Contract Laboratory Profile: The MicroStar Lab, LTD.

Wed, 10/21/2009 - 4:20am

The MicroStar Lab, LTD.
The MicroStar Lab, LTD.

72 East Street, Crystal Lake, IL. 60014

72 East Street, Crystal Lake, IL.

Years providing contract services
4 years

Judy LaZonby

Areas of testing/services
  Air testing      Analytical testing







Drug development






Environmental Impact   


Environmental Simulation


Environmental stress testing   


Fire Testing






Materials characterization   


Materials Testing


Mechanical Testing   


Mercury testing




Microscopy/Surface Analysis


Nondestructive Testing   




Preclinical studies   




Rheological testing   




Thermal Analysis   








What services are offered/performed by the company?
  Energy Analysis    Consulting Services




Elemental Testing


Wet Chemistry   


Physical Chemistry


Analytical Chemistry   

Method Development


Method Validation   


Stability Studies

Microbiology Testing   


Biological Testing


Dissolution Testing   


Water Testing


Adhesive Analysis   


Agricultural Inspection






Catalyst Testing   


Chemical Analysis




Emissions Testing


Environmental Testing   


Failure Analysis


Fabric Analysis   


Material Testing


Food Safety Analysis   




Fuel Testing   




Mechanical Properties Testing   


Melamine Detection


BPA Dectection   


Metallurgy Analysis


Quality Control   




Thermal Analysis   


Plastic Testing


Rubber Testing   


Solvent Analysis


Sterility Testing   


Bioburden Analysis


Air Testing   


Dioxin Testing


Emergent Chemical Testing   


Mercury Testing


Mine Testing   


Odor Testing


Electronics Testing   

Other: Mold Resistance Testing



















Describe the company/organization role in the given testing/service area the company provides.
The MicroStar Lab, Ltd. is a microbiology laboratory that specializes in the microbiological needs for aerospace, military, and industrial applications. Fungal work, mold-resistance testing, and standardized testing of antimicrobial agents is our primary focus. Contract R&D, plant audits and industrial microbiological troubleshooting are also available.

Describe the company’s experience and expertise in the company’s service area.
The Laboratory Director and CEO, Judy LaZonby, spent 37 years in clinical and industrial microbiology laboratories before opening The MicroStar Lab, LTD. The laboratory is in its fifth year of operation and recently achieved ISO17025 accreditation. We are an industry leader in fungal chamber methods including the Military Standard 810, RTCA DO-160, and the ASTM D 3273, with the unique capability of handling large-sized items or large test sets. Textiles are another area of expertise, with experience in the AATCC 30-2004 Test III, assessing antifungal performance of textiles, and the AATCC 100-2004, assessing antibacterial finishes of textile surfaces. The variety of materials and substrates that we have preformed antifungal testing on is extensive. The list includes but in not limited to: computer parts, photo film, flooring, insulation, carpeting, fuel line cables, paperboard, air-conditioning filters, automobile parts, wallboards, plastics, airplane parts, and military materials.

Relationship with companies
The MicroStar Lab, LTD works primarily on a contractual basis. Many clients contact the laboratory with an interest in a specific standardized test that the laboratory routinely performs and are sent quotes and sample submission forms. Other customers will call, knowing the properties they want to demonstrate in their product but are unsure of the test they need to have run. It is our job to work with the customer and understand their needs, until both the client and laboratory come to an agreement and clear understanding of what work will be preformed. Any time a customer has any questions concerning their test, a staff member reviews the test and answers their questions. Research projects for customers who do not have microbiology laboratories are also performed, often with on-site consultations. We have also partnered on a limited basis with clients. In these situations resources and expenses were shared.

Factors for your testing/service area
The critical factors are 2-fold: doing good science and delivering exceptional customer service. In both fungal and bacterial applications, not only must the microbiological techniques by perfect to prevent contamination, but it is crucial to control the test parameters within specific ranges for temperature, and relative humidity. High quality instrumentation calibrated with NIST-traceable standards is used to closely monitor the incubators and test chambers. Balances, pH meters and pipettes are also checked before each use to confirm the calibration. Fungus testing is unique in that it is a 4-week test, and if not performed correctly, serious scheduling set-backs can occur in a customer’s project. Correctly prepared test pieces along with the right controls can reduce the frequency of invalid tests, and these can be achieved more often when there is good communication with the customer and an understanding of his needs.

Laboratory equipment or techniques are important in your area of testing
For mold testing, we utilize two large walk-in incubators that are temperature controlled and monitored with specialized data loggers. These incubators can accommodate both large and small scale fungus challenges for Military Standard, RTCA DO-160, ASTM D 3273, and IPC-TM-650 2.6.1. Since these tests all have strict isolation and humidity requirements, multiple tests are run simultaneously by employing individual testing chambers within the walk-in incubators. Custom built test chambers for oversized pieces which will operate inside the walk-ins and data loggers that will send email alerts when a chamber parameter is drifting out of range, are other specialty items MicroStar can offer its customers. The email alerts are particularly important as they allow for immediate corrections and can eliminate the need to re-start a test because a temperature or humidity non-conformity. Digital photographs of test pieces are also used for most reports.

Scientific trends/business trends/regulatory trends are impacting contract laboratories or the company’s testing/service area today
The public is becoming more aware of the threat of fungal growth in their homes, children’s school and work environments, and the harmful effect such growth can have on human health. Additionally, concern is growing regarding exposure to and contamination by harmful bacteria. Industry is responding by developing antifungal and antibacterial products. Contract laboratories are assisting industry by providing reliable independent confirmation of test results for everything from standardized testing, quality control, and consulting services on a wide range of materials and products evaluations for building materials, auto parts, military materials, airplane components, textiles, and antifungal cleaning solutions.

Customers are demanding a higher level of quality and accountability. To better serve our customers and provide a superior level of confidence we completed the A2LA ISO/IEC-17025 accreditation in April of 2009. This accreditation demands a serious commitment to documentation in all areas of the laboratories operation. This process was challenging but crucial to the future of the laboratory. Many customers are also interested in visiting our laboratory to confirm our level of quality, see how their samples are handled and be reassured that the results they receive will be of value.

Success story
When I left the corporate world to start my own business, the initial business plan was to provide consulting with limited laboratory services to meet the needs of customers who were finding some independent laboratories non-responsive to their questions. The MicroStar Lab, LTD. started with a small walk-in incubator, an autoclave, miscellaneous lab ware and a single person working the bench. Industry contacts developed over my career and word of mouth through people who knew me and the quality of my work grew the business. Potential customers began calling and inquiring if I could perform testing services for them. Word continued to grow and as requests grew it become apparent that a new facility was needed. Three months after opening the business The MicroStar Lab. was moving into a new larger facility and the first technician was hired. Heading into its second year of operation the technical staff had grown to 5 and space was tight. The Laboratory needed to expand again and moved to a larger facility. We now maintain 2 walk-in incubators at 2 different temperatures to accommodate the additional testing we do for the military and aerospace industries. The larger facility allows for separation of the fungal and bacteriology labs, utilizing dedicated laminar flow hoods and other special equipment for specific applications. The Laboratory is measuring its success by the growth not only of its customer base, but by satisfied customers who keep coming back.

How will roles of contract laboratories change over the next few years?
As we become more globalized, the demand to meet specific standards and criteria is increasing. I see the contract laboratory playing a large role in consulting and partnering with its clients to help them attain those goals and provide documentation that they meet those standards and requirements.


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