NIST research is subdivided into six organizational NIST laboratories that conduct research in a wide variety of physical and engineering sciences. The labs respond to industry needs for measurement methods, tools, data, and technology. Six laboratories participate in the SHIP program.
Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of NIST's research, we encourage students to look through the different websites above to discover lots of interesting project areas. The following information describes the types of research performed by each laboratory. Click here to see research projects done in previous years.
Which NIST Laboratory should you choose?
As part of the personal statement, you are asked to select the NIST laboratory to which you will apply. You are encouraged to list first, second, and even third choices since the number of students accepted by each program varies from year to year. In making your choice, review the general descriptions below and consider which best fits your career interests as well as the advanced science courses (e.g., chemistry, physics, computer science, environmental science, engineering) that you have taken so far. If you have computer programming experience and are interested in a project that involves programming, you are encouraged to mention that explicitly in your statement. Note that there is very limited opportunity for SHIP research in the biological or life sciences at NIST.
The research performed in each NIST Laboratory typically spans a wide-variety of scientific disciplines. The list below provides an overview of the scientific focus areas in each one. For more specific information, you are encouraged to check out the website for each Lab.
CNST – The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology
The CNST is a unique national facility that supports and accelerates innovation in nanotechnology measurement and fabrication methods from discovery to production. The Center operates a national, shared nanofabrication facility that is available to researchers from industry, academia, NIST, and other government agencies. Primary focus areas are future electronics, nanomanufacturing, and energy storage.
Examples of Research Activities: Nanofabrication with atomic-scale manipulation and characterization, nanomaterials for renewable energy and energy storage, thermoelectrics for power generation and refrigeration, inorganic solar cells and photovoltaics, theory of nanostructures, micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), Imaging of nanostructures, magnetic storage and magnetoelectronic structures for computer applications, nanophotonics, nanoplasmonics.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Physics, chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, computer science, mathematics.
EL – Engineering Laboratory
The EL develops standards (such as performance metrics, testing methods, reference materials, etc.) and meets the measurement science needs for technology-intensive manufacturing, construction, and cyber-physical systems, including the Smart Grid Program. The laboratory also promotes the development of new advanced manufacturing and construction technologies for U.S. industries.
Examples of Research Activities: Innovative fire protection, sustainable manufacturing, intelligent manufacturing (such as automation, robotics, and equipment), net zero-energy buildings, integrated and automated construction processes, new building materials and systems, economic impacts, and disaster-resilient structures.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Physics, chemistry, computer science, statistics, economics, and engineering physics (Students interested in electrical engineering should apply to PML).
ITL – Information Technology Laboratory
Through research and development in information technology, applied mathematics, and statistics, ITL supports the development and advancement of measurement science, standards infrastructure, and computer technology. Primary focus areas include networking and communications, computer security, software engineering and human interaction with computers.
Examples of Research Activities: Computer network modeling, biometrics for computer access and security, cryptography, computer forensics, trustworthy software, software quality testing, digital data retrieval and preservation, bioinformatics, data mining, machine learning, information visualization, and image analysis.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Computer science, mathematics, and statistics.
MML– Material Measurement Laboratory
The MML conducts fundamental and applied research on the composition, structure and properties of industrial, chemical, biochemical, ceramic, metallurgic, polymeric, and environmental materials. The MML also serves as the national reference laboratory for materials measurements by providing reference measurement procedures, certified reference materials and data, and best-practice guides that help assure measurement quality. In materials science, projects focus on synthesis, measurements, theory and modeling of innovative materials and devices. In chemical and biochemical sciences, projects address technology development and measurement standards in areas broadly encompassed by chemistry, biotechnology, and chemical engineering.
Examples of Research Activities: Semiconductor and organic electronics, advanced nanomaterials (such as structural steels and complex fluids), fossil and alternate fuels, lightweight alloys for manufacturing, biomaterials, chemical forensics, health care manufacturing, polymers and plastics (such as body armor materials), contaminant monitoring for food safety.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, physics, computer science, mathematics, environmental science, chemical and mechanical engineering.
NCNR - NIST Center for Neutron Research
The NCNR is a major national user facility and resource for industry, universities, and government agencies. Neutrons are unique, powerful probes of the structure and dynamics of a wide-range of technologically-important magnetic, chemical, biochemical, ceramic, metallurgic, polymeric, and environmental materials.
Examples of Research Activities: Battery materials, hydrogen-storage materials, superconductors, nanoscale materials, polymers and plastics, complex fluids (e.g., salad dressing, milk, petroleum and oil, etc.), organic solar cells and photovoltaics, magnetic refrigerants, biological membranes, magnetic storage media.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Computer science (with emphasis on data reduction, analysis and modeling), physics, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, chemical engineering.
PML – Physical Measurement Laboratory
The PML supports the research community in such areas as communication, defense, electronics, energy, environment, health, lighting, manufacturing, microelectronics, radiation, remote sensing, space, and transportation. The research areas include atomic, molecular, optical, radiation and chemical physics, as well as electro-technology. The PML also develops new electronic devices and techniques to serve US industry's need for standardized measurements.
Examples of Research Activities: Atomic, molecular, and optical physics, radioactivity in environmental sensing, industrial radiation dosimetry, cooling and trapping of atoms with lasers, detector development, quantum optics, ultraviolet optics and optical properties, helio- and astrophysics, bioelectronics, smart grid metrology, nanotechnology, quantum-based electrical measurements and devices, electronics reliability and materials metrology, molecular and organic electronics, micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) for integrated circuits and nanoelectronics.
Relevant Academic Interests and Coursework: Physics, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, mathematics, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science.