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Tech Beat - November 17, 2009

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: November 5, 2010
Date Modified: November 5, 2010 
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Senate Confirms Gallagher as 14th NIST Director

On Nov. 5, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Patrick D. Gallagher by unanimous consent as the 14th director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Gallagher has worked at NIST since 1993 as a scientist, laboratory director and deputy director. Since September, 2008, he has carried out the functions of director. President Obama nominated Gallagher, 46, to his new post on Sept. 10, 2009.

portrait of Patrick Gallagher

NIST Director Patrick Gallagher

Credit: NIST
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“NIST is a unique agency with a strong culture of world-class scientific achievement and is critically important to the nation’s ability to innovate and create jobs. Dr. Gallagher is a top-notch scientist, administrator and proven leader,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “We expect him to continue his capable stewardship of NIST as we tackle complex problems like cyber security, developing an interoperable ‘smart’ energy grid, standardizing electronic health records and advancing the manufacturing sector.”

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the next Director of NIST,” Gallagher said. “NIST is at an important juncture in its history. We have a world-class workforce, state-of-the-art research facilities, and the opportunity to make a real difference helping find practical, innovative solutions to some of the nation’s toughest technical challenges.”

Gallagher has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. He taught high school math and science for a year after receiving his B.A. in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Gallagher came to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) in 1993 to pursue research in neutron and X-ray instrumentation and accompanying studies of the properties of technologically important “soft’ materials such as polymers, liquids and gels.

In 2000, Gallagher was a NIST agency representative for the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and became active in U.S. policy for scientific user facilities. At the Office of Science and Technology Policy, he served as chair of the Interagency Working Group on neutron and light source facilities. In 2006, he was awarded a Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the department’s highest award, in recognition of this work. In 2004, he became director of the NCNR, a national user facility for neutron research that is one of the most heavily used facilities of its type in the nation.

A native of Albuquerque, N.M., Gallagher lives with his wife and three sons in Olney, Md.

 

Media Contact: Ben Stein, ben.stein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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'No Muss, No Fuss' Miniaturized Analysis for Complex Samples Developed

The goal of an integrated, miniaturized laboratory analysis system, also known as a "lab-on-a-chip," is simple: sample in, answer out. However, researchers wanting to use these microfluidic devices to analyze complex solutions containing particulates or other contaminating materials often find that the first part of the process isn’t so easy. Effective sample preparation from these solutions can be laborious, expensive and time-consuming, involving complicated laboratory methods that must be performed by skilled technicians. This can significantly diminish the benefits associated with using miniaturized analytical techniques. Recent work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could help change that.

schematic of GEMBE system
three complex samples

The NIST GEMBE microfluidic sample analysis system is shown schematically in (a) at top. Photographs at bottom show three complex samples that can be successfully analyzed by the technique: (b) whole milk, (c) dirt and (d) coal fly ash.

Credit: E. Strychalski, D. Ross, NIST, and A. Henry, ARA Inc.
View hi-resolution top image | View hi-resolution bottom image

NIST researchers Elizabeth Strychalski and David Ross, in collaboration with Alyssa Henry of Applied Research Associates Inc. (Alexandria, Va.), have developed a novel and simple way to analyze samples that are complex mixtures, such as whole milk, blood serum and dirt in solution. In a paper published recently in Analytical Chemistry,* the team describes its latest enhancement to a NIST-developed separation technique called gradient elution moving boundary electrophoresis (GEMBE) (see "New Miniaturized Device for Lab-on-a-Chip Separations" in NIST Tech Beat, Jan. 19, 2007).

GEMBE relies on a combination of electrophoresis and variable pressure-driven flow through a microchannel. Electrophoresis uses electricity to push a mixture in solution through a channel, forcing the individual components to separate as they move at specific rates based on their individual properties, such as size and electrical charge. Complex samples can be difficult to separate cleanly because components in these samples (for example, the fat globules in milk or proteins in blood) can "foul" microfluidic channels in a way that prevents reliable detection of the desired sample components.

The new technique solves this problem by pumping a buffer solution under controlled pressure in the opposite direction. This opposing pressure flow acts as a "fluid gate" between the sample reservoir and the microchannel. Gradually reducing the pressure of the counterflow opens the "gate" a little bit at a time. A specific sample component is detected when the pressure flow becomes weak enough—when the "gate" opens wide enough—that the component’s electrophoretic motion pushes it against the pressure flow and into the channel for detection. In this way, different components enter the channel at different times based on their particular electrophoretic motion. Most importantly, the channel doesn’t become fouled because the unwanted material in the sample is held out during the analysis by the pressure flow.

