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Tech Beat - March 2, 2010

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: August 12, 2010
Date Modified: September 8, 2010 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

Call Forwarding: New NIST Procedure Could Speed Cell Phone Testing

By accurately re-creating the jumbled wireless signal environment of a city business district in a special indoor test facility, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have shown how the wireless industry could lop hours off the process of testing the capabilities of new cellular phones. The NIST techniques also could simulate complex real-world environments for design and test of other wireless equipment.

NIST engineer Kate Remley

NIST engineer Kate Remley (center) was part of a team that conducted wireless communications tests using several different technologies in downtown Denver in 2009. At left is Jeremy May, a participant in NIST's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, and David Matolak, a professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Credit: NIST
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As described in a forthcoming paper,* NIST researchers conducted tests in downtown Denver, Colo., to measure precisely the clustering of signal reflections from radio waves bouncing off one or more multi-story buildings multiple times before reaching a distant receiver. The researchers replicated this environment indoors using a “reverberation chamber,” a room with highly reflective surfaces and a big, slowly rotating paddle that automatically alters signal paths. First, researchers feed a wireless transmitter’s signal into a device called a fading simulator, which is adjusted to re-create the timing and strength of the reflections of an outdoor urban area. The output then is fed into the reverberation chamber, where signal reflections decay exponentially over time, creating a cluster of signals similar to that observed in the field tests.

Industry certification of cell phones currently requires tests of parameters such as total radiated power using the opposite of a reverberation chamber, a room called an anechoic chamber that is lined with materials that absorb radio waves and reflect as little as possible. This testing takes about a day, requiring dozens of measurements of cell phone directional power from multiple angles. By contrast, an equivalent set of tests could be performed in about an hour in a reverberation chamber, according to NIST engineer Kate Remley, a senior author of the new paper. Reverberation chambers also could be used to measure cell phone receiver sensitivity, although currently there would be no time savings for this test, Remley says. Many industry testing practices are established by CTIA-The Wireless Association, the trade group representing the wireless industry.

NIST is studying new applications for reverberation chambers, which have typically been used to measure electronic equipment’s immunity to radio-frequency interference. By adjusting the reflectivity of the chamber through selective use of signal-absorbing material, researchers have found they can “tune” the signal decay time to simulate the conditions found in real-world environments. NIST researchers expect the new method will be useful for test and design of wireless devices such as cell phones, notebook computers equipped with wireless links, as well as new technology such as wireless beacons being developed for the emergency responder community.

The Denver tests were conducted in 2009. NIST researchers measured the power delays between a transmitter and a distant receiver positioned on streets lined with buildings three floors high or taller and a flat, single-layer parking lot. Most buildings were constructed of glass, steel, and concrete.

* H. Fielitz, K.A. Remley, C.L. Holloway, Q. Zhang, Q. Wu and D.W. Matolak. Reverberation-chamber test environment for outdoor urban wireless propagation studies. IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters. Forthcoming.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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Mouse Work: New Insights on a Fundamental DNA Repair Mechanism

Adding a new link to our understanding of the complex chain of chemistry that keeps living cells alive, a team of researchers from the University of Vermont (UVM), the University of Utah, Vanderbilt University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has demonstrated for the first time the specific activity of the protein NEIL3, one of a group responsible for maintaining the integrity of DNA in humans and other mammals. Their work reported last week* sheds new light on a potentially important source of harmful DNA mutations.

photo of house mouse

New research on a house mouse enzyme, Mus musculus NEIL3, sheds new light on a fundamental DNA repair mechanism.

image ©Toenne/courtesy Shutterstock

Since it first was identified about eight years ago, NEIL3 has been believed to be a basic DNA-maintenance enzyme of a type called a glycosylase. These proteins patrol the long, twisted strands of DNA looking for lesions—places where one of the four DNA bases has been damaged by radiation or chemical activity. They cut the damaged bases free from the DNA backbone, kicking off follow-on mechanisms that link in the proper undamaged base. The process is critical to cell health, says NIST biochemist and Senior Research Fellow Miral Dizdaroglu, “DNA is damaged all the time. About one to two percent of oxygen in the body becomes toxic in cells, for example, creating free radicals that damage DNA. Without these DNA repair mechanisms there wouldn’t be any life on this planet, really.”

The glycosylases seem to be highly specific; each responds to only a few unique cases of the many potential DNA base lesions. Figuring out exactly which ones can be challenging. NEIL3 and its kin NEIL1 and NEIL2 are mammalian versions of an enzyme found in the bacterium E. coli, which first was identified in work at UVM. The lesion targets of NEIL1 and NEIL2 have been known for some time, but NEIL3, a much more complicated protein twice the size of the others, had resisted several attempts to purify it and determine just what it does. In a significant advance, a research team at UVM managed to clone the house mouse version of NEIL3 (99 percent identical to the human variant), and then prepare a truncated version of it that was small enough to dissolve in solution for analysis but large enough to retain the portion of the protein that recognizes and excises DNA lesions.

