Texas Tech University

Competency Tier System for Instrument Usage

Because of the complexity, cost, use, maintenance, and potential downtime issues associated with the imaging instrumentation in College of Arts & Sciences Microscopy (CASM), a tier system based on an individual's competency for each major piece of equipment has been developed. This system has been implemented for two reasons:

  1. to provide necessary oversight for the use of the instruments and to insure users are trained, both in theory and application, in the operation of the equipment. This will protect both the user and the instrument, and;
  2. to generate an incentive for serious students to use the instruments on a regular basis, so their skills, abilities, and understanding of the equipment can incrementally improve until they become totally independent researchers (Tier I).

The CASM staff will determine the levels, skills, and abilities of users. Researchers can incrementally move up in the tiers as their competency increases on a particular piece of equipment.

Tier I
TOTALLY INDEPENDENT USERS: Tier I users can have 24 hour access to the instrument(s) they are qualified to use without oversight from CASM staff. Tier I users can also provide oversight for the lower tier researchers during and outside of normal business hours.

Tier II
RESTRICTED INDEPENDENT USERS: Tier II users are allowed independent access to the instrument(s) they are qualified to use during normal business hours* when qualified staff are present. CASM staff will have priority use of instruments during these normal hours. Tier II users can use instruments in off-hours, if they are accompanied by a Tier I user.

NON-INDEPENDENT USERS: Tier III users are allowed to operate the instrument independently only after it has been set-up and aligned by a higher tier operator. Instrument operation by Tier III users is predicated on the fact that there will be close but not total supervision. Changes to instrument set-up (e.g. current, voltage changes) or alignment, as well as sample exchanges, will be performed by the higher tier user. Because of these limitations Tier III users must use the instrument during normal business hours*, or in off hours if accompanied by a Tier I user.

ASSISTED USERS: Tier IV users are not allowed to use the instrument without a trained researcher from a higher tier actually operating the instrument (i.e. sitting with them at all times). These are often outside users who have no training and will require constant oversight. Any higher Tier user can assist these researchers, but they are constrained by the rules of the Competency Tier to which they are assigned.

*Normal hours of operation: Weekdays, 8:00 – 5:30, excluding holidays

College of Arts and Sciences Microscopy