In their paper, the researchers validated their GEMBE analysis technique by testing it with solutions of whole milk, dirt, estuarine sediment, coal fly ash, pulverized leaves and blood serum. In all cases—and without the muss and fuss of pre-analysis sample preparation—the system was able to reproducibly separate and quantify specific components from the solutions, including potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, lithium and melamine.

"GEMBE is well-suited to the microfluidic analysis of ‘real-world’ samples," Strychalski says. "We have shown that the method can handle solutions containing particulates, proteins and other materials that would confound the majority of other microfluidic techniques."

Because of its ability to easily and rapidly characterize complex mixtures with minimal preparation, the researchers believe that GEMBE shows enormous promise for diverse applications, such as monitoring contaminants in food or water supplies, determining nutrient levels in soil, detecting biochemical warfare agents, and diagnosing medical conditions. The next steps, they say, are to miniaturize the desktop equipment now used in the system and integrate all of the parts to develop a true "lab-on-a-chip" field analyzer that can rival the effectiveness of a full-scale facility.

* E. Strychalski, A. Henry and D. Ross. Microfluidic analysis of complex samples with minimal sample preparation using Gradient Elution Moving Boundary Electrophoresis. Analytical Chemistry, Vol. 81, No. 24, Dec. 15, 2009; published online Nov. 10, 2009.

Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, michael.newman@nist.gov, 301-975-3025

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JQI Researchers Create Entangled Photons from Quantum Dots

To exploit the quantum world to the fullest, a key commodity is entanglement--the spooky, distance-defying link that can form between objects such as atoms even when they are completely shielded from one another. Now, physicists at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaborative organization of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland, have developed a promising new source of entangled photons using quantum dots tweaked with a laser. The JQI technique may someday enable more compact and convenient sources of entangled photon pairs than presently available for quantum information applications such as the distribution of “quantum keys” for encrypting sensitive messages.

Quantum dots are nanometer-scale bits of semiconductor—so small that electrical charges in the dots are confined in all directions. They can be made to emit photons—fluoresce—by pumping in energy to create so-called “excitons,” a pairing of an electron and the electron-less “hole.” When the electron falls back into the hole, the excess energy is released as a photon. Quantum dots can also host the even more exotic “biexciton,” composed of two electrons and two holes.

When a short-lived biexciton decomposes, it undergoes two drops in energy, analogous to descending two rungs of a ladder, and a photon is released at each stage. Physicists have long been trying to use this process to get pairs of entangled photons from quantum dots. What makes entanglement possible is that the biexciton could decay along one of two possible pathways, analogous to two different ladders that both get it to the ground. During its descent it releases a pair of photons with a different kind of polarization (electric field direction) depending on the ladder it descends. If the energy drop at each stage is exactly the same in both pathways, so that the ladders look identical, the pathways become indistinguishable—and as a result the biexciton releases photons with undetermined polarization values. Measuring a photon would both determine its polarization and instantly define its partners—a hallmark of entanglement.

But imperfections within the structure of the quantum dot create differences in the energy levels (rung heights) between the two pathways, making them distinguishable and creating photons with predetermined, clearly defined polarizations. Except in rare instances, this holds true even for the reliable, widely fabricated indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) dots that JQI researcher Andreas Muller and his colleagues created at NIST. Muller and his coworkers solved this problem by beaming a laser at the quantum dot. The laser’s electric field shifts the energy levels in one of the pathways so that the two pathways match up, resulting in the emission of entangled photons.

Entangled photons have come from individual quantum dots before, but they have been spotted by hunting for dots in large samples whose imperfections accidentally gave the two pathways identical energy structure. JQI group leader Glenn Solomon says that this entanglement technique could work for a wide variety of quantum dots. Though the dots must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures, he adds that quantum dots could offer advantages as entanglement sources over their conventional crystal counterparts as they are less bulky and can conveniently produce one pair of entangled photons at a time, instead of in bunches.

* A. Muller, W.F.Fang, J. Lawall and G.S. Solomon. Creating polarization-entangled photons from a quantum dot. Upcoming in Physical Review Letters.

