MSE 581: Scanning Electron Microscopy

You MUST REGISTER for MSE 581 through the link below. There is no way to add this course through myPurdue.

MSE 581 Enrollment Application


*If you do not receive an email confirmation for course registration within a week, contact the MSE EM administrator listed at the bottom of the page. Students are not able to register through myPurdue; completing the enrollment application form is the only way to register for MSE 581. ONLY graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and MSE senior undergraduates are elligible to take MSE 581.

MSE 581 courses run throughout the year. NOTE: MSE 581 offers only one for-credit session at the beginning of each semester (1 pass/fail credit). Additional sessions will take place on an as-needed basis and will still serve as the Purdue SEM qualification/training, but will not be for credit.

Due to recent changes, MSE 581 is now held on the XL-40 research FESEM instead of the teaching microscope. Machine time constraints are such that we are no longer able to customize the lab times to exactly fit everyone's schedules. There will be two lab sections of (up to) 5 students, so whichever two times work for the most people will determine the schedule (see below).

Lab Times (1 lab section per time per week):

  • Mondays        2:00-5:00
  • Tuesdays       2:00-5:00
  • Wednesdays  1:00-4:00
  • Thursdays      1:00-4:00

Each section meets once per week for three weeks (two 3-hour labs and briefly the third week for the last quiz). During the third week, there will be an independent 'driving test' on the microscope but no 3-hour group lab. There will still be a quiz at the regular class time. Due to the compressed nature of the course, full attendance of the lab sessions is mandatory.

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Practical introduction to the basic operation of scanning electron microscopes. Required for all students who use the SEMs managed by Materials Engineering and Birck Nanotechnology Center.

Sem. Fall, Spring and Summer.


The course goal is for the students to become competent, safe SEM users capable of performing research. They will understand the basic functions of the SEM, be competent in basic operating techniques, and ready to learn more advanced ones as needed.

Relation to Program Objectives and Outcomes:

A5, A7, B1, B5. For clarification go to Program Goals for Materials Engineering.


  1. Provide an understanding of scanning electron microscopy theory and principles. This includes:

  • SEM gun construction
  • Magnetic lenses
  • Electron detectors
  • SEM imaging parameters
  • High resolution microscopy
  1. Get acquainted with scanning electron microscope construction and controls.
  2. Provide "hands-on" training on operation of scanning electron microscopy (FEI XL-40 SEM). This includes:

  • SEM construction and controls
  • Electron gun parameters
  • Imaging parameters
  • Basic sample preparation
  • SEM imaging
  1. Additional Notes:
  • This course provides training on basic SEM functions; Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS/X-ray analysis) and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) are not covered in the course. Upon completion of the course, individual/group arrangements with the instructor can be made to cover these characterization techniques.


The course is designed to be a brief, but intensive introduction to SEM use to allow students to qualify for SEM use on the Purdue campus. The class consists of online video lectures and one lab per week (schedule to-be-determined based upon availability of enrolled students).


Student progress is assessed by their ability to operate the SEM with increasing independence and decreasing instructor intervention, as the labs progress.


Students will be evaluated based on lab performance, quizzes covering the online video lectures, and an individual 'driving test' on the SEM. The acquired knowledge will qualify students for use of other scanning microscope with minimum training. Upon completion of the course and passing the individual test, students will be certified as "SEM Users" granting access to the SEMs in Armstrong and permission to train on the SEMs in the Birck Nanotechnology Center.


Feedback is provided by written evaluation by students at the conclusion of the course.