Who can become a SuperSTEM user?

The SuperSTEM facility serves the world-wide scientific community: U.K. and international researchers alike are welcome to apply for instrument time.

  • Short studies by any academic user, e.g. an initial set of experiments up to a few days of beam time, are entirely free of charge. After review and initial discussion of your scientific proposal by the facility's staff or advisory board, you will be informed whether your project falls in this category. External advisers may be consulted to provide additional input and recommendations. An example of a successful proposal can be found here.
  • Longer studies by U.K. researchers, e.g. parts of a wide-ranging proposal including a significant amount of beamtime, require an application specifically for SuperSTEM instrument time through the EPSRC on-line grant proposal system, JeS. For all EPSRC grant/fellowship applications, the cost for instrument time should be requested directly under the "Research Council Facilities" heading. Due to the significant time investment for such projects, prospective applicants are encouraged to discuss their application with facility staff, who may become project partners or co-applicants. Before submission of the proposal to EPSRC, its suitability for SuperSTEM beamtime must be evaluated by the SuperSTEM allocation panel: please complete the EPSRC pro-forma. Note: only use this form for requesting access through a JeS proposal; for short studies, see above.
  • Longer studies by international researchers are of course encouraged, but prospective collaborators should discuss the allocation of SuperSTEM time directly with us as they cannot submit proposals through the usual EPSRC channels. In such cases, contributions to the facility running costs will be estimated at the EPSRC-equivalent academic rate.
  • Industrial and proprietary research applications are welcome: please, contact us for our commercial rates.

The following paragraphs provide a step-by-step guide to becoming a SuperSTEM user.

Step 1 : Contact us

Feel free to contact us informally to talk about your intended project before submitting a formal proposal. In fact, we strongly recommend you do so: this is the most efficient way to design a set of experiments that both suits our instruments' specific capabilities and helps you answer your scientific questions.

Step 2: User Registration

All potential users must register for themselves.

Anyone who is to be added to a proposal as a principal or co-investigator must be registered in the SuperSTEM online system before the proposal can be considered.

Step 3: Submit Proposal

In the proposal, outline over 2-3 pages: (example of a successful proposal )

  • Your contact information: the names of the people involved in the project, email addresses so we can be in touch, institutions/universities.
  • Some general background information on the problem you would like to study at SuperSTEM.
  • Previous studies and preliminary work you may have carried out on this project: micrographs or preliminary analytical data, prior publications on the subject...
  • As much information as you can about your samples: how are they produced, what type of support film or mounting grid are you planning to use, how thick are the regions of interest, are there potential issues with beam damage, can they be baked/plasma cleaned, etc...? More information on sample suitability can be found in our Sample Handling Handbook.
  • Details of the specific experiments you would like to carry out at SuperSTEM, including which microscopy techniques you would like to apply (EELS spectrum imaging, EDS, diffractive imaging…). When writing this short proposal, it is often useful to answer the question: "what is, realistically, the ideal dataset I would like to acquire at SuperSTEM?".
  • Scope of the proposed work: is this a proof of principle experiment, a short study or a long term research program? How many microscope days do you estimate you might need?...
  • Impact: Please include a description of the potential impact of your research including:
    1. the EPSRC priority areas with which your proposal aligns (see for reference EPSRC themes and EPSRC research areas)
    2. is this research directly or indirectly funded by industry or has industrial involvement in some way ?
    3. if this research is part of an EPSRC Grant application then please attach your impact statement.

This document will help the SuperSTEM scientific staff and time allocation panel to evaluate your project, to plan the adequate allocation of instrument time and to assign a member of staff to your proposal, if you are not directly in contact with one of us already.

Submit your proposal by email to:

Step 4 : Review process

Proposals are regularly evaluated by our staff and allocation committee, aiming to provide feedback to prospective users at intervals no longer that six weeks. Proposals are assessed on merit, suitability and needs of your experiments on the basis of your scientific proposal, as described in Step 1.

  • If your application is unsuccessful. You can still become a SuperSTEM user. The allocation panel may have felt that our instruments could not suitably address your scientific proposal at this point. They will always try to provide you with detailed explanations for their decision as well as suggestions on how to refine your proposal so it can qualify for SuperSTEM time in the future. Do not hesitate to get back in touch with SuperSTEM staff to further discuss your experiments!
  • If your application is successful. You can now plan your visit to SuperSTEM!