Materials Structure Characterization Laboratory (MSCL)

“True in natural philosophy can be most fruitfully investigated by the experimental method, supported by the evidence of the senses”
– Antony Van Leeuwenhoek

About the Platform

At the heart of materials science is an understanding of the microstructure of solids that deeply affect their mechanical, electronic, chemical, and biological properties. The Materials Structure Characterization Laboratory (MSCL) is an open-access user facility offering a collection of advanced instruments for structural characterization that enable the design, fabrication, and testing of new materials. The facility operates under the direction of the UCLA Department of Materials Science and Engineering, servicing the educational and research needs of the University, external academia as well as local industry.

MSCL supports multimodal characterization via optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopies/spectroscopies. Instruments can be operated in a stand-alone fashion or in combinations to enable correlative methods that unlock material structure, chemistry, and crystallinity.

One such state-of-the-art system integrates electron microscopy (VPSEM), an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS), and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detection. When combined with co-localized confocal micro-Raman spectroscopy, this unique instrument provides chemical fingerprints with unprecedented sensitivity and spatial resolution via surface/tip enhanced raman spectroscopies (SERS/TERS).

The following equipment is available in the MSCL on a fee-for-service basis:

  • Digital Optical Microscope with z-stitching: VHX-1000 (Keyence)
  • Optical Microscope: M-600 (Nikon)
  • Confocal micro-Raman spectrometer: in-Via (Renishaw)
  • SEM/EDS: Phenom G-2 (Nanoscience)
  • Variable Pressure SEM/EDS: Nova Nano 230 (ThermoFisher)
  • EBSD: QUANTAX (Bruker)

Policies and Rates

  1. General Policies

MSCL is an open-access user facility that serves the needs of the UCLA Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) in research and education while providing services to the UCLA community as well as local academic and industrial researchers. Services are scheduled in advance and are dependent on the availability of equipment and personnel.

The MSCL is responsible for training users on the proper, safe use of equipment. MSCL employees provide guidance and information regarding:

  • Fundamental equipment instruction.
  • Safety protocols.
  • Material compatibility information, and appropriate post-use equipment cleaning.

MSCL users must be properly trained and understand their responsibilities. Users bear the responsibility for:

  •  Their own personal safety.
  • Operating equipment in a safe and professional manner in accordance with the protocols established during training sessions.
  • The financial cost of intentional or negligent damage to equipment and contamination of the space.
  • Complying with all policies of the University of California and UCLA as well as Federal and California State OSHA regulations and lab-specific guidelines applicable in each Technology Center.
  1. Rates & Billing
  •  The MSCL operates on a fee-for-service basis. Charges for equipment use and service (personnel) are based on University-approved rates shown below.
  • External users, those with no UC affiliation, are charged at a rate of $120/hour. Usage requiring staff assistance will include an additional charge ($55/hour) in addition to any associated equipment charges.
  • Microscope usage is billed in 30 min increments with a minimum 1-hour charge. Usage times that have been recorded in fractions of 1/4 hour will be rounded.
  • Billing is based on reservation time, NOT arrival time. A billed session begins at the START of the reservation. Users are required to record start/end times in the log book.
  • The Log book record should indicate a valid account number used for the job and the amount of time of the equipment usage.
  • Failure to accurately document equipment use can result suspension of access privileges.
  • Users are responsible for notifying the MSCL of accounts which might expire within the current billing period (one month).
Name of Product/Service UCLA Rate
SEM Nova 230 $40/hr
Keyence LOM, VHX-1000 $10/hr
TEM JEM 100CX $40/hr
In-Via Raman $20/hr
SEM Phenom G2 $20/hr


Become a User

  1. Initiation. Use of the MSCL is be initiated by contacting the facility administrator (
  • All independent use of MSCL equipment requires training, which can be a time intensive task. Before deciding whether to become a user, please consult with MSCL personnel to request an orientation meeting (OM), which is usually set up on Zoom. During the OM, potential users are explained the procedures, provided with training materials and documents to be completed and submitted. Training sessions can be arranged only after the OM
  1. Account Management
  • The MSCL uses LabRunr, a centralized reservation system, to manage reservations for all the instruments. Create a LabRunr account here to have access to the system.
  • User accounts are subject to approval from MSCL staff. Normally, it takes a few days to process a new account request.
  1. Laboratory Access
  • Approved users are authorized to work independently after completing all training sessions. Users can request lab access via email to xxxx.
  • Unrestricted access to the Engineering 5 building is only provided during normal business hours (8am-6pm). Outside this time, access to the building is restricted and provided only for the permanent occupants of the Engineering 5 building (by personal ID card).
  • Sharing of access privileges and/or key cards with another user is strictly forbidden!

Safety & Training

  1. Safety: MSCL users must follow all safety policies and procedures established by UCLA Environment, Health, and Safety (EH&S) and must understand their responsibilities.
  • Users can be authorized for independent operation only after approval by the facility administrator.
  • Undergraduate students and volunteers are to be accompanied at all times by (someone approved by the facility administrator).
  • Before providing access to the MSCL, users will be provided a lab-specific safety orientation.
  1. Training: Equipment-specific training is required and available to all users following completion of safety training with UCLA EH&S.
  • Training will be provided to individuals who foresee substantial future use of the MSCL facility. Those with less demanding and/or short-term needs should consider working with the the MSCL team or another authorized user.
  • It is recommended that training take place on a sample that is relevant to the user’s long-term research.
  • MSCL staff will determine when a user may operate the equipment unsupervised following receipt of training.
  • It is recommended that students who would like to become authorized users of advanced instruments have previously (and in addition to the formal training required) taken the course MAT SCI 111.

Reservations & Usage

Only authorized users allowed to operate MSCL equipment independently. Use of the lab equipment without prior online reservation is strictly forbidden.

  1. Reservations:
  • Authorized users must use the online reservation system to book all laboratory equipment
  • An 8-hour reserved time limit is applied for all users through the reservation system.
  • Booking of the system for another person is prohibited. Reserving more time than is used without written explanation (by e-mail) can result in charges for full time reserved. Repeated over-booking of MSCL equipment will cause suspension in the lab access or termination of the lab use privilege.
  • A minimum 24-hour advanced notice for reservation changes or cancellations is required. Cancellation notifications should be made by contacting the MSCL administration:
  1. Equipment and Space Usage
  • Users are expected to leave the MSCL space in the state they find it in, if not cleaner, by returning all tools and materials to their proper storage location and disposing of all trash.
  • Food or drinks are NOT allowed in the MSCL.


Users agree to acknowledge the following when publishing data collected in the MSCL:

  • The following language, or some variation thereof can be used: “Data was acquired at the Materials Structural Characterization Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles’s California”.
  • Grants utilized to purchase equipment used in the MSCL should be acknowledged.
  • Specific equipment used in the research should be noted in the Methods, Experimental and/or Supplementary Inforamtion section(ss) of the manuscript.
  • Specific reference to non-compensated staff involved in time consuming projects is strongly encouraged. This is often done through co-authorship when a substantive intellectual contrubtion has been made.