External users


The analytical instrumentation services we offer to the ISU research community are also available to other Iowa universities, community colleges, high schools, and Iowa businesses.  The fee structure for external users is listed on each instrument page, and summarized in the document External Usage Charges.

Services We Provide

Note that the services we offer to the ISU research community do not normally include significant methods development, sample preparation, or data interpretation.  Those tasks are the primary responsibility of the ISU researcher.  Similarly, if you are an Iowa company desiring to use our services, we expect you to have the appropriate in-house staff to develop or research the methods you are asking us to implement, properly prepare the samples for analysis, and interpret the data that we acquire for you. If you do not have those in-house capabilities, you may want to consider hiring a consultant to interface with us. 

If you are not an Iowa-based business we may ask that you justify your request for our services. One such justification is that we provide a service that is not available at a commercial lab or nearby university. It is not out intention to be in competition with commercial testing labs.  Lower cost is NOT a valid justification.

Billing Requirements

Once we have agreed to assist you, please discuss university billing requirements with Alison McConeghey. She will help you establish an ISU Accounts Receivable number for your company, discuss the need for submitting a company Purchase Order for your project, and explain how your company will be invoiced.  Generally the AR number will only need to be established once, but a valid PO number should be included in the cover letter sent with each group of samples submitted for analysis.  You should also summarize this information on our External Use Authorization form.  This form should be scanned in and returned to Carlene via email.

Sample Analysis

Normally you will be sending your samples to us prepared ready for analysis, and our staff will perform the measurements. You will be charged for the instrument measurement time and for the staff time associated with obtaining the measurements and preparing the data summary report.  You may also request instrument training for a company employee or consultant.  This will allow you to access the instrumentation and perform measurements as necessary without incurring additional staff charges.  Although we can provide you with after-hours access privileges to the CIF labs, we do not control after-hours access privileges to ISU buildings.  However, we can assist you in requesting an ISU affiliate ID card and request external door access on your behalf.

Sending Samples Safely

You must abide by all state and federal requirements related to the shipment of hazardous materials. Usually our measurements require less than a gram of substance.  This should allow you to ship most materials without onerous shipping requirements.  If possible, always include the MSDS sheets for your samples.  After analysis, we prefer to send remaining sample material back to you in the same shipping container in which it was received.  If we must dispose of extra material, there may be a significant disposal fee assessed.


Your samples, sample information, and the data we obtain for you will not be intentionally shared with anyone other than CIF staff.  If you require a signed confidentiality agreement, please consider using our Confidentiality Agreement Template.  This has been reviewed and approved by the ISU Legal department.  Significant deviations from this format may result in substantial delays while the modified agreement is under review. 

Chain of Custody

Mail received at Iowa State University is normally sorted and processed in areas that may not meet the legal requirements of "chain of custody".    If this is a requirement, you must arrange to have the samples delivered directly to our lab.  We will sign for the material and accept responsibility for keeping it in a secure location.

Lab Acceditation

We are not an accredited lab. We are a multi-user facility with a focus on teaching and research. We do practice reasonable QA/QC protocols that vary somewhat depending upon the nature of the analysis. Specifics can be provided to you upon request.