Browsing: Metrology

As the seasoned mom of three grown children, I’m happy to say that they all made it through babyhood without any major health issues. While I worked as an analytical chemist at NIST during their baby years, I wasn’t working on reference materials for measuring nutrients in the foods that they ate or, even worse to think about, toxic elements in them. I mention this because recently I was asked about an article that reported traces of lead had been found in baby food. While feeding my babies I just assumed, and expected, the baby food they were eating was safe for them. After all, I thought, they are just babies, and we live in the land of milk and…

With International Firefighters’ Day behind us and World Turtle Day looming, you might not think you’ve got time for another international day in May. But don’t skip World Metrology Day, which is observed on May 20 every year—the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of the Meter in 1875. Because measurements matter. Without accurate measurements, you can’t be confident you’re getting what you pay for at the grocery store, taking the right dose of medicine or crossing a well-constructed—and safe—bridge. Metrology—the science of measurement—touches on many areas of your life, whether you realize it or not. Take just one example: transportation. Without the ability to make very precise measurements, you wouldn’t be able to get where you’re going as…

It seems that I have been a teacher nearly my entire life. One of my first jobs as an early teen was helping to teach gymnastics to elementary students. Before and after I earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I taught a women’s and children’s classes. In the world of weights and measures and laboratory metrology (metrology is the science of measurement), about 40 percent of my time each year is spent teaching, designing new courses or webinars, updating and improving training, and training or developing new trainers. I love that moment when my students’ “light bulbs” come on and I know that they’re getting something, especially when that something is the ability to make high quality, credible…

Even though I have spent my entire professional career at NIST, until a year ago it would never have entered my mind that I would become the chief of the NIST Office of Weights and Measures. I started out on the scientific side of metrology, improving our nation’s standards for calibrating devices that measure pressure, such as barometers, the pressure gauges you use to check your tires, and sphygmomanometers, which are the devices the doctor uses to measure your blood pressure every time you go in for a checkup. Until recently, I was on a two-year detail assignment at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) in Sèvres, France, contributing to the international metrology system and enjoying the perks…

Marie Curie is perhaps the most famous woman of 20th century science. Major motion pictures and best-selling biographies have chronicled her discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium, for which she shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 and then received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, in 1911. Very little note, however, has been made of her leadership role in the development of radioactivity standards. In 1910, she was asked by her peers to prepare the world’s first radium standard: a glass ampoule containing 21.99 milligrams of radium chloride, whose mass and radioactivity had been carefully measured. She agreed, on the advice of Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford, that this international standard would not be kept in…

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