New & Current Users


Welcome! The Chemical Instrumentation Facility is part of the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University. We serve all units and departments at ISU, in addition to local and regional companies that require chemical analysis or characterization. We are located in Hach Hall and Gilman Hall on the north side of the ISU central campus. 

Note that the maps and directory links embedded in the top ribbon bar of most ISU pages will be very helpful to you if this is a virtual visit to the ISU CIF.  If you're already on campus and would like to stop by for a chat, here is how you can find most of us in 1234 Hach Hall:


Dr. Ellern and the X-Ray Crystallography Lab are located in Gilman Hall. Here is a floor plan of our facilities in Gilman Hall:

For incoming Chemistry graduate students, you should know that the human portal to virtually everything you need to know immediately is Sarah Norvell, the Graduate Services Specialist, located in 1605B Gilman.  

After you've started your research, you will certainly have occasion to meet the folks at Chemistry Stores in 1400 Gilman. This is where you purchase chemicals and supplies over-the-counter, and also place special orders.  Eventually you may require the services of the departmental machinist and general fix-it guy, Reed. We also have a resident glassblower, Trond.  These shops are located in the basement of Gilman. Within CIF, we also have a small electronics repair service and pump repair/refurbishement service. 

Once you begin your research, you may need to learn how to operate some of our shared instrumentation.  These instruments are managed by the Instrument Services group, and collectively constitute the Chemical Instrumentation Facility.  Perform the following steps, generally in the order given.

  1. Register with us
  2. Complete EH&S safety training.
  3. Request after-hour access privileges.
  4. Request instrument training.
  5. Establish network-based data access and remote processing.
  6. Learn the proper etiquette for working in a shared-instrumentation facility.
  7. Properly acknowledge both CIF staff and CIF instrumentation.


Fees are charged for the use of the facility equipment. Before you are allowed to receive training or submit samples for analysis, you must be authorized to spend grant money on instrument time and services! This is accomplished via the Chemical Services Authorization Form.  Note that the form must include a valid Worktag for billing purposes, and must be signed by your major professor. Scan in and email the form Lisa. Only when you are in the Chem User Database, will we accept samples from you for analysis, or complete your instrument training. 

EH&S Safety Training

Your safety training requirements are discussed at length on the Safety page of our website. These courses are provided (some on-line; some in-person) by the ISU Environmental Health and Safety group (EH&S).  Do not enter any of our labs until you have completed the proper safety courses.  Special requirements are posted at the entrance to each lab.  Note that we actively monitor the X-Ray Safety training required to enter the departmental x-ray lab,1709 Gilman Hall.

 Lab Access Privileges

As a recently-arrived student at Iowa State University, your ISU ID card (referred to as an ISU One card), has a proximity chip representing a unique numerical code embedded in the plastic. Most of the buildings at ISU, and many of the labs and offices inside the buildings, are protected with proximity-based locks. These locks can be programmed to accept the code embedded in your ISU One card. This will allow you to work in the evenings and on weekends, when the rooms are normally locked.  The CIF Access Form may be filled out and submitted on-line. It does NOT require your PI's signature.

Instrument Training

The nature and complexity of the training required varies depending upon the instrument.  Please see the appropriate instrument page for specific details.  Generally training is done one-on-one, but we may suggest (or require) that you complete special on-line tutorials prior to your in-person training. Each user must receive training and have their own unique login credentials. Sharing of credentials is completely prohibited and will result in suspension of instrument privileges. We will train you on your own sample if you wish, but most of the training documents will refer to standardized test samples we also have available for this purpose. For some of the more heavily used walk-on instruments, training is only available at specific times, and often must be reserved in advance. Even when on-line reservation of training slots is available (e.g. several of the NMR's) it is usually best to discuss your training needs with the CIF staff person that will be involved. You will NOT be trained until you are in the Chem User Database.  No exceptions... please don't even ask us to break the rules!

Establish Network Data Access and Processing

These capabilities will vary depending upon the instruments you plan to use. Most instruments archive their data to the CIF Research Data cloud. See the Remote Data Access page for more details; don't be afraid to speak with CIF staff about specific needs you may have for data archival and remote data processing. Your personal cloud space is established automatically when you receive instrument training.  Data is organized in the cloud by research group, by users within the research group, and by instrument that the user is trained on.

Proper Etiquette

We try not to burden you with a lot of rules, but be aware that we have protocols and precedent covering most situations in the lab.  Although we come from diverse backgrounds, most cultures have the equivalent of the Golden Rule:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  In the lab this translates to:

  • Clean up your own messes.
  • No sharing of login credentials.
  • Always report instrument problems to a staff member, especially if you were the cause.
  • Help less-experienced users if CIF staff are not around at the time.
  • Don't use more than your share of instrument time if others are waiting.
  • Don't expect staff to always assist you immediately. If you have a lengthy question or research idea you would like to discuss, it is best to schedule a sit-down appointment or send us relevant journal articles via email.
  • If you are in conflict with another user wait until the situation has calmed down, then try to work it out face-to-face without involving your major professor. 
  • If a problem is still unresolved, schedule an appointment with CIF staff to talk about it.
  • Some additional NMR-specific policies can be found on the NMR Access Policies page. 

Acknowledging CIF Staff and Instrumentation

Most of the instrumentation in CIF was funded in part by federal agencies like NSF, NIH, DOE, etc. The specific details are included on each instrument page. You must properly acknowledge this financial support in your thesis and in all publications and presentations containing data or results obtained using these instruments. The assistance of CIF staff should also be acknowledged. In most cases a simple "thank you" in the publication will be sufficient, but on certain occasions staff assistance may rise to the level where co-authorship should be considered. There is specific guidance posted on the X-Ray Diffraction page; for other situations, please discuss the issue with your major professor and the CIF staff person involved. The principal author of the publication will normally have the final say in the matter.