Whether from skin cells, saliva, semen or blood, DNA from a crime scene is often collected and tested in a lab to see if a suspect’s DNA is likely a contributor to that sample or not. But every DNA sample tells a different story, and some samples are easier to interpret than others. The simplest type of DNA profile to interpret is one where the sample includes hundreds of cells from only one person. When two or more people have contributed to a sample, it’s called a DNA mixture. Some mixtures are so complicated that their stories remain a mystery…

Me at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2007 or so. Credit: K. Janke

Erin Legacki, National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Every vertebrate on the planet has evolved a complex system that uses small molecules called hormones to communicate directives to isolated tissues that impact everything in the body from eating to producing babies. This hormonal communication between tissues is critical during reproductive processes. From the production of eggs and sperm, to placenta development, to birth, tissues are in constant hormonal communication.

At the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, I measure hormones in the hopes of…

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) research chemists Melissa Phillips and Ben Place are working to create a Standard Reference Material (SRM) to help industry and regulators detect the hazardous industrial chemical PFAS in meat. SRMs are meticulously measured materials that researchers can use as a quality control for their tests. Melissa is leading the logistics of the project and the interaction with stakeholders, while Ben is overseeing the work with the meat and the measurement of the amount of PFAS in it. NIST public affairs specialist Alex Boss interviewed Melissa and Ben to learn more about this project.

We hear you’ve been working to create an SRM for contaminated meat. Could you tell us about that?

Reference data’s connection to the public is indirect yet often very important. For example, a town’s electricity could come from a steam power plant in which reference data for the properties of steam was used to design the turbines. In this way, reference data provides important foundations to science and technology.

This year marks the 50th volume of the Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data (known as JPCRD to its editors and readers). The journal was first published in 1972 to, in the words of inaugural editor David Lide, “present, in a systematic manner, compilations of physical and chemical…

Riley Wilson, Writer/Editor, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Sending “spooky” pairs of photons through biological materials, using virtual reality to test emergency communications technology, bolstering confidence in the latest manufacturing techniques — NIST has no shortage of exciting developments, despite our largely remote workforce at the moment. Here are just a few of the happenings in the lives and research of our stellar staff members that we’ve published over the last few months on NIST social media.

What Happens When Two Photons Walk Into a Chicken?

The organs of the human body can be simulated using the body cube, a schematic of which appears on the right. The body cube is a human body mimic that lets us test how drugs and other substances interact with different cells in the body, which helps researchers study their toxicity in the body in a safe way. Credit: N. Hanacek/M. Esch/NIST

Mandy Esch, Project Leader, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Growing up, I always had a love for living things, so I went off to college and got an undergraduate degree in biology. After that, I realized I wanted to specialize in an area that could help people live better lives and conquer diseases, so I decided to get a Ph.D. in biotechnology.

During my Ph.D. thesis, I learned to make tiny channels millionths or billionths of a meter in size where we can culture living cells. Cells organize themselves at that length-scale inside our bodies, so using technology…

1918 NIST staff photos. The numbers indicate the area in which the employee worked. Numbers beginning with “5” tell us these were employees of the Chemistry Laboratory. An “A” or “N” denote Army or Navy servicemen assigned to NIST. Credit: NIST Digital Archives

Keith Martin, Supervisory Librarian, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

One of my work-from-home projects was getting to know the staff of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, then called the National Bureau of Standards, or NBS) in 1918. Quite an interesting bunch. …

Multirotor drone with mobile LTE network. Credit: C. Robertson/CSU

Maxwell Maurice, Physicist and Electronics Engineer, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Working outside is always a highlight for me at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It happens more often than you might think, and probably earlier in the day, too. Last month I drove out to Fort Collins, Colorado, at 5 in the morning to conduct some measurements for my research on broadband for public safety communications and applications. My colleague, Roger Blalock, and I set up several tripods with smartphones that morning around Christman Airfield, a test airport owned by Colorado State University. It…

This artist’s interpretation intends to show small grains of a reference material disappearing or floating away. Also shown are two lasers, red and blue, which represent the two different colored lasers used by our instrument. Also visible are linear molecules of carbon dioxide (collections of three balls), CO2. Credit: Creative and Printing Services

AJ Fleisher, Research Chemist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

In an essay titled “ The end of artefacts, “ Nobel laureate and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fellow William D. Phillips details how scientists came to realize the original vision of the metric system, or the International System of Units (SI) — a system of units “for all times, for all people.” With the redefinition of the kilogram in 2019, the new SI was rightly celebrated as a unifying achievement toward the democratization of science, with NIST and its international partners having collectively led the charge.

Adam Jacoff in the NIST Robot Test Facility. Credit: NIST

Adam Jacoff has been a robotics research engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) since 1988. His research has focused on developing a variety of new robotic capabilities and designing comprehensive suites of tests to foster innovation throughout the robotics community to help keep emergency responders out of harm’s way. Adam, along with the NIST Emergency Response Robotics team, is a finalist for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal in the Safety, Security and International Affairs category, which is awarded to federal employees who have made significant accomplishments in fields such as civil rights, cybersecurity…

National Institute of Standards and Technology

NIST promotes U.S. innovation by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

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