  • Line-manage other members of technical staff, which will include undertaking annual Performance and Development Reviews (PDRs), regular one-to-one meetings and general support to CEM staff.

Other Duties

  • Representing the team as required when liaising with variety of other University departments.
  • Supporting emergency call outs.
  • Developing and maintaining collaborative working relationships with a wide variety of colleagues internal and external to the College, including contractors and suppliers.
  • Promoting equality and valuing diversity, acting as a role model and fostering an inclusive working culture.
  • Supporting the University’s sustainability agenda through resource efficient working.
  • Any other duties commensurate with the grade.

General Administration and Organisation

  • Ensure all records are accurate and kept up to date.
  • Proactively maintain stocks of consumables, and when required generate purchase order requisitions using University systems.
  • Receipt and correct storage of consumables, equipment, chemical reagents, and other materials.
  • Ensure that the facilities are maintained in a clean, functional, and safe condition, reporting any problems through the appropriate channels.
  • Ensure that PAT testing, calibration of equipment and locally and centrally held equipment inventories are up to date and maintained including asset registers.
  • Adopt a proactive attitude to assisting with and implementing carbon reduction and energy saving measures.

Required Knowledge, Skills, Qualifications, Experience 

  • Hold, or be close to the completion of, a PhD degree relevant to the discipline (or equivalent qualifications/industrial experience).
  • Extensive experience, specialist knowledge and refined skills in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) operation & sample preparation in at least one of the following areas: Engineering & Physical Sciences, Life & Environmental Sciences, and Medical & Dental Sciences.
  • Knowledge and practical experience on TEM sample preparation procedures for biological and materials samples, for example: Chemical preparation (fixation, dehydration, resin embedding, ultramicrotome sectioning, staining), mechanical cutting and grinding, electrolytic polishing, ion milling.
  • Ability to publish results in scientific/technical journals would be desirable.
  • A proven high level of instrumentation, experimentation and analytical capability.
  • Excellent communication and teamwork skills.
  • Fluency in relevant techniques or methods and ability to contribute to developing new ones.
  • Demonstrable ability to assess resource requirements and use resources effectively.
  • Demonstrable understanding of and ability to contribute to broader management/administration processes.
  • Proven ability to contribute to the planning and organising of the CEM facility, programme and/or specific research project.
  • Demonstrable ability to co-ordinate own work with others to avoid conflict or duplication of effort
  • Knowledge of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, and how to actively ensure in day-to-day activity in own area that those with protected characteristics are treated equally and fairly.
  • Significant experience of working in a compliance-based organisation.
  • Significant knowledge of working within a research & scientific environment and demonstrable relevant technical skills.
  • Ability to work without supervision, but function as part of a team.
  • Experience of working collaboratively as part of a wider team to deliver operational or strategic goals.
  • Practical knowledge of relevant technical and scientific methods including vacuum, pressure, electrical, and gas control systems.
  • Ability to organise and manage own workload and demonstrate flexibility in terms of working practices/requirements.
  • Ability to devise solutions and develop creative approaches to problem solving.
  • Understands the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace.
  • Ability to identify and respond to equality and diversity issues in line with relevant policies and procedures.

Role context

Roles at this level will require an in-depth Technical Specialist. Role holders may have supervisory responsibility for a technical service or team, where the primary focus will be on planning, overseeing and reviewing the work of the team and/or will operate as individual technical experts either supporting service delivery or contributing directly to local project implementation or problem solving through the provision of specialist support activity.

Core competencies/transferable skills

Working at this level you will be able to develop and successfully demonstrate the core competencies and transferable skills outlined in each of the areas shown below. As appropriate for the level, our Birmingham Professionals will take ownership for getting things done. You will be expected to be flexible as required in supporting your department and wider University.

Planning and organising 

  • Be responsible for the provision of a technical service through the day-to-day organisation and technical supervision of a work area.
  • Manage the prioritisation, allocation, and quality of work, developing the technical capability in the area.
  • Line Manage a combination of technical and, where required, non-technical staff.
  • Progress several initiatives concurrently and to plan effectively.
  • Contribute to developments of the service and in policies, procedures, and plans in own area.
  • Ensure compliance with all legal, health and safety standards as applicable.
  • Lead, if required, on project work.


  • Advise on the development and application of specialist techniques/experiments and/or procedures and the analysis and interpretation of results (may run an advanced specialist service).
  • Act as a recognised source of technical and/or specialist expertise in own area.
  • Generate original ideas and innovative solutions and/or new techniques/experimental designs.

Problem solving and decision making 

  • Resolve high level problems with specific techniques/applications, or in the implementation of services and technical support.
  • Provide specialist advice and recommendations to support decision–making of others.
  • Respond to changing priorities and differing situations.

Organisational understanding 

  • Understand their own and closely related working areas and how they contribute to the success of the University.
  • Understand how the University operates; actively seeks to share this knowledge with others.
  • Developing empathy with the academic endeavour.

Relationships and communication

  • Develop excellent working relationships with customers, proactively anticipating their requirements in order to understand and deliver them.


Informal enquiries to Dr Ludwig Schneider, email: or Prof Yu-Lung Chiu, email:

View our staff values and behaviours here


We believe there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ member of University of Birmingham staff and that diversity in its many forms is a strength that underpins the exchange of ideas, innovation and debate at the heart of University life. We are committed to proactively addressing the barriers experienced by some groups in our community and are proud to hold Athena SWAN, Race Equality Charter and Disability Confident accreditations. We have an Equality Diversity and Inclusion Centre that focuses on continuously improving the University as a fair and inclusive place to work where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. We are also committed to sustainability, which is a key part of our strategyYou can find out more about our work to create a fairer university for everyone on our website.

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