Non-UMN Academic Users

News: The Explore Nano Program can potentially cover initial costs for users from outside the University of Minnesota. Find out more here

CharFac has a long history of providing analytical services and training to academics spread across the US and beyond. Regarding training, we are similar to (hands-on) user facilities accessible at national labs. However, we do not require or evaluate formal research proposals, beyond discussing the general appropriateness of our instrumentation and methods to your research problem. Additionally, we charge instrument user fees (not exorbitant).

Similar to a commercial analytical services provider, you can also send us samples while we will send you data and, if requested, analysis of this data.

The necessary steps to begin working with CharFac are detailed in the section below (beginning at STEP 1). Initial interactions require discussing the general appropriateness of our instrumentation and methods to your research problem and assessing previous experience with similar instrumentation, usually via preliminary email to the pertinent staff scientist(s). We welcome discussions of your research problem, whether it spawns a fruitful (in publication) collaboration or simply spurs analytical services or training for independent use.

Rate Information

CharFac charges separately for the instrument and staff time. As of September 2020, CharFac is partially supported by the NSF NNCI program. “Partial” means a subset of our instrumentation and associated staffing. For these cases, charge rates are identical to those paid by UMN users. For the remainder of our instrumentation suite (unsupported by NNCI), charge rates are above those charged to UMN users (to recoup some of the indirect cost recovery overhead that our university does not receive from your grants). For these instruments, staff time charges are closer to the rates charged to our commercial clients. (Our rate sheet provides details on the NNCI-supported versus unsupported instrumentation.)  View our external academic rate sheet for more information.

Another exception is a type of collaborative research whereby your grants directly subcontract our unit (i.e., federal funding comes directly to UMN), and thus your grants are charged at the same rates as UMN users for both instrument and staff time.

Beyond the charging rubric, we are eager to establish collaborations for the sake of intellectual value.

How do non-UMN academic users start to work with the CharFac?

STEP 1: Fill Out Forms

Complete Non-UMN User Registration Form.  If you plan to get trained on specific instrument, please indicate this in the instruments section of the registration form. The instrument specialist(s) will contact you regarding training schedules. In case you do not have enough information on the capabilities and suitability of each instrument for a particular research problem, it is mandatory to contact instrument specialists in the area that you are interested in.

Complete the Non-UMN billing form. The billing form requires details of Purchase Order or e-invoicing info and describes payment options via university check, credit card (most major accepted).

Mail the PDF forms to CharFac’s main administrative desk ( You will receive an e-mail regarding the next step. To check the status, contact main administrative desk.

STEP 2: Technical considerations

The registration email from will be cc one or more CharFac staff scientists/trainers who specialize in the techniques requested. The prospective user will be notified if intermediate discussion is needed. Once cleared to proceed with training, the trainee’s name will be added to a list for scheduling in the coming days. To check the status of this list, please contact the pertinent cc’d trainer(s). 

Alternatively, if analytical services/collaboration is determined to be the better route, the email thread will proceed in this direction and all further discussion will be with the staff scientist.

STEP 3: Additional Training (if necessary)

Scientists in your area(s) of interest reach out with further details regarding this process.

In order to comply with Minnesota state law, all researchers must complete lab safety training before using any instruments. Your user registration form contains detailed instructions on page 2 regarding safety training requirements. Completion of these requirements and your signature on the form are required.

Electron microscopes users — the SEM Training Policy and TEM Training Policy are useful for determining which electron microscope best meets your needs and should be reviewed by anyone seeking training with one of our electron microscopes.

If you will be using X-ray equipment, be sure to note the additional safety requirements also listed on the bottom of page 2.

If you have already registered and are now seeking training on an additional instrument, simply email the CharFac main office ( with your request.