NSF Subsidy Program

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Program Requirements

Investigators interested in applying to this program are required to submit the application form and a descriptive mini-proposal (maximum of five pages of text) with a brief curriculum vita (maximum of two pages) for each principal investigator. Proposals must describe an anthropological research project for which chemical analysis is essential. The proposal should state the important questions in the research project for which answers are sought. The number, type, and contexts of samples must be discussed in the proposal. Maps are strongly encouraged. All program participants are required to accept the conditions of the Archaeometry Laboratory's Data Management and Sharing Plan.

The order of pages should be:

  1. Application form (electronic signature is satisfactory)
  2. Mini-proposal
  3. Bibliography
  4. Maps, figures, and tables
  5. Curriculum vita

Do not exceed 20 pages in total. Please merge into a single PDF file and send by email.

This outline is provided to help guide applicants prepare successful mini-proposals. It addresses the most common type of study submitted to MURR (NAA of ceramic artifacts to determine production patterns, exchange relationships...), but similar studies with other materials and other methods should be generally similar.

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
    • Brief theoretical context (~0.5 pages)
    • Brief archaeological background (~0.5 pages)
      • May include additional discussion of previous relevant compositional work and how the new data are related (~0.5 pages)
  • Research Question(s)
    • What are you hoping to accomplish with this research?
    • Why are compositional studies important to this research
  • Sampling Strategy
    • What are you planning to analyze? And why?
    • Should include some discussion of the analytical technique chosen
    • Provide a summary table listing the number of samples by site/type/context/feature...
    • Justify the sampling strategy (how will it address the research questions?)
    • It may be helpful to include explicit hypotheses and what you would expect to see in the data
  • Timetable for the project
    • Include sample submission, data analysis, publication, additional studies...if possible
  • Project Significance (~0.5 pages)
    • Broader impacts and intellectual merit

NSF-supported projects represent investments for the Archaeometry Laboratory, and we want to ensure projects are capable of producing the desired results. Most unsuccessful proposals fail due to a poor, or poorly described, sampling strategy rather than insufficient theoretical and archaeological detail. Although theoretical and archaeological context are important, they should not form the bulk of the proposal. Condense the information to a proposal aimed at a broader audience. The proposal is limited to five pages, and significant attention should be paid to: 1) stating the research goals, 2) describing the sampling strategy in detail, and 3) explaining how the sampling strategy will address the research goals. These are the critical elements that will be evaluated to accept or reject the proposal.

Common features of successful proposals:

  • Describe and integrate previous relevant compositional studies
  • Full description of the proposed sample
  • Appropriate Sample design (large enough for statistical analysis)
  • A plan in place for data interpretation (particularly for regions with large and complex existing databases such as the Mimbres Valley and Valley of Mexico)
  • Clearly stated testable research questions
  • A record of professional publication of previous projects
  • Allowing enough time for analysis before deadlines (analysis typically takes 3-6 months.
Deadlines for Submission

Proposals are accepted two times per year on either April 15 or October 15. Completed proposals must be received before these dates. Late or incomplete submissions will be either held until the following acceptance date or returned to the applicant. Electronic submission as a single PDF file is encouraged.

Application Forms and Example Proposal

Applications for the NSF-support program can be downloaded in either PDF or RTF format. The PDF format will work with the Adobe Acrobat software, and the RTF format will work in most word-processing programs (e.g., MS Word, WordPerfect, etc.).

To aid in the preparation of high-quality proposals, the laboratory has made available a previously accepted application. This is a well-designed proposal, and applicants may benefit from reading it.

Proposal Review Process

The review process for projects seeking NSF support takes about six weeks. An anonymous advisory committee will evaluate each proposal for (1) scientific merit of the proposed research; (2) appropriateness of the proposed analysis to the specific project; and (3) the principal investigator's research record or other evidence of research potential. The evaluations will be used to rate each proposal. Final selection and scheduling of projects receiving support are the responsibility of the Archaeometry Lab at the University of Missouri. Only high-quality proposals will be selected for support.

Project Publications and Reports

All publications and reports presenting data obtained through this NSF-sponsored program at the MURR must acknowledge support from our NSF grant and must be considered as collaborative projects with the MURR staff members involved. The University of Missouri is obligated to submit an annual report to the NSF summarizing activities under this program. Therefore, participants are required to send copies of all theses, reports, and publications resulting from this support to the Archaeometry Lab as soon as available.

What is the Archaeometry Lab's mailing address? And, how should my samples, flash drive/CD, and other information be shipped?

The proper mailing address is:

Attn: April Oga, Laboratory Manager
Archaeometry Laboratory
University of Missouri
Research Reactor Center
1513 Research Park Drive
Columbia, MO 65211

Packages can be shipped by the US Postal Service, United Parcel Service, Federal Express and other carriers. All of the major delivery services know how to find the MU Research Reactor. Please send an email to the labto let us know when your package of samples is expected arrive, the name of the carrier service, and the tracking number.

What happens to my samples after they arrive at MURR?

Upon arrival at MURR, each incoming batch of archaeological samples is assigned a project number for tracking purposes. Sample IDs are compared to enclosed log sheets to determine if they conform to our preferred six-character format. Sample preparation is then assigned to one of our students who will begin preparation on the samples on a first-in-first-out basis to the best of our capability. At certain times of the year, backlogs can occur such that samples will be here for several weeks before preparation begins.

Allowable Charge Reductions

If your project is approved, the charges eligible for reduction under this program include irradiation services, equipment utilization fees, and technical assistance by MURR staff. Costs for which investigators must reimburse MURR are those required to recover costs for supplies consumed. These rate are effective January 2024.

Analysis Charge per Sample
Pottery and fired-clay briquettes $50
Clays and soils subject to USDA APHIS $75
Obsidian artifacts by short irradiation only $35
Obsidian, chert, basalt, and other geological materials by short and long irradiation $125
Hematite, ochre, and geological matrices requiring grinding/powdering $60
Neutron Activation Analysis


Analysis Charge per Sample
Pottery to be powdered and analyzed as pressed pellets $60
Basalt and other rocks to be powdered and analyzed as pressed pellets $65
Obsidian analysis by non-destructive XRF $30
Non-destructive XRF of materials other than obsidian $30-50
X-Ray Fluorescence


Analysis Charge
Characterization of sample surfaces (e.g., glazes, paints, glass beads) by LA-ICP-MS $1500/day ~$35-40/sample**
Characterization of lead or strontium isotopes of bulk samples (e.g., pottery, basalt, soils, rocks, etc.) by MC-ICP-MS $125/sample
Characterization of neodymium isotopes of bulk samples (e.g., pottery, basalt, soils, rocks, etc.) by MC-ICP-MS $150/sample
Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, ** CONTACT US FOR A PROJECT QUOTE


Analysis Charge
Characterization of various sample matrices $30-50/sample**

Please contact the lab to discuss analysis of any other archaeological or geological material by NAA, XRF, ICP-MS, or RS. Reduced charges for other sample matrices will depend upon a number of factors, including the sample matrix, suitability of the method, and complexity of the analytical problem. As a consequence, the analytical problem(s) must be evaluated before an estimated charge is recommended.

Whom to Contact and Where to Send

For general inquiries:

By Email

By Fax:
(573) 882-6360

For Shipments by regular mail:
April Oga, Laboratory Manager
Archaeometry Laboratory
University of Missouri
Research Reactor Center
1513 Research Park Drive
Columbia, MO 65211