Media Contact: Ben Stein, bstein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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Small Nanoparticles Bring Big Improvement to Medical Imaging

If you're watching the complex processes in a living cell, it is easy to miss something important--especially if you are watching changes that take a long time to unfold and require high-spatial-resolution imaging. But new research* makes it possible to scrutinize activities that occur over hours or even days inside cells, potentially solving many of the mysteries associated with molecular-scale events occurring in these tiny living things.

human red blood cells

Human red blood cells, in which membrane proteins are targeted and labeled with quantum dots, reveal the clustering behavior of the proteins. The number of purple features, which indicate the nuclei of malaria parasites, increases as malaria development progresses. The NIST logo at bottom was made by a photo lithography technique on a thin film of quantum dots, taking advantage of the property that clustered dots exhibit increased photoluminescence. (White bars: 1 μm; red: 10 μm.)

Credit: H. Kang / NIST and F. Tokumasu / NIAID
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A joint research team, working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has discovered a method of using nanoparticles to illuminate the cellular interior to reveal these slow processes. Nanoparticles, thousands of times smaller than a cell, have a variety of applications. One type of nanoparticle called a quantum dot glows when exposed to light. These semiconductor particles can be coated with organic materials, which are tailored to be attracted to specific proteins within the part of a cell a scientist wishes to examine.

“Quantum dots last longer than many organic dyes and fluorescent proteins that we previously used to illuminate the interiors of cells,” says biophysicist Jeeseong Hwang, who led the team on the NIST side. “They also have the advantage of monitoring changes in cellular processes while most high-resolution techniques like electron microscopy only provide images of cellular processes frozen at one moment. Using quantum dots, we can now elucidate cellular processes involving the dynamic motions of proteins.”

For their recent study, the team focused primarily on characterizing quantum dot properties, contrasting them with other imaging techniques. In one example, they employed quantum dots designed to target a specific type of human red blood cell protein that forms part of a network structure in the cell's inner membrane. When these proteins cluster together in a healthy cell, the network provides mechanical flexibility to the cell so it can squeeze through narrow capillaries and other tight spaces. But when the cell gets infected with the malaria parasite, the structure of the network protein changes.

“Because the clustering mechanism is not well understood, we decided to examine it with the dots,” says NIAID biophysist Fuyuki Tokumasu. “We thought if we could develop a technique to visualize the clustering, we could learn something about the progress of a malaria infection, which has several distinct developmental stages.”

The team's efforts revealed that as the membrane proteins bunch up, the quantum dots attached to them are induced to cluster themselves and glow more brightly, permitting scientists to watch as the clustering of proteins progresses. More broadly, the team found that when quantum dots attach themselves to other nanomaterials, the dots' optical properties change in unique ways in each case. They also found evidence that quantum dot optical properties are altered as the nanoscale environment changes, offering greater possibility of using quantum dots to sense the local biochemical environment inside cells.

“Some concerns remain over toxicity and other properties,” Hwang says, “but altogether, our findings indicate that quantum dots could be a valuable tool to investigate dynamic cellular processes.”

* H. Kang, F. Tokumasu, M. Clarke, Z. Zhou, J. Tang, T. Nguyen and J. Hwang. Probing dynamic fluorescence properties of single and clustered quantum dots towards quantitative biomedical imaging of cells. WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology. Early view online at http://wires.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WiresIssue/wisId-WNAN.html?pageType=early.

Media Contact: Chad Boutin, boutin@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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Novel NIST Connector Uses Magnets for Leak-Free Microfluidic Devices

Like other users of microfluidic systems, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researcher Javier Atencia was faced with an annoying engineering problem: how to simply, reliably and most of all, tightly, connect his tiny devices to the external pumps and reservoirs delivering liquids into the system. While pondering this one day, he randomly picked up two magnets and began playing with them. As the magnets pulled apart and then snapped back together, Atencia realized that he had his solution.

magnet connectors with a microfluidic device

Photograph showing the use of the NIST magnetic connectors with a microfluidic device designed to generate liposomes. The microchip has five inlets and one outlet, all linked to tubing via the magnetic connectors. The inset at upper right shows the setup of the tube-magnet combination.

