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Remarks by NIST Director Ray Kammer
Press Briefing on Minority Serving Institutions
February 4, 2000

Secretary Daley provided the setting and context for this initiative in his remarks. Enhancing the economy and promoting full economic participation by all of our citizens is an obvious goal for the United States in this new century.

To do that, clearly we need to more effectively nurture and use our science and technology resources in the nation's minority-serving institutions. My agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, knows first-hand the value of employing a diverse workforce. We also know how difficult it is today in a highly competitive job market to successfully attract and retain top-notch employees.

That job is even tougher when it comes to scientists and engineers from minority populations. We must expand the pool of candidates.

NIST is well positioned to help do just that. For example:

  • Our Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory's "grow your own" Ph.D. program-- involving primarily minority students -- enables us to support new staff enrolled in graduate programs. We support them financially and in their work.

  • Three of our major laboratories -- the Physics Laboratory, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, and Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory -- participate in a rapidly growing Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program which recruits actively from minority serving institutions. The National Science Foundation and participating universities and colleges help to support this program.

But we can, and should, do much more. Much of the initiative in the President's fiscal year 2001 budget request in this area for NIST will be used to build MSI capabilities to expand technical training in measurement science and technology. We will partner with MSIs to develop new training courses offered over the Internet and by teleconferencing to reach thousands more students each year.

Senior-level NIST scientists and engineers will visit MSIs to identify areas of mutual interest. We hope to match MSIs with top tier research universities and NIST. Our connections with industry should aid this 3-way collaboration, providing guidance on transferring technology from MSIs, including patenting and licensing activities.

Faculty from MSIs will broaden their experience by coming to NIST on sabbaticals, getting exposure to our world-class facilities and contributing to our labs' work.

This program, which would be funded at $11 million under the President's proposed budget, has strong potential to build first-rate capacity at MSIs. Their faculty, students, facilities and equipment all would benefit. Our nation will be stronger, and we all will benefit. We hope that the Congress agrees and that we are able to expand our MSI interactions significantly next year.