Working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an unusual federal agency. Its mission is broad—to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.
An essential part of NIST’s work is to anticipate the future. Fast-moving sectors such as nanotechnology, quantum information science, forensics, information technology, and advanced manufacturing need sophisticated technical support systems to flourish and grow. NIST provides that support by continually improving the U.S. measurement system, developing new technologies, fostering standards, and providing both the business and technical evaluation tools needed to produce quality products and organizations.
Recent NIST projects have included efforts to:
To help accomplish its mission, NIST seeks out high-quality partnerships, collaborations, and other interactions with U.S. companies, universities, and agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
In addition, NIST jointly operates research organizations explicitly established to promote the kind of cross-disciplinary collaborations that accelerate research results:
Ways to Collaborate
NIST collaborates with partners to meet a broad spectrum of needs. A key principle of the process is that both NIST and its partner benefit from the relationship. NIST provides fair and equitable access to its technical expertise and its designated user facilities.
NIST researchers frequently collaborate informally with researchers at other organizations. These collaborations often result in joint peer-reviewed papers, short-term visits or tours of NIST laboratories, and sharing of research methods.
Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) are formal partnerships between federal laboratories and U.S. companies, academic institutions, and other organizations to work on research and development projects. The CRADA provides flexibility in structuring project contributions and intellectual property rights and in protecting research results developed during the collaboration.
The NIST Guest Researcher Program provides opportunities to work at NIST on projects of mutual interest for periods ranging from a few months to several years. Research results produced by guest researchers—from universities, companies, or other organizations—while working at NIST are public. Guest researchers (or their home institutions) retain rights to inventions conceived while at NIST.
NIST has several designated user facilities available for both proprietary and non-proprietary research. Access to these facilities is generally provided on a first-come, first-served cost-reimbursable basis. Examples include facilities for gamma-ray sources, small-angle X-ray scattering, nanotechnology, nitrogen flow measurements, heat release calorimetry, and neutron radiography.
Projects involving thousands of researchers from around the world depend on access to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST).
(Note: The NCCoE is not part of the NIST Centers of Excellence program.)
The NIST Centers of Excellence program seeks to provide an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia and industry will collaborate on emerging areas of basic and applied research and innovations in measurement science.
The first of these centers, the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence, is designed to accelerate materials discovery and development; provide opportunities to transition new breakthroughs in advanced materials to industry; convene multidisciplinary and multi-sector communities for in-depth discussions; and provide training opportunities for scientists and engineers in materials metrology.
Additional Centers of Excellence focused on other emerging and innovative fields of research are expected to be announced in FY2014.
The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) seeks to reduce the cost and development time of materials discovery, optimization, and deployment. The MGI works with stakeholders in industry, academia, and government to develop the standards, tools and techniques enabling acquisition, representation, and discovery of materials data; interoperability of computer simulations of materials phenomena across multiple length and time scales; and the quality assessment of materials data, models, and simulations.
The Genome in a Bottle Consortium, comprising federal, industry, and academic labs, is working to develop the reference materials, reference data, and reference methods needed to assess the performance of human genome sequencing.
The NIST Center for Automotive Lightweighting, an effort to help the U.S. automotive industry transition to new advanced and lightweight materials more easily, welcomes collaborations with industrial, academic and national lab organizations that make use of the center’s unique experimental capabilities.
Accessing NIST Research Results
NIST works to disseminate its research results as broadly as possible through peer-reviewed research journals, technical reports, conference presentations, measurement standards, public databases and software, patent disclosures, and other methods:
A number of post-doctoral opportunities are available at NIST, including:
NIST-National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Research Associateships Program—Identifies and recruits world-class postdoctoral scientists and engineers to work at NIST on research in fields including chemistry, physics, materials science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)/NIST NRC Joint Postdoctoral Research Associateships Program—Provides awards for postdoctoral researchers emphasizing research at the interface of the biological and physical sciences. Work is done both at NIST and at NIH.
Professional Research Experience Program (PREP)—Provides laboratory experience and financial assistance to qualified undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates. Postdocs from any university are welcome to apply and are brought into the program through the University of Colorado.
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program—A NIST/National Science Foundation partnership that teams outstanding undergraduate students with NIST mentors on cutting-edge research projects. Positions are available at both the NIST Gaithersburg and Boulder campuses.
NIST Funding Opportunities
NIST also provides extramural research funding through competitive grants. Some examples:
NIST has also launched the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program, a competitive grants program intended to establish new or strengthen existing industry-driven consortia that address high-priority research challenges impeding the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States. The AMTech program funds broad participation across the value-chain including companies of all sizes, universities and government agencies.
In the future, AMTech anticipates it will also offer competitive project grants to industry-driven technology consortia that will fund basic and applied research directed at meeting the “long-term, pre-competitive” industry research needs identified in AMTech-supported technology roadmaps or other planning efforts.