February 20, 2008

Colloquium Speaker: Dr. James Turner

Dr. James M. Turner is the Acting Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As Acting Director, Turner provides high-level oversight and direction for NIST. The agency promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. NIST has an operating budget of about $843 million and employs about 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, support staff and administrative personnel at two main locations in Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder, CO. Along with the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Science Foundation, NIST is slated for substantial budget increases for its core research programs under the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. Prior to joining NIST on April 16, 2007, Turner served as the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Nuclear Risk Reduction in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. In that position, he was responsible for major projects in Russia to permanently shutdown their last three weapons-grade plutonium-production reactors. He also worked with foreign governments and international agencies to reduce the consequences of nuclear accidents by strengthening their capability to respond to nuclear emergencies. Prior to that assignment, Turner held several senior management posts at DOE concerned with laboratory oversight and with nuclear safety and the safeguarding of nuclear weapons both here and abroad. He holds degrees in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D.) and Johns Hopkins University (B.A.), and taught for five years as an Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering at Morehouse College. Among other honors, he has received the U.S. Government Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, three times received the U.S. Department of Energy Exceptional Service Award, and earned the Secretary of Energy Gold Award and the National Nuclear Security Administration's Gold Medal. Dr. Turner is an active member of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Nuclear Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ASTM, the Council on Foreign Relations, IEEE, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and the World Affairs Council.

Colloquium Topic: African-American Technological Contributions: Past, Present, and Future

Black History Month Colloquium The many contributions of African-Americans to science and technology (S&T) are among the rarely told and little known stories from the nation’s past. Despite the barriers of slavery and segregation, African-American scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have been eager to work hard and share the fruits of that labor. Until the latter part of the 20th century, these contributions were belittled, ignored, or denied through attempts to change history. One of the benefits of African-American History Month is to publicize this information to liberate all Americans from past deceits and to give credit where credit is due. The United States was able to progress from a group of colonies to the world’s dominant industrial and economic power due largely to its scientific prowess, to which all segments of American society contributed. The complex lineage of this progress spans centuries and continents. It includes contributions from Africa – among them the earliest measurement tools and the foundations of modern mathematics – and extends to the ongoing efforts of the nation’s racially and ethnically diverse pool of researchers. Today, most people recognize that diversity is a competitive strength of the U.S. S&T enterprise. This critical human resource must be enhanced and cultivated especially as other nations progress in efforts to build their science and engineering workforces. The stakes could hardly be higher. As a nation and as a community, we must actively recruit future scientists and engineers. We must persist in these efforts, reach across ethnic lines and disciplinary boundaries, and avoid ethnic and gender stereotypes that discourage students from pursuing S&T careers.