Credit: G. Cooksey, NIST
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In a paper recently published online in Lab on a Chip,* Atencia and colleagues describe the result of that brainstorm: a new, inexpensive, reusable and highly efficient microfluidic connector. The NIST connector employs a ring magnet with a O-ring gasket on its bottom and a tube in its center set directly atop the inlet or outlet port of a microfluidic channel embedded in a glass chip. A disc magnet on the underside of the chip holds the first magnet—and its tubing—securely in place.

Unlike traditional approaches to connectors—such as gluing the tubing directly to the chip or mounting a male/female connection with the tubing attached to the male portion—the NIST magnetic connector is reusable; can be positioned anywhere on the chip; and eliminates any possibility of broken bonds that leak, chips cracked during heat curing of the glue, or microfluidic devices turned useless by excess glue entering the channels. Additionally, the reliability, flexibility and fast assembly of the NIST connector compares favorably to a recently developed press-fit system (where springs produce the sealing force) but the magnetic connectors cost hundreds of dollars less to build and operate.

As reported in their paper, the NIST researchers demonstrated the viability of their magnetic connector in a microfluidic device designed to generate liposomes (tiny bubble-shaped membranes that can be used to transport drugs throughout the body), a fairly port-intensive task. A solution of lipids suspended in isopropyl alcohol is pumped at a high rate into a microchannel through one inlet and hit with a buffer solution pumped in through four other ports. The convection and diffusion that occurs as the liquid streams mix produces liposomes that exit the microfluidic device through an outlet port. Magnetic connectors at the five inlets and one outlet were removed and reseated numerous times without any visible leakage.

The NIST researchers state that their magnetic connector is suitable for most microfluidic applications except those dealing with iron-containing (ferro) fluids, superparamagnetic particles (particles so small that their magnetic properties decrease with time and fluctuations in temperature), cells tagged with magnetic particles, or high-temperatures (greater than 80 degrees Celsius).

NIST is seeking a patent for the magnetic microfluidic connector. Once the patent application is filed, the technology will be available for licensing. Interested parties should contact Terry Lynch, NIST Office of Technology Partnerships, otp@nist.gov, (301) 975-3084.

* J. Atencia, G. Cooksey, A. Jahn, J. Zook, W. Vreeland and L. Locascio. Magnetic connectors for microfluidic applications. Lab on a Chip. Published online Nov. 16, 2009.

Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, michael.newman@nist.gov, 301-975-3025

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NIST Demonstrates 'Universal' Programmable Quantum Processor

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated the first “universal” programmable quantum information processor able to run any program allowed by quantum mechanics—the rules governing the submicroscopic world—using two quantum bits (qubits) of information. The processor could be a module in a future quantum computer, which theoretically could solve some important problems that are intractable today.

photo of David Hanneke

NIST postdoctoral researcher David Hanneke at the laser table used to demonstrate the first universal programmable processor for a potential quantum computer. A pair of beryllium ions (charged atoms) that hold information in the processor are trapped inside the cylinder at the lower right. A colorized image of the two ions is displayed on the monitor in the background.

Credit: J. Burrus/NIST
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The NIST demonstration, described in Nature Physics,* marks the first time any research group has moved beyond demonstrating individual tasks for a quantum processor—as done previously at NIST and elsewhere—to perform programmable processing, combining enough inputs and continuous steps to run any possible two-qubit program.

“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated a programmable quantum processor for more than one qubit,” says NIST postdoctoral researcher David Hanneke, first author of the paper. “It’s a step toward the big goal of doing calculations with lots and lots of qubits. The idea is you’d have lots of these processors, and you’d link them together.

The NIST processor stores binary information (1s and 0s) in two beryllium ions (electrically charged atoms), which are held in an electromagnetic trap and manipulated with ultraviolet lasers. Two magnesium ions in the trap help cool the beryllium ions.

NIST scientists can manipulate the states of each beryllium qubit, including placing the ions in a “superposition” of both 1 and 0 values at the same time, a significant potential advantage of information processing in the quantum world. Scientists also can “entangle” the two qubits, a quantum phenomenon that links the pair’s properties even when the ions are physically separated.

