The stand-alone microbeam at Columbia University presents a novel approach to biological microbeam irradiation studies. Foregoing a conventional accelerator as a source of energetic ions, a small, high-specific-activity, alpha emitter is used. Alpha particles emitted from this source are focused using a compound magnetic lens consisting of 24 permanent magnets arranged in two quadrupole triplets. Using a 'home made' 6.5 mCi polonium source, a 1 alpha particle s(-1), 10 microm diameter microbeam can, in principle, be realised. As the alpha source energy is constant, once the microbeam has been set up, no further adjustments are necessary apart from a periodic replacement of the source. The use of permanent magnets eliminates the need for bulky power supplies and cooling systems required by other types of ion lenses and greatly simplifies operation. It also makes the microbeam simple and cheap enough to be realised in any large lab. The Microbeam design as well as first tests of its performance, using an accelerator-based beam are presented here.