Browsing: NIST General

Over the course of its 100-plus year history, NIST has had some colorful characters who were also pioneers in their fields. For computer scientist Karen Olsen, one who stands out was Ethel Marden. In the 1950s, Marden wrote programs for the nation’s first internally programmed digital computer: the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC). For 13 years, SEAC was a valuable tool used by various government agencies to do everything from accounting to checking calculations for the hydrogen bomb. It led to several innovations, including electric typewriters and the digital scanner, which was used to create the first digital image. “Marden inspires me because she and I are both computer scientists, but I was also intrigued that she and her husband…

As a professional reference librarian and amateur history buff at NIST, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with all kinds of extraordinary individuals. In particular, I have been struck by the number of women who made important contributions to the development of the earliest electronic computers. One of my favorites is Ida Rhodes. Rhodes, a NIST mathematician and computer expert from 1940-1975, designed the C-10 language used by one of the earliest computers, the UNIVAC 1. She also worked on computer translation of Russian, gave lectures to government agencies and private firms to promote the computers’ ability to make their work more efficient, and taught computer coding to people with physical disabilities. In 1977, she developed an algorithm…

As happens with most every metrologist I know, I fell into metrology (the science of measurement) quite by accident. My degree was in chemical engineering, and I was probing the world around me to see what kind of work was out there for someone with my skills and interests. I learned of an upcoming vacancy in a metrology laboratory at the state of Minnesota’s Weights and Measures Division and scheduled a visit—even though I didn’t know what a metrology lab was. When I got there, I found out that metrology was critically important in both commerce and industry. In order to ensure the accuracy of measurements made at grocery scales and gas pumps, regulatory officials need to use calibrated equipment…

Like many of you, I venture out on Saturday mornings to get groceries and gas. Until my college years, I never thought much about whether or not I paid the right amount at the pump, if the supermarket scale was correct, or if packaged foods actually contained the amount of product stated on the package. It was not until I took a position with the Maryland Weights and Measures (W&M) program, first as a field inspector and then as a metrologist, that I learned about how the U.S. weights and measures system lays the foundation for fair commerce. Now, as a physical scientist with the NIST Office of Weights and Measures, I have the opportunity to look at weights and…

It’s a college graduate’s nightmare. You earn your undergraduate degree with a stellar grade point average, over-the-top recommendations from your professors, and an induction into your discipline’s honor society, but, for some reason, no one will hire you. In today’s job market, competition is fierce. Good grades are not enough to land a job or even pursue a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, commonly known as STEM. Before you graduate, you’ll need real-world experience to help you stand out from the crowd. A summer internship can give you that experience. My own undergraduate summer internship experiences taught me how to apply the science that I learned in the classroom to the real world. During my most memorable…

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