US CryoEM Center Merit Badges
Broadening access to high-resolution cryoEM for biomedical researchers and cultivating a skilled workforce.
What are cryoEM merit badges?
A merit badge is a proficiency qualification that allows for independent use of specified instrumentation and is cross-honored at the three US cryoEM service centers. Badges are awarded in three main skill areas:
- sample preparation
- microscope operations
- data processing
If you are not a user of the national cryoEM centers, we hope the merit badge framework may still be useful by organizing cryoEM training materials into practical units relevant for specific steps of a cryoEM workflow.
How can I earn a merit badge?
Earning a merit badge requires successful completion of 5 steps:
- Review theoretical background information and SOP (independent study)
- Take the knowledge quiz (a pass/fail test)
- Have a practical demonstration (in-person training with center staff)
- Hands on Practice (supervised instrument use until you are ready for the independence test)
- Take the Practical test (2 separate staff at separate times evaluate using a standard checklist)
Available Merit Badges?
Available merit badges reflect current instrumentation and best practices at the US national cryoEM centers. Each badge has associated background reference material, a standard SOP agreed upon by the three national centers, a knowledge quiz to test familiarity with essential theoretical background and the SOP, and an independence test checklist to guide practical training and supervised practice. They are in constant revision and construction and may evolve over time (versions are dated to keep track). Currently available badges are below with links to their individual pages. Badges still under construction will become available as they are completed. If you have particular requests for badges you would like to see expedited or that you don’t see here, let us know!
The start of a cryoEM project
Microscope use and data collection
Feedback during data collection
How long is merit badge certification valid for?
Each merit badge has an expiration date to ensure a high level of proficiency is maintained. There is no one-time interval that fits each category. After a merit badge’s certification period elapses center staff will verify proficiency to renew the certification.
- Room temperature work: ~1 year
- Cryogenic work: ~6 months
- General: ~3 months
- Direct detectors: ~6 months
- Side entry systems: ~3 months
- Autoloader systems: ~1 year
- Data collection programs: ~1 year
- General ~1 year