February 28, 2014

Colloquium Speaker: Dr. Willie E. May

Dr. Willie E. May is the NIST Associate Director for Laboratory Programs. He is responsible for oversight and direction of NIST's six laboratory programs and is the principal deputy to the NIST Director. The position of Associate Director for Laboratory Programs was created in October 2010 as part of the first major realignment of NIST programs in more than 20 years.

Prior to his current position, Dr. May served as Director of the Material Measurement Laboratory, which serves as the Nation's reference laboratory for measurements in the chemical, biological, and materials sciences through activities ranging from fundamental research in the composition, structure, and properties of industrial, biological and environmental materials and processes, to the development and dissemination of certified reference materials, critically evaluated data, and other measurement quality assurance programs. Previously Dr. May led NIST's research and measurement service programs in chemistry-related areas for more than 20 years. His personal research activities were focused in the areas of trace organic analytical chemistry and physico-chemical properties of organic compounds. This work is described in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. More than 250 invited lectures have been presented at U.S. industrial sites, Colleges/Universities and Technical Meetings throughout the world.

Dr. May has several leadership responsibilities in addition to those at NIST. He is Vice President of the 18-person International Committee on Weights and Measures (CIPM), President of the CIPM’s Consultative Committee on Metrology in Chemistry and Biology; Executive Board Member for the Joint Committee on Traceability in Laboratory Medicine; Board of Visitors for the University of Maryland College Park's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Honors and Awards: Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award, 1981; National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Award, 1982; Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award, 1985; Arthur Flemming Award for Outstanding Federal Service, 1986; NOBCChE Percy Julian Award for Outstanding Research in Organic Analytical Chemistry and Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Federal Executive, 1992; Department of Commerce Gold Medal, 1992; American Chemical Society Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Analytical Chemistry Award, 2001; Keynote Speaker for the 2002 Winter Commencement Ceremonies, University of Maryland, College of Life Sciences; Council for Chemical Research Diversity Award, the NOBCChE Henry Hill Award for exemplary work and leadership in the field of chemistry, Science Spectrum Magazine Emerald Award in 2005, the 2007 Alumnus of the Year Award from the College of Chemical and Life Sciences at the University of Maryland, member of first class of inductees into the Knoxville College Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010 and Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2011; Honorary Doctor of Science and Speaker at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Commencement Exercises, Wake Forest University in 2012.

Colloquium Topic: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Its Impact on Innovation, Economic Security and Quality of Life

NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce with the unique mission within the Federal Government of “promoting U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance U.S. economic security and improve our quality of life.” NIST is a world class scientific agency with a $1 billion dollar budget, four Nobel Prizes and a leader in the world’s metrology infrastructure. NIST has one of – if not the world’s leading measurement science and technology programs. We have a ~$750M intramural R&D program focused on issues such as:

•           advanced manufacturing and advanced materials,

•           the environment and consumer safety,

•           renewable energy sources,

•           bioscience and health,

•           information technology and cybersecurity,

•           the forensic science, and

•           homeland security.

Mankind has long recognized the need for measurement science (Metrology) and standards to support construction, manufacturing and trade. During the past 100+ years, National Metrology Institutes (NMIs) have developed sound programs for physical metrology focused on the realization of SI units for time, mass, length, temperature, electricity, etc. But modern society also requires confidence in the comparability of measurements regarding the composition, structure and properties of diverse types of “stuff” to underpin sound decisions about things that affect the quality of our everyday lives. E.g., these decisions guide actions that affect the safety and quality of our food, air and drinking water; the accuracy of medical tests and efficacy of treatment decisions; appropriate composition of materials to provide functional properties, performance and reliability of “stuff” needed in a wide range of sectors such as transportation, housing, manufacturing, etc.

This discussion will cover my background and history beginning as a bench chemist at the then National Bureau of Standards, my current activities as the Agency’s Deputy Director, the research that we do at NIST and their impact on innovation, our economic security and our quality of life. The presentation will conclude with a brief discussion of NIST’s and my roles in the international metrology infrastructure.