Frequently Asked Questions

When submitting multiple samples for the same type of analysis such as for metabolomics or LC-MS analysis, please do us and yourselves a favor and do not submit them individually.  You can submit a single sample entry with a "SAM" number, attach an Excel spreadsheet for a sample list and add the total number of samples in the proper field.

Q:  How do register and submit samples on the on-line sample submission and tracking system
A:  Please see this document for detailed step-by-step directions on registering as a user and submitting samples.

Q:  How long will you keep my data files and samples?
A: Please note, we don't have unlimited freezer or disk space. Therefore, we have strict data storage and sample storage policies. You can view them here:

Data and Sample Storage Policies

Q:  I registered for SPINAL and got a RC account.  Isn't that the same as the sample tracking system (MiniLIMS)?
A:  No!  Unfortunately, SPINAL/RC account is for billing when using open access equipment.  The sample tracking system is for fee-for-service sample submission and tracking samples.  These two accounts are not linked. If you want us to process your samples, we need you to create a login on our sample tracking system (MiniLIMS). 


Q:  How do I prepare my samples for mass spectrometry analysis?
A:  Please see the sample preparation guidelines

Q: Do I need training before using the open access instruments?
A: Yes!  You should call Sunia to get started with training on the instrument you are interested in.  There is no charge for training.


Q: How do I prepare matrix for MALDI-TOF samples
A: Please refer to our collection of tried and tested matrix recipes for different kinds of samples


Q: Do you have recording sheets for the MALDI-TOF plates so I can remember where my samples are spotted?
A: Please download a template for the Waters MALDI plate from the link provided below.  You can write down where the samples are on a printout of this sheet and tape it to your lab notebook.


Q: What are the guidelines for authorship and acknowledgments of intellectual contributions made by our Center's staff?
A: We have to follow set policies regarding fee-for-service samples required by government funding agencies. Even if you pay for sample analysis, if there is an intellectual contribution from scientists in our facility, it is expected that either this is stated in the acknowledgements section or this results in a co-authorship, depending on the degree of the non-routine contribution. We recommend reviewing  guidelines for authorship put forth by the Association for Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) on co-authorship of manuscripts containing intellectual contributions of scientists in core facilities. These guidelines are widely practiced and represent established ethical guidelines in this area. Please review this document for examples of when acknowledgements need to be made, or co-authorship considered.


Q:  For quantitative analysis of a small molecule, how much does methods development typically cost?
A:  This depends on the hourly rate you are paying depending on your Harvard or outside Harvard status.  Typically, for a single compound methods development can be 4-8 hours to optimize collision parameters, make standards, run a standard curve and determine limits of detection.  After a method is developed, you will pay on a per LC-MS/GC-MS run basis.  For example if your sample is run in both positive and negative ion mode, it will count for two LC-MS/GC-MS runs. If you request that multiple analytical replicates are run, this will be considered as multiple runs.


Q:  I work for Harvard Medical School, I want to pay an inside Harvard rate.
A:  Sorry, unless you have a 33 digit expense code that verifies us that you have paid the overhead cost to Harvard University on your grant money, we have to charge you the outside rate.  There are many institutions which are Harvard affiliated, yet do not pay an administrative cost on their grants to the University.  These labs have to pay an overhead cost to cover for the administrative funds which partially pay for our services.


Q:  How do I clean my MALDI plate?
A:  You can sonicate it for 10 minutes in a large beaker with 50% methanol and roughly 5% acetic acid.

Q:  How much sample do I need to perform MALDI-TOF analysis?
A:  You need approximately 10 uL of sample.  Less can be used because each spot requires approximately 1 uL of sample and 1 uL of matrix. If you use the premixing method, you can mix 4 uL of matrix solution with 4 uL of sample, and make several spots on your plate from each sample.

Q:  How should the sample be applied to the target?
A:  We will thoroughly go through this during training!  There are different application methods which are in wide use.  The actual deposition of the sample on the target is done with a p10 pipette. You can premix the sample with fresh matrix solution before spotting in a 1:1 ratio.  Alternatively, 1 uL of sample can be applied ton the target, followed by mixing in 1 uL of the fresh matrix solution, and mixed while still in solution. After the spot is dried, it is ready to analyze.

Q:  I can submit samples on line but how do I physically get the samples to you?
A:  Good news for people within Cambridge/Boston area!  There is a courier service called Brattle Courier which hand delivers samples around the area for a nominal cost (compared to FedEx).  If you open an account, it is very cost effective. You can also ship the samples to us!  Remember to pack your samples carefully with dry ice etc. for preservation.

Q:  Can my lab-mate just show me how to use the open access ESI-TOF and I can use it during "open access" hours?
A:  Sorry but that is a no!  everyone has to be properly registered in SPINAL before touching our mass spectrometers.  While your lab-mates are welcome to show you, and hang out with you, this is not considered training and does not authorize you to use the instrument. We need to have a proper registration for you in SPINAL before you start using the instrument. Also since billing is automated, for each sample, a "slot based reservation" needs to be made for proper payment for each sample. No access is allowed to the open access instrumentation without training and registration in SPINAL. Unauthorized use without logging samples in SPINAL is considered a violation of facility policy and may result in revocation of open access privileges.

Q:  Our purchasing department wants a W-9 in order to set you up as a vendor. Where can I get this?
A:  Here is our W-9 for your purchasing department. Please call Sunia if you have any additional questions.


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