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  • Tour the Nation’s Measurement Labs at NIST

Tour the Nation’s Measurement Labs at NIST

  • 09 Aug 2017
  • 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • 0


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Join DCSWA for a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. We’ll start with a brown bag lunch and networking session from 12 noon – 1 p.m. in the NIST cafeteria where you can mix and mingle with other members of DCSWA and the team of communicators working on the NIST campus. You can either bring your own, or buy a meal from the NIST salad/hot bar and grill. We’ll begin the tour of the labs at 1pm.

Planned Tour Stops:

The Kibble Balance

Whether you are buying apples or picking up a prescription, you depend on the precision mass standards maintained at NIST to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth and the right dosage. Developing and using the most precise instruments available, NIST scientists are continually improving our ability to measure mass. As part of that effort, NIST researchers are working to redefine the kilogram—the last standard to be defined in terms of a physical artifact—in terms of a fundamental constant of nature, which will allow even more precise measurements.

National Fire Research Laboratory

NIST maintains a world class large-scale fire laboratory to conduct experiments that provide the scientific basis for the development of fire safety standards and building codes, support fire investigations, and validate advanced computational fire models used by engineers for building design. Ongoing collaborative research on wildland-urban interface fires, upholstered furniture flammability, and electric cable tray fires will be highlighted.

Standards for Microbiome Measurements

Over the past 10 years, technological advances have resulted in a meteoric rise in our ability to understand complex microbial communities—or microbiomes—and the profound effect they have on the environment and their hosts. Although there’s been a lot of excitement over related topics such as fecal transplants, our ability to compare measurements on microbiomes—including those associated with the human body – is still generally poor. NIST is working to create needed reference materials, data and protocols in order to identify and eliminate measurement bias in this field.

Ballistics Toolmarks Lab

Forensic science has been under intense scrutiny since a 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences found that many forensic disciplines lack reliable statistical methods for comparing pattern evidence. For instance, when a ballistics expert testifies in court that two bullets are a match, they cannot currently attach an objective, statistically meaningful measure of certainty to their testimony. At NIST’s ballistic toolmarks lab, we’re working to solve this problem by developing advanced methods for scanning the 3-D surface topography of fired bullets and cartridge cases, and algorithms for objectively comparing them.

About NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the nation’s metrology institute—or measurement lab. Its purpose is to help set standards that create a fair marketplace for American commerce and to drive U.S. technological innovation forward through basic research. Research topics include everything from energy efficiency to force measurement, rescue robots to tissue engineering.

Logistical info:

Parking is free at the NIST campus. There’s also a shuttle available from the Red Line Shady Grove stop, but if you plan to come via Metro please let us know when you RSVP so that we can arrange a timely pick-up.

All visitors MUST be pre-registered at least 3 days in advance of coming to the campus for this tour. To register we will need your legal name as it appears on your driver’s license. We will also need to know your citizenship. Foreign nationals will need to email us directly once they are registered for the tour so that we can gather the needed security information.

Please read this page CAREFULLY several days before the tour so that you are assured a quick security clearance at our front gate.

Copyright DC Science Writers Association. DCSWA is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.
P.O. Box 19110, Washington DC 20036

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