Browsing: NIST General

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…

From the GPS receivers that help us find our way and the MRI machines that provide lifesaving medical images of our bodies to the reliable electrical power we receive in our homes, federal research benefits us and fuels our economy. Transforming a discovery made in the lab to something you can use is what government calls technology transfer. Every year, the government spends your tax dollars—on a wide variety of research programs housed at multiple government agencies. At the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), this investment supports our work in measurement science. However, it’s the private sector, not the government, that uses this enabling research to make commercial products that you buy. Connecting the research results from the…

Before “Hidden Figures” was a movie, it was a book. Actually, two books—the regular book and a young readers’ edition. I liked the movie, but I loved the books. For many months, I watched the excitement surrounding the movie about three African-American women who made significant contributions to NASA’s space program with a great deal of interest and a wide range of emotions, from pride and amusement to bewilderment and sadness. Parallels and Intersections At the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta, Georgia, this past January, I attended a panel featuring the book’s author, Margot Lee Shetterly, the fourth mathematician/engineer Dr. Christine Darden, who was mentioned in the book but not the movie, and Morehouse professor Rudy Horne, the mathematics consultant…

Dulles International Airport, in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., sits on land once owned by NIST. It was on this spot that NIST brought together an eclectic combination of people and projects that would help birth the field of radio astronomy. It would involve a backyard tinkerer, a former Nazi radar installation, a confidential Defense Department project, and the desire of people living west of the Mississippi River to watch television. “Electrical Disturbances of Extraterrestrial Origin”  In 1932 Karl Jansky, a radio engineer at the Bell Laboratories campus in Holmdel, New Jersey, published a paper with the rather sedate title “Directional Studies of Atmospherics at High Frequencies.” The paper described his work identifying the sources of radio static…

Like a lot of scientists, I am very goal-oriented, so after I got my PhD in toxicology, I set out to become a leader in my field by the time I was 40. To get there, I knew I had to be acknowledged by the top researchers in my field, get invited to speak at important conferences, organize conferences, and publish in top journals. I’m happy to say that, with the support of my mentors, colleagues, family and friends, I was able to achieve my goal. It wasn’t without interesting blips along the way. When I was in my 30s, I was invited to my first committee meeting full of senior researchers, and I was put into a small group…

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