Remarks by Dr. William Jeffrey
Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day
National Institute of Standards and Technology
March 27, 2006
What a great day! Are you excited? We are! We are really excited that you are here and get to see what we do everyday -- while you go to school. I want to thank everyone at NIST who has helped to organize this program.
This year's theme is "Shaping the Future." Well, that's a perfect theme because the future is what everyone in this room and on this entire campus is about. You, me, all of us-shape the future. At NIST, we are involved in many types of research that shape our country's future - making it stronger, more prosperous, and a better place in which to live.
And you are this country's future. And from what I see in front of me -- curiosity, enthusiasm, and an alive, dynamic let's-get-going attitude -- that future is in great hands.
NIST stands for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That's quite a mouthful. That's why we call it N...I...S...T -- NIST.
Maybe it would be easier to just think of NIST as a real-life Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!
I think even Harry Potter and his friends would be impressed by the "magic" we do here. We make objects float in the air, test robots that can rescue people, build tiny machines that you can only see with very powerful microscopes, help to design cars without drivers -- and some of our scientists have even delved into teleportation!
Of course, there is one major difference between NIST and Hogwarts. We don't do magic with spells. Nor do we do it with a wave of a wand. We produce advances in science by asking questions... by thinking... by doing experiments. We build on the facts we discover. And in the process, we help to unravel the mysteries of the world we live in.
In a few minutes you will leave this auditorium and begin your tours. The researchers you meet will be a lot older than you. They might appear much more serious. And certainly, they will know a lot more about science than you do. But actually they are not so very different from you. They are curious, enthusiastic, and interested in exploring the world around us.
So, make them happy. Ask them questions. And don't be surprised if, sometimes, they don't have an answer. Science is a journey of discovery. But you don't make those discoveries without asking questions -- and trying to understand why the world works the way it does. And, that's the challenge and the excitement of science.
Issac Asimov, the famous science fiction writer, once said, "the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...." Being puzzled about something, asking more questions and doing more work solves the problem. The reward is a new understanding of the world we live in.
In Tolkien's book, The Fellowship of the Ring, the Hobbits believed that "It's a dangerous business going out your front door." Well, you have taken a big step past the front door. For many of you, this is your first real trip into the world of science and engineering.
Enjoy the experience. The entire NIST family wishes you the very best. Thank you. Good luck. And have fun.