The NIST team performed 160 different processing routines on the two qubits. Although there are an infinite number of possible two-qubit programs, this set of 160 is large and diverse enough to fairly represent them, Hanneke says, making the processor “universal.” The researchers used a random number generator to select the particular routines that would be executed, so all possible programs had an equal chance of selection. The random programs avoided the possibility of bias in testing the processor in the event that some programs ran better or produced more accurate outputs than others. Each program operated accurately an average of 79 percent of the time across 900 runs, each run lasting about 37 milliseconds. To evaluate the processor and the quality of its operation, NIST scientists compared the measured outputs of the programs to idealized, theoretical results.

The programs did not perform easily described mathematical calculations. Rather, they involved various single-qubit “rotations” and two-qubit entanglements. As an example of a rotation, if a qubit is envisioned as a dot on a sphere at the north pole for 0, at the south pole for 1, or on the equator for a balanced superposition of 0 and 1, the dot might be rotated to a different point on the sphere, perhaps from the northern to the southern hemisphere, making it more of a 1 than a 0.

If they can be built, quantum computers have many possible applications such as breaking today’s most widely used encryption codes, such as those that protect electronic financial transactions. In addition to its possible use as a module of a quantum computer, the new processor might be used as a miniature simulator for interactions in any quantum system that employs two energy levels, such as the two-level ion qubit systems that represent energy levels as 0s and 1s. Large quantum simulators could, for example, help explain the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity, the transmission of electricity with zero resistance at temperatures that may be practical for efficient storage and distribution of electric power.

The research was supported in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Security Agency, and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

For more details, read the NIST Nov. 14 news release “NIST Demonstrates ‘Universal’ Programmable Quantum Processor for Quantum Computers.”

* D. Hanneke, J.P. Home, J.D. Jost, J.M. Amini, D. Leibfried and D.J. Wineland. Realization of a programmable two-qubit quantum processor. Nature Physics. Posted online Nov. 15.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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Publication Offers Constructive Advice for Construction Industry Efficiency

A new workshop report from the National Research Council (NRC) identifies five key activities to advance the competitiveness and effectiveness of the nation's construction industry that employs millions of workers and affects home prices, consumer goods and the national economy.

image of a building under construction

Copyright: Racheal Grazias/Shutterstock

The workshop commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gathered industry experts to identify and prioritize technologies, processes and technology deployment activities that have the greatest potential to advance the U.S. construction industry's capital facilities sector, which includes commercial, industrial and infrastructure projects. The resulting report, Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry: A Workshop Report, identifies five interrelated activities that could lead to breakthrough improvement in the quality, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of construction projects.

The five key activities listed in the NRC report are:

  • Widespread deployment and use of Building Information Modeling, which is a tool for all companies and workers involved in a building project to use to understand the technical specifications and precise order of steps involved in a building project;
  • Improved job site efficiency through more effective interfacing of people, processes, materials, equipment and information such as improved material management using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning systems (GPS) techniques;
  • Greater use of prefabrication, preassembly, modularization and off-site fabrication techniques and processes;
  • Innovative, widespread use of construction demonstration installations; and
  • Effective performance measurement tools to drive efficiency and support innovation as was the case when the construction industry began focusing on safety-related issues by tracking their performance against national statistics. These efforts resulted in best practices to improve safety performance.


“The National Research Council's recommendations are consistent with NIST's priorities for improved productivity measurements,” says NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory Director Shyam Sunder. “Technological advances will facilitate improved efficiency in the construction industry and will allow the country to meet its construction challenges with a positive impact on the environment and the economy.”

The report recommends NIST work with industry leaders to develop a collaborative strategy to implement and deploy the five NRC activities and to establish a “technology readiness index” similar to those of NASA and the Department of Defense to verify a new process's readiness for deployment. It also recommends that NIST work with government agencies and construction industry groups to develop effective measures for tracking productivity and to enable improved efficiency and competitiveness. NIST economists have already published a blueprint for industry change called Metrics and Tools for Measuring Construction Productivity: Technical and Empirical Considerations. (See “Blueprint for Industry Change Aims to Improve Construction Productivity”, NIST Tech Beat, Oct. 20, 2009.)

Sunder and NRC report Committee Chair Ted Kennedy will be making a joint presentation Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the Construction Users' Roundtable Annual Meeting in Orlando (www.curt.org/CURT.pdf).

Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry: A Workshop Report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12717.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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Technology Innovation Program Seeks Comments on Potential Future Funding Areas

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is asking for public comment on four white papers that outline potential areas for research funding grants under the Institute's Technology Innovation Program (TIP). The papers outline national needs for new and improved technologies in the areas of monitoring and repair of the civil infrastructure, manufacturing technologies for advanced materials, enabling technologies for an electric power “smart grid,” and technologies for health care based on proteomics, data analysis and biomanufacturing.

TIP was established to support, promote and accelerate the development of innovative technologies that address critical national needs in the United States. The program holds competitions for R&D funding for U.S. businesses, institutions of higher education, and other organizations on specific research areas. The white paper process and public reviews are one of the means TIP employs to select appropriate areas for funding. (See “NIST Issues New Call for White Papers on Critical National Needs,” NIST Tech Beat, Sept. 8, 2009.)

The four white papers that are the subject of the current call for comments are:

  • Advanced Sensing Technologies and Advanced Repair Materials for Infrastructure: Water Systems, Dams, Levees, Bridges, Roads, and Highways, available at *www.nist.gov/tip/wp_cmts/civil_wp_11_5_09.pdf (comments to be sent to civil.tipwp@nist.gov);
  • Accelerating the Incorporation of Materials Advances into Manufacturing Processes, available at *www.nist.gov/tip/wp_cmts/manufacturing_wp_11_5_09.pdf (comments to be sent to mfg.tipwp@nist.gov);
  • Technologies to Enable a Smart Grid, available at *www.nist.gov/tip/wp_cmts/energy_wp_11_5_09.pdf (comments to be sent to energy.tipwp@nist.gov); and
  • Advanced Technologies for Proteomics, Data Integration and Analysis and Biomanufacturing for Personalized Medicine, available at *www.nist.gov/tip/wp_cmts/healthcare_wp_11_5_09.pdf (comments to be sent to health.tipwp@nist.gov.)


Comments on these white papers will be accepted through Sept. 30, 2010.

For an explanation of how TIP white papers are developed and detailed instructions on how to prepare and submit a white paper to TIP, see A Guide for Preparing and Submitting White Papers on Areas of Critical National Need, available at *www.nist.gov/tip/guide_for_white_papers.pdf.

The full text of the Nov. 6, 2009, Federal Register notice with this request for comments is available at *www.nist.gov/tip/2009_tip_frn_wp_comments_11_6_09.pdf.

*The Technology Innovation Program was cancelled in the fiscal year 2012 budget. All available TIP white papers are now located at www.nist.gov/tip/wp/index.cfm.

Media Contact: Michael Baum, michael.baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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Certification and Accreditation Process for Federal Information Systems Transformed

A revised draft publication on computer security guidance issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is focused on transforming the episodic information system certification and accreditation processes at federal agencies by reinforcing and specifying procedures for continuous monitoring and updating. The new procedures will enable organizations to respond more rapidly to cyber security threats, according to NIST computer security experts. Periodic certification and accreditation is required by the Office of Management and Budget in conjunction with additional security requirements described in the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, known as FISMA.

The new document, “Special Publication 800-37 Revision 1,” describes a Risk Management Framework that stresses security from an information system’s initial design phase through implementation and daily operations. It places equal emphasis both on defining the correct set of security controls and on implementing them in a robust continuous monitoring process.

“The existing process can be likened to an automobile checkup every three years,” says Ron Ross, lead author and FISMA implementation project leader. “The new approach requires regularly checking basic systems such as oil, tire pressure and the gas gauge to make sure that the check engine light does not go on.”

SP 800-37 Revision 1, Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to Federal Information Systems: A Security Life Cycle Approach, is the second in a series of publications produced by the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative, which is a partnership of NIST, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense and the Committee on National Security Systems to develop a common information security framework for the federal government and its support contractors.

SP 800-37 Revision 1 relies on a six-step Risk Management Framework that provides greater emphasis on building security capabilities into information systems from the start by applying state-of-the-art management, operational, and technical security controls, using enhanced monitoring processes to provide ongoing situational awareness of the information system’s security state, and understanding and accepting the risk to organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations and the nation from the use of information systems.

“Continuously monitoring systems allows managers to focus on managing risk—risk from the current threats and constant barrage of new cyber attacks being discovered that need a quick solution,” Ross explains.

An initial public draft of SP 800-37 Revision 1 was published in August 2008. That draft was substantially modified after the Joint Task Force was created in 2009 to incorporate insights from NIST partners to reflect the information security needs of the entire federal government.

