Browsing: NIST General

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…

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…

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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