Skip to main content

UNC Chapel Hill’s Computer Integrated Systems for Microscopy and Manipulation facility is an NIH-funded National Research Resource. U.S. researchers doing suitable investigations in the biological sciences are invited to use the facility to carry out their experiments. This page describes the available resources and application procedure.

If you are interested in using our facility, please contact Dr. Timothy O’Brien (919-843-2798).

CISMM Laboratory Tour 2013

Microscopes and Physical Resources

CISMM develops unique systems for applying and assessing forces on the micro and nano scales in biological specimens. Microscope systems for viewing specimens and applying force on the micro and nano scale include light, atomic force, and electron microscope systems. Force application systems include the nanoManipulator (atomic force microscope/fluorescent light microscope system), three 3DFM (3D Force Microscope magnetic tweezers) systems, and a laser trap system. We also apply magnetic forces in our custom Magnetic High Throughput System (MHTS).

Sample preparation resources include facilities for cell culture, solution preparation, microfluidic chambers and the fabrication of structured surfaces. Analysis of data obtained can be done on-site or off, using commercial software or the many software packages developed by CISMM and freely available (see software downloads).

If you are interested in coming to use these resources or our facilities, please see the bottom of page for more information and the application procedure.


Force Microscope systems

3DFM (3D Force Microscopes):These systems use magnetics to apply forces from 0 to >10 nN via linkages to magnetic beads. Force application stages can apply magnetic forces in a variety of paradigms. High speed video (up to 200 FPS) or laser tracking (up to 10kHz position tracking in 3D) can be used with these systems. 3DFM can be used with a widefield or spinning disk confocal fluorescence light microscope, or with transmitted light.

NanoManipulator(Atomic force/inverted fluorescence microscope manipulation system):  Forces can be applied to cells, proteins, or other objects with the AFM using the nanoManiplator system and software, and the movement recorded by fluorescence.

MHTS (Magnetic High Throughput System): We are developing a system for applying forces in each of 96 wells in a multiwell plate. This is especially appropriate for patient studies, siRNA screens or the use of small molecule and protein libraries.

Light Microscopes in CISMM go by mythological names:

Zeus: Nikon Diaphot 200, mercury source with FITC,TRITC, DAPI filters, Cooke pco1600 camera, integrated with AFM nanoManipulator

Artemis: Nikon TE2000, Yokagawa spinning disk confocal with mixed gas laser source with excitation lines at 476, 488, 514, 530, 568, 647 nm, CoolSnap EZ camera

Hercules: Nikon TE 2000, Mercury arc source with FITC, TRITC, DAPI, CFP and YFP filters, Photometrics Cascade II EMCCD camera, and laser tweezers

Scanning Electron Microscope: CISMM has a Hitachi S4700 with the capability of imaging particles, substrates and specimens down to less than 5nm resolution.

Sample Preparation Resources

Cell Culture: Cells can be sent ahead to be plated ahead of experiments, and can be routinely maintained during experiments. We have a CO2 incubator, biologic containment cabinet, -80° freezer, -20° freezer, refrigerator, pipettors, inverted phase microscope, and other equipment for cell culture.

Surface and sample preparations: Sample or coverglass surfaces can be cleaned or made more adhesive with a plasma cleaner or UV cleaner, and structured surfaces can be manufactured. Fume hoods, sputter coater, critical point drier, centrifuges, balance, pH meter and other infrastructure for preparing buffers and samples are readily available.

Application Procedure

If you are interested in using our facility, please submit a brief statement of the intended research to Dr. Timothy O’Brien. The statement should outline the proposed research and how use of the nanoManipulator and/or 3D Magnetic Force Microscope will benefit the experiments. It can be submitted electronically via e-mail or fax, or just via regular mail. Please also contact Dr. O’Brien if you have any questions about the facility.

Dr. Timothy O’Brien
Office: (919) 843-2798


All the services, assistance, expertise and use of the facility are provided for free as part of our resource. Other incurred costs, namely travel, hotel and used, non re-usable items (such as scanning tips) will be borne by the visitor.