Using a technique they developed for rapidly analyzing such enzymes, NIST researchers Dizdaroglu and Pawel Jaruga mixed the modified protein with sample DNA that had been irradiated to produce large numbers of random base lesions. Because glycosylases work by snipping off damaged bases, a highly sensitive analysis of the solution after the DNA has been removed can reveal just which lesions are attacked by the enzyme, and with what efficiency. The NIST results closely matched independent tests by others in the team that match the enzyme against short lengths of DNA-like strands with a single specific target lesion.

In addition to finally confirming the glycosylase nature of NEIL3, says UVM team leader Susan Wallace, tests of the enzyme in a living organism—a tailored form of E. coli designed to have a very high mutation rate—had an unexpected bonus. Measurements at NIST showed that NEIL3 is extremely effective at snipping out a particular type of lesion called FapyGua** and seems to dramatically reduce mutations in the bacterium, a result that points both to the effectiveness of NEIL3 and the potentially important role of FapyGua in causing dangerous mutations in DNA.

* M. Liu, V. Bandaru, J.P. Bond, P. Jaruga, X. Zhao, P.P. Christov, C.J. Burrows, C.J. Rizzo, M. Dizdaroglu and S.S. Wallace. The mouse ortholog of NEIL3 is a functional DNA glycosylase in vitro and in vivo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Early Edition, Published online before print Feb. 25, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.0908307107.

** 2,6-diamino-4-hydroxy-5-formamidopyrimidine

Media Contact: Michael Baum, michael.baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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NIST, NASA Launch Joint Effort to Develop New Climate Satellites

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have launched a joint effort to gather enhanced climate data from spaceborne climate observation instruments planned for a group of satellites now under development.

illustration of a CLARREO satellite

One of the CLARREO satellites, which will make observations of the energy the Earth absorbs from the sun and radiates back into space. The balance between them affects the climate.

Credit: NASA
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The Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Mission includes a fleet of satellites tentatively scheduled for launch later this decade that will gather data for long-term climate projections. The CLARREO mission will provide an accurate climate record of the complete spectrum of energy that Earth reflects and radiates back into space, measurements that should provide a clearer understanding of the climate system.

NIST’s role will focus on the calibration of the instruments aboard CLARREO satellites, as well as on the accuracy that the sensors must meet. The measurements need to be characterized to far greater accuracy—from two to 10 times better, depending on the wavelength of light in question—and detector standards need to be developed for the far infrared region of the spectrum. NIST will also help NASA improve its own capabilities in instrument calibration. The collaboration was finalized in a Space Act Agreement on Feb. 4, 2010.

CLARREO, led by NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is now among NASA’s top-priority missions because of its high ranking by the National Research Council, which designated CLARREO one of its four “Tier One” missions when it evaluated proposals in 2007. NASA is allocating $270,000 for NIST’s contributions to the project this year.

The mission is part of a longer-term effort to establish global long-term climate records that are of high accuracy and traceable to the international system of units (SI). The CLARREO satellites and other instruments will be calibrated against international standards based on SI, so that observations from different times and locations can be compared usefully, creating a more reliable record of long-term climate trends.

Media Contact: Chad Boutin, boutin@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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First Test Labs for Next-Generation Internet Protocol (IPv6) Are Accredited

The first two laboratories have recently completed accreditation to provide testing services for the USGv6 Program. The USGv6 Program, developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), provides the basis for expressing U.S. government requirements for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) technologies and for testing that commercial products meet those requirements. The availability of commercial testing services is an important step towards the U.S. government’s use of USGv6 acquisition tools, beginning in July 2010.

The current Internet Protocol (IPv4) provides the basic communication service that inter-connects the global set of networks that comprise the Internet. Designed in the early 1970s, IPv4 is rapidly running out of unassigned, globally unique network addresses. IPv6 was designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a next-generation replacement for IPv4. With a vastly larger address space, IPv6 will enable the Internet to grow unbounded for the foreseeable future.

The USGv6 Program is intended to assist federal government IT users and acqusition authorities by providing a framework to express and test IPv6 requirements for U.S. government procurements.

ICSA Labs of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory in Durham, N.H., were accredited by private accreditation bodies operating under the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). To become accredited under the USGv6 program, a test laboratory must demonstrate the quality control processes that insure the accuracy, transparency and reproducibility of their testing results and must demonstrate their use of USGv6-approved test methods and test suites. The end goal is to assure vendors and USGv6 users that the conformance, interoperability and capability tests performed at one commercial lab are equivalent to those of any other accredited lab.

“The accreditation of two open test laboratories is a significant achievement for the USGv6 effort,” noted NIST’s Stephen Nightingale, who leads the testing program. “The existence of two accredited labs demonstrates that our test methods and means of inter-laboratory comparisons and quality control are viable; and in fact, we expect that additional commercial labs will come on-line in the future.”

For more information on the USGv6 Program see the "Frequently Asked Questions" page at www.antd.nist.gov/usgv6/usgv6-v1-faq.htm

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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NIST Launches New Competition for Research Facility Construction Grants

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has opened a new competition for grants for the construction of new or expanded scientific research buildings at institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations. NIST has $50 million available for the cost-sharing grants and anticipates funding three to five projects with grants of $10 to $15 million each.

