Soft Matter Characterization Facility

User Policies

The Soft Matter Characterization Facility (SMCF) is a core user facility managed by professional staff of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. Staff are onsite Monday–Friday from 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. for consultation and technical support. Independent access is open to all University of Chicago affiliated researchers following completion of the necessary training and approval by the technical manager. Staff-assisted services are available to external customers from academia, government, and industry. Please contact the director with all requisitions and/or general inquiries.

Users may request facility access by emailing the technical manager to discuss project feasibility and training. After completing facility training, including instrument-specific training, you will have facility access during working hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Internal users must complete the UChicago chemical hygiene plan and fire safety training online prior to facility training. You will also need to provide your six-digit FAS account number and your ChicagoID number to access the facility.

Users with demonstrated instrument experience may be granted 24/7 facility access at the discretion of SMCF management.

Individual training rates

  • Internal and UChicago affiliate: $33/hour + instrument fee
  • External nonprofit: $50/hour + instrument fee
  • External industry: $100/hour + instrument fee

Group training rates

  • Internal and UChicago affiliate: $11/hour + instrument fee

SMCF staff are available for consultation and technical support during working hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Internal and external users may be granted independent access to the facility after training and approval. Staff-assisted and contract services are also available.

Staff-assistance and contract services rates:

  • Internal and UChicago affiliate: $33/hour + instrument fee
  • External nonprofit: $50/hour + instrument fee
  • External industry: $100/hour + instrument fee

The SMCF is committed to the safety of its users. Internal users must be current in their University of Chicago chemical hygiene plan and fire safety training, as well as complete the required facility training. All users must adhere to safety protocols. If you violate safety protocols, your access may be restricted, suspended, or revoked at the discretion of SMCF management.

If there is a medical or physical (fire, flood, explosion, chemical spill, etc.) emergency, you must follow University procedures and notify UChicago police by dialing 123 from on-campus phones or 773.702.8181 from other phones.

The SMCF uses Google Calendar for instrument reservations. After your training, you will be given access to the Google Calendar(s) specific to the instrument(s) on which you were trained. Reservations may be modified or canceled up to 12 hours before the reservation begins without penalty. You are expected to respect your colleagues’ time when making, modifying, or canceling instrument reservations.

You must record your instrument use in logbooks associated with each instrument. These records must be entered accurately and legibly for billing and compliance purposes.

If you fail to record your instrument time in the logbooks or abuse the reservation system at the expense of other users, your facility access may be restricted or suspended at the discretion of SMCF management.

The SMCF facility and equipment are provided on an “as-is” basis. You assume full responsibility for your data and intellectual property. As a courtesy, data may be temporarily stored on local instrument computers, but it is not guaranteed to remain after your reservation. Transfer your data immediately following instrument use via a cloud storage service such as UChicago Box. Flash drives are not permitted without the prior consent of SMCF staff.

Instrument time and SMCF services are billed at a flat hourly rate according to the most recently published fee schedule. Instrument time is rounded up to the nearest half hour for billing purposes (for example, 20 minutes used is rounded to 30 minutes billed). Fees are subject to change at the discretion of the University.

Consumables should be provided by the user. When necessary, consumables may be obtained from the SMCF at pass-through cost.

Internal users
Internal users are students, faculty, and staff employed and/or directly affiliated with the University of Chicago. As an internal user, you must provide an active six-digit FAS account number and your ChicagoID number before accessing SMCF instrumentation.

Billings statements for research groups are available for review by a principal investigator (PI) at the end of the month, upon request. PIs should bring any disputed charges to the attention of the technical director. Total facility usage charges are tabulated by calendar month (in arrears) for each PI according to logged usage and the instrument fee schedule. The tabulated monthly charges are forwarded to PME finance, who then execute the necessary funds transfers in the UChicago financial accounting system.

External users and institutions
External users are students, faculty, and staff employed by institutions other than the University of Chicago. As an external user, you must contact the technical director to discuss the scope and feasibility of your project. The SMCF delivers a price estimate to the external institution. Upon receipt of a valid purchase order, work may begin at the discretion of SMCF staff.

The University may invoice the external institution upon completion of the project as outlined in the purchase order or on an ongoing monthly basis. The external institution must pay all undisputed invoices, upon receipt, within 30 calendar days. Checks, payable to the University of Chicago, should be mailed to:

University of Chicago
ATTN: SMCF Receivables
5640 S. Ellis Ave., ERC 105B
Chicago, IL 60637

If damage results from negligent operation of SMCF equipment, the user’s facility access will be suspended immediately. Depending on the nature and severity of the infraction, the accountable PI may be responsible for funding equipment repair or replacement necessary for proper facility operation. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the technical manager in consultation with the faculty director and the accountable PI.

The SMCF expects collegial and productive scientific interactions between facility users and staff members.

With gratitude, we request that you recognize the role of the SMCF in your research project. Use the following statement in papers and conference proceedings: “Parts of this work were carried out at the Soft Matter Characterization Facility of the University of Chicago.”

Please acknowledge SMCF staff members if they had a substantial level of involvement in your project. Co-authorship of a paper may be warranted if a staff member makes a significant intellectual contribution to the final research outcome.

Send titles/abstracts/table of contents/figures of all journal publications and conference proceedings that acknowledge the SMCF to the technical manager. These will be published on our website periodically.