It's Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Science
September 24, 2009 7:17 PM   Subscribe

How would one go about getting (assisted and monitored) access to scientific/medical research equipment in the Chicago area? (fMRI, MRI, electron microscopes, mass spectrometry)

I'm looking at shooting some base video footage to work with for an idea for a TV pilot I want to create. It would be a science program, but with a more unusual angle. This post had spurred an existing show idea in a new direction, and I want to try to test out odd and strange ideas with actual equipment. (My reply I posted is not the actual show I have in mind, but 'science for fun' is the idea.)

I would obviously assume it would have to be done in off-peak hours, and scheduled for when the machines would not be in use, and use grad students, for example, to operate the equipment. Anything we would do would definitely not be 'by the book' scientific method, but more along the lines of the amazing things that can be seen by examining ordinary or unusual items or processes. Things that would be entertaining in a very nerdy, geeky way, but scoffed at as a 'waste of time' when compared to 'legitimate science.'

I'm sure things like this get done by students, but no one ever hears about it. I remember when electron microscopes became affordable to many institutions, people were taking photos of everything. That was 20 years ago, and I haven't seen an explosion of publicly available data like that with the newer inventions.

Know any scientists, students, or institutions that would like to help out? Where should I start, and who should I talk to first at the university/hospital/research facility?
posted by chambers to Science & Nature (5 answers total)
1.Identify faculty who have the equipment that you are interested in, check out univ websites for this.
2. Talk to them directly, email first.
3. In case of core facilities email the person in charge.

You would ultimately have to get permission of the principal investigator in whose lab the equipment is, even if you approach the students first.
posted by xm at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2009

I haven't looked at your post/link, so I don't know what you are really up to. But the above would be the way to go.
posted by xm at 7:38 PM on September 24, 2009

Having cadged a huge amount of diagnostic imaging for an art project, I can only tell you how we did it. 1) found the right guy, who had the ability to OK our project, 2) had a couple of real smart Columbia and Princeton grads with sweet personalities that convinced the guy we could perform any repetitive tasks (there were no live subjects,) 3) meticulously noted and marked all the settings, and returned them to where they originally were, after we did each (of maybe 20) sessions. 4) purchased through our own channels all the expendable materials, and showed up with our own supplies. 5) promised, and gave, credit to both the facility, and the supervisor we seduced. 6) scheduled to work at slow times, if our session got preempted, fine, thanks anyway. 7) brought snacks and candy for the suprevisor, who appeared to like such things.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:38 PM on September 24, 2009

As a imaging facility manager, StickyCarpet's approach seems like the right way to go. You'll get a lot farther if you come across as knowledgeable and thoughtful, and having considered things like purchasing consumables and providing credit ahead of time.
posted by pombe at 9:20 PM on September 24, 2009

You may also have to be prepared to pay for time; we charge $50 - $75 / hr for outside users of our equipment; things like MRIs will be even more expensive.
posted by pombe at 9:22 PM on September 24, 2009

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