The NIST grants will fund new or expanded facilities for scientific research in fields related to measurement science, oceanography, atmospheric research or telecommunications, the research fields of the Commerce Department’s three science agencies: NIST, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Candidate projects could include laboratories, test facilities, measurement facilities, research computing facilities or observatories.

Grant proposals will be evaluated on the scientific and technical merit of the proposed use of the facility and the need for federal funding, quality of the design of the facility, and the adequacy of the project management plan for construction of the facility. Applicant organizations, which must be institutions of higher education and nonprofit science research organizations, must fund at least 20 percent of the annual project costs to meet the cost-sharing requirement.

Interested organizations must provide NIST with a Letter of Intent (submitted on form NIST-1102) outlining the proposed project by 3 p.m. Eastern time, Monday, March 29, 2010. Organizations that submit timely Letters of Intent may then submit corresponding full proposals, which must be received by 3 p.m. Eastern time, Monday, April 26, 2010. NIST expects to announce the awards in September 2010.

For more information, forms and important details of the application process, see:

Media Contact: Michael Baum, baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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Two Institutions Selected to Manage New NIST Fellowship Programs

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that it is awarding a total of $19.5 million to the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado to develop and implement NIST measurement science and engineering fellowship programs. The new fellowship programs were funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Each fellowship program will last three years. The University of Maryland program, to be funded at $15 million, will bring approximately 50 fellows per year to work at NIST laboratories in Gaithersburg, Md., and Charleston, S.C. The University of Colorado program, funded at $4.5 million, will supply the NIST Boulder laboratories with approximately 20 fellows per year. Although the new fellowship programs will be administered by the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado, undergraduate and graduate students from other universities are eligible and encouraged to apply. These universities will also recruit nationally for the senior scientist and postdoctoral research fellowships.

The two programs will bring fellows from the entire range of experience levels—undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and senior scientists. The awards will last for three years and begin in February 2010.

The fellowship program will provide new research collaborations for NIST scientists and further develop a future scientific talent pool with extensive training in measurement science. NIST funding of the two programs will ensure that the recruited fellows are closely tied to the research needs and interests of each NIST laboratory.

For more, see the full NIST release “NIST Grants Awards for Recovery Act Fellowship Programs” [www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/grants_021910.html].

Media Contact: Ben Stein, ben.stein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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Quicklinks

Role-Based Training for IT Security Is the Topic of March Educators’ Conference

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Federal Information Systems Security Educators' Association (FISSEA) are co-hosting FISSEA's 23rd annual conference March 23-25, 2010, at the Natcher Conference Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

“Unraveling the Enigma of Role-Based Training” is designed for information systems security professionals from government, industry or academia who are trainers, developers, educators, managers, supervisors or researchers involved with information systems security awareness, training, education and certification. In the context of information security, role-based training provides individuals with the knowledge and skills needed for the security functions they perform.

Two tracks will be offered: “Role-based Training” and “Security Awareness Training and Education.” Attendees will learn more about role-based training and its implementation, new techniques for developing and conducting Awareness and Training programs, updated cyber-security initiatives, opportunities to network with the federal cybersecurity training community, and professional development.

Registration information can be found at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/confpage/100323.htm; and more information can be found at www.fissea.org or http://csrc.nist.gov/fissea.

Journalists interested in attending should contact Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, (301) 975-5661.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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NIST Releases Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to Federal Information Systems

The final publication of the Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to Federal Information Systems: A Security Life Cycle Approach (NIST Special Publication 800-37, Revision 1) is now available on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Computer Security Resource Center (csrc.nist.gov).

The new document describes the transformation of the federal government’s Certification and Accreditation process into a Risk Management Framework that stresses security from an information system’s initial design phase through implementation and daily operations. It places equal emphasis both on defining the correct set of security controls and on implementing them in a robust continuous monitoring process.

The publication is the second in a series of publications produced by the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative, which is a partnership of NIST, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense and the Committee on National Security Systems to develop a common information security framework for the federal government and its support contractors.

The full text of SP 800-37, Revision 1, can be found at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsSPs.html#800-37.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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Comments Requested on Draft Guidelines for the Secure Deployment of IPv6

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting public comment on draft guidelines for network engineers and administrators for the secure implementation of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), the next generation Internet Protocol.

Guidelines for the Secure Deployment of IPv6 (NIST Special Publication 800-119) describes and analyzes IPv6’s new and expanded protocols, services and capabilities, including addressing, DNS, routing, mobility, quality of service, multihoming, and IPsec. For each component, there is a detailed analysis of the differences between IPv4 and IPv6, the security ramifications and any unknown aspects. The document characterizes new security threats posed by the transition to IPv6 and provides guidelines on IPv6 deployment, including transition, integration, configuration and testing. It also addresses more recent significant changes in the approach to IPv6 transition.

NIST requests comments on Draft Special Publication 800-119 by April 23, 2010. The document can be downloaded from http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html#800-119. Please submit comments to draft-sp800-119-comments@nist.gov with “Comments SP 800-119” in the subject line.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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