FAQs

Q: What does Microtrace do?
A: Microtrace uses a combination of microscopy and microanalysis to solve problems. The results we provide our clients are based upon scientifically supportable results that have been show to withstand the scrutiny of both the scientific peer review process and the courtroom. Our clients’ questions often involve finding, identifying, characterizing and comparing materials, often present in minute quantities. Read more about our philosophy and approach.
Q: How is Microtrace unique?
A: Microtrace focuses on solving problems by addressing unusual, irregular, or unexpected issues. Many other labs specialize in a specific menu of standard analyses to process large numbers of samples. Microtrace specializes in finding, isolating, preparing, and analyzing samples in a manner that will provide the best chance at answering a specific question.
Q: What types of samples can you analyze?
A: We have looked at and analyzed thousands of different types of materials. Generally the question does not boil down to “can you analyze this material” but rather, “can find a way to answer a specific question?” Characterization and identification of unknown materials is our specialty – our materials page lists the more common types of natural and engineered materials that we encounter. Even with this extensive list, we continue to encounter new materials and new forms of materials when answering questions for our clients.
Q: What types of equipment do you have?
A: We have invested a great deal of time and effort into building the most practical and well equipped micro-analytical laboratory for characterizing materials and answering our clients’ questions. In addition, we maintain some of the world’s largest materials reference collections and spectral databases, and libraries, which assist us in not only characterizing and identifying materials but helping our clients to better understand the significance of these results.
Q: Do you contract out analyses?
A: We take great pride and enjoyment in conducting analyses in house. We have built up specialized laboratories, equipment and reference materials in order conduct analyses in house. On rare occasions (e.g., for less than 0.5% of all projects in 2014), we will consult with outside expert if we believe additional specificity may be obtained. In the rare instances where the use of an outside expert may be warranted, we discuss such options and costs with our clients prior to engaging outside services. All results and opinions obtained by outside experts included in our reports are explicitly specified as such.
Q: Are you accredited?
A: Yes, we are an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory.  We are also licensed by the DEA to handle controlled substances from Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V.  Read more about our quality here.
Q: Do you use ASTM, ISO, USP, OSAC, AATCC or other standard methods?
A: We sit (or have sat) on numerous standard developing organizations (SDO’s) such as the forensic ASTM, NIST OSAC (formerly SWG), and the AATCC. When applicable or when requested by a client, we may draw from these standardized approaches. However, Microtrace specializes in solving questions that often fall outside the scope of these standardized methods, and in such cases, we use a fundamental application of the scientific method to develop a scientifically supportable approach to addressing our clients’ questions.
Q: Does Microtrace work with individuals?
A: Typically, we work with law firms, attorneys, and corporations. In most cases, we work with individuals only through an attorney. In select cases, we accept certain projects in the areas of art, antiquities and collectibles directly from individuals.
Q: How do I submit a sample?
A: Prior to submission of most samples, we consult with our clients by phone or email. This consultation is to ensure that the samples are appropriate to the task and that the scope of analysis is realistic and conceptually feasible. Following this consultation, we request that all samples are submitted with a project submission form (which includes submission instructions) to ensure that we have the necessary background information about each project.
Q: How long does it take to obtain results?
A: The answer depends on the specific project and number of samples. Our typical turnaround time for samples that do not involve litigation is approximately 10 business days. A rush service is available, which provides first results within 2-3 business days. We also offer an ultra-rush service, which provides first results on the same day. For these expedited service levels, a best effort is made to provide a final result within the expedited period; however, some analyses will require additional time to obtain a final result. Please note that additional surcharges apply to all expedited services, and results will be held until a purchase order or other accepted form of payment authorization is received.
Q: What is the best way to collect, preserve or ship my sample?
A: While we often work with samples that have already been collected, there are often better ways to collect, preserve, and ship a sample for microanalysis. We do not take responsibility for the condition of samples shipped to us; however, we would be happy to discuss approaches to questions related these topics. Please contact us by phone (847-742-9909) or through our contact form to discuss your sample in more detail.
Q: How much does an analysis cost?
A: Each of our analyses is customized to a specific goal. Due to wide range of questions that may be requested for a given type of sample, we are not able to offer a “menu” of prices; however, for many types of analysis we can provide either a firm quote or a not to exceed estimate. In some cases, it is necessary to evaluate a sample in our laboratory prior to providing a quotation. Due to their complexity, certain projects are (such as those involving litigation) are billed on an hourly basis.
Q: Is return sample shipping included?
A: Due to the wide variety of packaging and shipping requirements that we encounter, return shipping costs are not included in quoted project fees.
Q: Will my sample be destroyed during analysis?
A: The short answer: Generally, no. Due to the microanalytical methods that we utilize, it is rare that we need to consume an entire sample. In some cases, the nature of an analysis requires use of the entire sample, while in other cases, the size of the sample is so small that it is consumed during analysis. If preservation of the sample or particle is of paramount concern, please be sure to discuss this with us prior to the start of our analysis so that we can discuss the best approach for minimizing sample consumption.
Q: I’m visiting, how do I get here, where can I stay?
A: Please visit this page to obtain directions to our laboratory as well as information about local accommodations.
Q: How do I join your mailing list?
A: Please click here to join our mailing list. Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook.
Q: How do I become a forensic scientist?
A: There are many forensic science programs around the country (and world) offering bachelor, masters and doctorate degrees. While many of these can open doors to jobs in forensic science, we suggest that interested students begin their studies by pursing a traditional science such as chemistry, biology, geology, or physics. This will provide a firm theoretical scientific foundation from which the more applied nature of forensic science can be pursued. Of course, there are a wide variety of paths that can lead to a career in forensic science. The most important is to follow a path that you find interesting and rewarding.
Q: Do you offer internships?
A: Yes, please visit this page to read more about the qualifications and application process.
Q: Are you hiring?
A: Please visit this page to find out if we have any available opportunities.
Q: May I use images or content from your site?
A: All images and content on this website are copyright Microtrace LLC unless otherwise noted.  All rights not granted Microtrace LLC are specifically reserved.  To obtain rights to use content of any type, please contact us. In the event you are looking for photomicrographs, images or videos of particular materials as observed by microscopy, please contact us.

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