Skip to the content of the web site.

Electronic Hardware Specialist

Department: Science Technical Services Effective Date: Feb 20, 2004
Grade: USG  9 Reports to:

General Accountability

Reporting to the Electronics Group Supervisor, who also acts as Science Technical Services Manager, this position is accountable for providing technical support to research groups and teaching activities in the Faculty of Science departments: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Sciences and Optometry. The support includes: design, construction, servicing, testing and installation of various scientific equipment and instruments.

Nature and Scope

Science Electronics Group is part of the Science Technical Services Department (STS). Other units are: Machine Shop, Stores and Student Machine Shop. Presently the Electronics Group consists of four staff members including the supervisor. Occasionally, when workload requires, extra personnel may be hired on temporary or part-time basis.

All four staff members operate in a similar fashion, the main difference being the years of experience and particular area of strength. Examples of operations performed are: design and construction of specialized instrumentation, modification and repairs of scientific equipment, installation of the new equipment including installation of the appropriate electrical power and cooling system (plumbing or air flow), repair of vacuum pump and other vacuum instrumentation. Often the value of single research equipment approaches 1mln dollars. Important decisions have to be made almost on every day basis, when repairing such equipment, in terms of safety of the personnel (exposure to high voltage, radiation, chemicals, germs, etc). Examples: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Instruments, Laser Systems, X-ray Instruments, Electron Microscopes, Environmental Chambers, Mass Spectrometers, Gaz Chromatographs, low temperature physics and superconductivity instruments, etc.

Significant amount of monies are saved by servicing these instruments in-house instead of sending them out for repair, often outside Canada, or bringing manufacturer service personnel.

Customers: Faculty, Staff and Grad Students from the Faculty of Science, but also increasingly from other faculties and departments of UW and occasionally from outside the Campus, submit their work requests to the Electronics Group. The staff member on duty receiving the request can usually assess feasibility of the project or repair. In case of more complex projects the work request is directed to the Supervisor for further processing and scheduling.  The size of the projects varies from simple servicing of an instrument taking only minutes to finish to construction of highly complex instrument valued at thousands of dollars and taking months to complete.

Upon receiving the work order with initial information about the project and purpose of the instrument, the incumbent works on preliminary design and proposes the solution to the problem presented by the customer. After the agreement is reached other technical details are worked out and various manufacturing decisions affecting the performance, cost, and timing are taken. Proper scheduling and synchronization are very important as it may affect other people hired by the researcher or availability of funds in a given time and for a given project. In more complex cases the incumbent will discuss the project with the Supervisor, seek opinion of other staff members or use such resources as: scientific publications or professional journals. A search for a suitable design may often be necessary and some design concepts and methods may need to be tried on an experimental basis before finalizing the design. At this stage a list of parts and materials for the job may be passed to the supervisor, who may verify it, find the distributor or suggest one. This information is then passed to the administrative assistant of the department for ordering. The final product may be the critical part of instrumentation the researcher is putting together.

Another important activity of the STS department is to provide technical support to teaching activities in all departments of the Faculty of Science. This includes support to professors teaching various courses when they need demonstration equipment, and to demonstrators teaching undergrad labs. Such equipment may need to be designed, built, repaired, modified, tested, calibrated or assembled on a very short time notice.

All activities of the STS: financial transactions, work orders, purchase orders, time keeping, etc, are traced using two part software system: one custom designed internally and one commercial. The end of month and the end of year reports are sent to Financial Services department.

End results are the financial statements showing expenses and revenues.

Statistical Data

Specific Accountabilities

To accomplished the objectives of this position the incumbent will be required to:

  1. Interact with faculty, students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds and provide technical consultation to them. Diagnosing and debugging problems with experiments, suggesting ideas to improve teaching and research labs set-ups and enhance the data quality is also an important goal. Often teaching and demonstrating the electrical/electronic and mechanical concepts is necessary.
  2. Design, construct, test and service specialized research and teaching instrumentation including analog, digital electronics and interfacing. Design and construction will comprise: low-noise preamplifiers for various probes, sensors and detectors, high-speed amplifiers, signal generators of various shapes and frequency, power supplies, motion, temperature or pressure controllers, etc. Servicing may include: time of flight, infrared, plasma, mass and NMR spectrometers, laser systems, low temperature (cryogenics) instrumentation, electron microscopes, gaz chromatographs, X-ray equipment, high voltage power supplies, specialized washing/sterilizing machines, ovens and furnaces, balances, centrifuges, electrophoresis and ultrasound instruments, etc.
  3. Use specialized software such as AUTOCAD or Electronic CAD packages during design phase and PCB software (Printed Circuit Board) to prepare component layout. Use dedicated programming software to operate precision CNC Mill to produce the boards.
  4. Write computer programs using Visual Basic or SOFTWIRE software to connect various types of interfaces to computer for control or data collection purposes.
  5. Demonstrate mechanical dexterity to build enclosures, packaging, shielding, etc.,proficiency in using variety of small tools and some lathe and mill machining is necessary.
  6. Work with students giving tutorials and demonstrations during “Practical electronics and safety” series of sessions offered to grad students. Being consultant for 4th year project for Physics students.
  7. Wire a variety of electrical equipment in accordance with Ontario Electrical Code and to CSA standards.
  8. Work in team environment on large projects involving both electronic and machining group.
  9. Participate in annual Inventory taking and maintenance of shop equipment.

Working Conditions