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Perspective On: A Microanalysis Lab (Lab Manager)

Perspective On: A Microanalysis Lab
Rachel Muenz
Lab Manager – October 9, 2014

A Lab of Leaders
Giving staff responsibility for individual projects boosts organization’s motivation

Each day involves something new at the McCrone Associates microanalysis lab. Dealing with a huge range of industries means lab staff do non-routine investigative microanalyses of a variety of samples and often have to create new methods altogether to complete the work a customer needs. Sometimes that makes for a big challenge, but it’s also what makes working at McCrone Associates so interesting and is one of the main reasons staff tend to stick around. Usually that work involves several thousand projects per year, which are tackled by the 25,000-square-foot lab’s 45 employees, says David Wiley, president at McCrone Associates. Clients come anywhere from the food and beverage to the pharmaceutical industries and are typically trying to understand a problem with either one of their products or processes; McCrone Associates helps find a solution by investigating the problem on the microscopic scale.

Kent Rhodes, senior VP and technical director at McCrone Associates, explains that the work they do, microanalysis, is different from trace analysis, using what he calls “the chocolate chip cookie analogy” to elaborate.

“Say you were asked to determine whether chocolate is present in a batch of cookies,” he says. “You could grind them up, do an extraction and analyze for chocolate using liquid chromatography. This is trace analysis—you might start with 100 grams of cookies, and find 100 mg of chocolate (1,000 ppm). For microanalysis, you would inspect and dissect the cookies, looking for chocolate chips or other discrete pieces of chocolate. Your answer might be that there are three chocolate chips in each cookie, each around four millimeters in size.”

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