NIST SP 800-37 Revision 1, Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to Federal Information Systems: A Security Life Cycle Approach is open to public comment through Dec. 31, 2009. Comments should be sent to sec-cert@nist.gov.

The final document is expected to be published in February 2010.

*The final document (dated February 2010) is now available.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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Baldrige Program Calls for Applicants for 2010 Examiners

Each year the Baldrige Program recruits experts from business, education organizations, health care providers, nonprofits and other groups to serve on the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Examiners evaluate applications for the Award and prepare feedback reports to applicants that cite strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The application form for the 2010 Board of Examiners is now available online at http://baldrige.nist.gov/Examiners/e1.htm. Applications must be submitted electronically; the deadline is 2 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 7, 2010.

The board consists of more than 500 volunteers, including 12 judges and about 60 senior examiners representing many industries and sectors. Service on the board provides opportunities to enhance one’s knowledge about improving processes and achieving world-class results, develop a network of like-minded colleagues, earn professional development Continuing Education Units (CEUs), and help improve U.S. competitiveness.

For the past two years, participation in the Baldrige Program has been ranked in the top 10 government leadership development programs by Leadership Excellence magazine.

This year, the Baldrige Program is particularly interested in potential examiners who are senior managers, physicians, dentists, tenured professors in higher education, K–12 teachers, principals and superintendents; or who have expertise in nonprofit organizations, finance, automotive manufacturing, food manufacturing, insurance, retail merchandising, construction, and hotel and hospitality industries.

For assistance in preparing an examiner application, contact examappl@nist.gov or call the Examiner Hotline toll-free at (877) 237-9064 (Option 2).

Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987 and is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the private sector. The Baldrige Program promotes excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance management strategies. The Baldrige Award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 75 organizations have received Baldrige Awards.

Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, michael.newman@nist.gov, 301-975-3025

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Computer Researcher Named Distinguished Fellow of Information Security Group

Ron Ross, senior computer scientist and information security researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been named a Distinguished Fellow of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), the association's highest tribute, for his leadership in the development of influential information security documents.

Ross manages the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Implementation Project that has driven federal, state and local governments and many commercial organizations to focus on information security from a risk-based perspective. He was the principal architect of the NIST Risk Management Framework that integrated the suite of FISMA security standards and guidelines into a comprehensive enterprise-wide information security program. Earlier this year, Ross and his group published a revised version of NIST Special Publication 800-53, that represents a major step toward building a unified information security framework for the entire federal government.

While assigned to the National Security Agency, he received the Scientific Achievement Award for his work on an inter-agency national security project and was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal upon his departure from the agency. He is a two-time recipient of Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100 award.

ISSA is an international association of information security practitioners that work to protect privacy, data and systems for businesses, government, education, health care and law enforcement.

ISSA’s Web site is www.issa.org. For more information about FISMA, see http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SMA/fisma/index.html.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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Time Magazine Names JQI Work Among Year’s Best Inventions

Time Magazine has named research on the "quantum teleportation" of information from one atom to another in its "50 Best Inventions of 2009" feature. The research was performed at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaborative venture between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and at the University of Michigan. The work is mentioned in the Nov. 23 issue of Time Magazine, which originally profiled it in its Jan. 29 issue, based on a Jan. 22 University of Maryland news release. The work originally was reported in the Jan. 23, 2009, issue of the journal Science, and was led by JQI physicist Christopher Monroe, who is based at the University of Maryland Department of Physics and formerly worked at NIST's Boulder Laboratories.

Media Contact: Ben Stein, ben.stein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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Wavering Named Fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Albert Wavering III has been named to the College of Fellows of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). Wavering is acting deputy director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory. He is responsible for the laboratory’s operations and assists the director in establishing its strategic direction. SME fellows are members who are recognized by the manufacturing community as a contributor to key aspects of the profession and the recognition can only be earned through years of dedication and service to manufacturing engineering. Over the course of his 24-year career at NIST, Wavering has made significant technical and leadership contributions to performance metrics, test methods and standards for advanced manufacturing.

The announcement, and more information about SME, can be found at www.sme.org/cgi-bin/get-press.pl?&&20090066&PR&&SME&.*

*We have provided a link to this site because it has information that may be of interest to our users. NIST does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on this site.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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