NIF User Satisfaction Survey 2019 – Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in the National Imaging Facility User Satisfaction Survey! These results will be used to inform NIF direction and strategy through reports to the NIF Governing Board and the Department of Education and Training, ensuring we continue to meet the needs of the Australian research community.

pie chart showing the breakdown of current role/level of respondents

We received a total of 149 responses from users affiliated with over 25 Universities, institutes, and research organisations. Students were slightly underrepresented compared to other academic roles; could it be that they’re unaware that the facilities they access are NIF? If you’re a student accessing NIF Facilities, tell us what you think!

Bubble chart showing the breakdown of respondents research fields


The fields that NIF users identified with was heavily focused on biomedical and health-related research, with neuroscience topping the list at 37% of responses. It came as no surprise, then, to see that more than half our users identify with the Human Imaging theme.

Pie chart showing 54% of users identify with the human imaging theme

NIF has excellent instrumentation for investigating the brain, including two impressive ultra-high-field 7T MRIs, a network of 3T MRIs, human PET/CT and MEG capabilities. It’s worth noting that we have a great array of imaging capabilities that are used in areas as diverse as palaeontology, veterinary science, and agriculture, contributing to non-health research. So, don’t be shy if you’re not researching the brain or the human body. Ask us how we can help image your samples today!

pie chart showing 43% of respondents had utilised other NCRIS facilities, with a gauge chart breakdown of those facilities

More than half of the respondents indicated they have never utilised another NCRIS facility! NCRIS is the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, enabling the world-class instrumentation available across Australia for the research community to access.  We can see that NIF users commonly access the computation and data infrastructure capabilities, supporting imaging data storage, analysis, management, and curation. NIF Fellows have a great deal of expertise in this area, let us know if you would like help with data practices or to help point you to the right NCRIS capability for your research.

bar chart showing that most respondents rated their satisfaction as 4 or 5 (highly satisfactory)

We are so pleased to see that the majority of our users are satisfied with the level of support they receive when accessing NIF facilities! We can see an area for improvement surrounding the data analysis and management. We hear you, and we are planning to bring on more Informatics Fellows to support NIF users across the country in this area. The odd result here is ‘communications with NIF Fellows’, especially given the high levels of satisfaction with other areas of support! I wonder how we could get this rating to 5 for more users? We are always improving the user experience; to walk the walk, we need your feedback!

Tell us about your experiences:

Did you miss your chance to give feedback in this survey? You can email us, chat with your local NIF Facility Fellow, or you can follow this link to submit your ideas to a rolling survey. We won’t be using these results for reporting, but can still accept anonymous feedback this way!

Once again, a huge thank you to all users participating in this survey.



Diffusion Tensor Imaging of the lower leg: Learnings for muscle contracture and cerebral palsy

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that exploits the movement of water molecules to reveal microscopic details about tissue architecture. DTI is commonly used in brain imaging studies, used to track neural tracts through the brain. The technique is also ideal for investigating the 3D architecture of muscles, as DTI can be used to obtain detailed, quantitative measurements of the anatomy of complex skeletal muscles in living humans. Prof Robert Herbert’s group at NeuRA utilised the 3T MRI located in the UNSW Node of NIF to take a first look at the compartmentalised soleus muscle to provide reference values for further modelling.

CT and DTI slices through leg muscle with regions highlighting the front back side and rear of the leg followed by 3D reconstructions of fibre muscles coloured to indicate the same regions as shown in the slices above

Reconstruction of the architecture of the human soleus muscle using MRI and DTI, taken from ref., showing (A) the MRI slice (midway between ankle and knee) and (B) the corresponding DTI slice taken on a healthy child participant, with (C – F) showing the 3D reconstruction of the surface of all muscle compartments based on the outlines on the anatomical scan.


The human soleus muscle is particularly difficult to study using conventional techniques, such as ultrasound, due to the depth of the anterior and proximal compartments and difficulty in accurate orientation. Hence, DTI is an ideal method to quantify the macroscopic arrangement of muscle fibres of the soleus and help develop comprehensive, quantitative atlases of human muscle architecture.

Prof Herbert’s team have recently used the method to investigate the leg muscles of children with cerebral palsy. Measurements of the medial gastrocnemius muscles were obtained from structural MRI and DTI scans of 20 children with unilateral spastic CP and 20 typically developing children. The study showed that children with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy had reduced range and muscle volume in the calf on the more affected side compared to typically developing children.

The calf plays a vital role in standing and walking, and the differences detected here provide insight into the pathophysiology of muscle contractures and functional impairments in children with cerebral palsy. This knowledge is essential for orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists supporting affected children in learning to walk independently.


For further information, please contact NIF Fellow Dr Michael Green.

This story was contributed by NeuRA.

Unwrapping the mystery of ancient Egyptian mummies

Reviving an ancient Egyptian Mummy sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but researchers at the University of Melbourne have done the next best thing. In a multidisciplinary project with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences headed by Dr Varsha Pilbrow, the head of Meritamun – a young Egyptian woman who lived more than 2000 years ago – has been imaged using CT and reconstructed using 3D-printing technology.


On the left, CT reconstructions of a baby mummy (still being studied). On the right, the CT reconstruction of the head of the mummy named Meritamun from the University of Melbourne’s collection within the School of Biomedical Sciences


Without disturbing the rare specimen and adhering to the controls and procedures of the Human Tissue Act 1982, Meritamun was imaged using the Siemens Human PET/CT in the University of Melbourne National Imaging Facility (NIF) Node. Digital and volumetric displays of tomographic data were acquired and reconstructed for 3D printing to create a skull replica.


The scanning of a mummy with no adverse affects


Biomedical science Masters Student Stacey Gorski has used the CT data to diagnose Meritanum with anaemia, and hypothesizes a cause of death due to parasitic infection.  “The fact that she lived to adulthood suggests that she was infected later in life,” says Gorski. She and supervisor Dr Pilbrow are continuing the investigation, hoping to learn more about the life and death of the ancient Egyptian using forensic pathology.


NIF Facility Fellow Mr Rob Williams facilitating access and providing expertise to the Human PET/CT scanner


In addition to learning more about the pathology and environments of population groups of 2000 years ago, the capability to replicate body parts and organs from CT imaging of specimens offers an opportunity for students to interact with old rare samples without damage to the original.


This story was contributed by the University of Melbourne. Acknowledgements go to Varsha Pilbrow, Julietta Capodistrias, Nina Sellars, Quentin Fogg, Michelle Gough, Gavan Mitchell, Peter Mayal, and Natalie Langowski.

For more information, please contact Rob Williams.

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