July 29, 2020
Remembering Randy Shields
John “Randy” Shields, a physical scientist in the Flammability Reduction Group of EL’s Fire Research Division, died suddenly of a heart attack on June 27, 2020.
Born in 1958 in Alexandria, Virginia, Shields graduated from the University of Maryland in 1985 with a B.S. in geology. In 1986 he began his career at NIST as an engineering science technician, inspired partly by his father, John, who was a NIST physicist. Randy’s brother, Scott, also worked at NIST, as a physical science technician, before retiring in 2019.
Throughout his 34-year NIST career, Randy was known as a go-to expert for analyzing technical problems and providing constructive solutions to reduce the flammability of products and evaluate fire-retardant technologies. He co-authored 71 scientific publications and provided input for numerous other publications.
One of Shields’ accomplishments was the technical approach he developed for federal open-flame fire-testing of mattresses, which proved that compliance with a Consumer Product Safety Commission-published standard resulted in an 82% reduction in deaths caused by mattress fires over a 10-year period.
“He was involved in a lot of challenging, impactful, and as Randy would frequently say, fun, projects. He was always in the labs designing, building and tinkering with different tools for testing the burning behavior of materials,” says Shields’ supervisor, Flammability Reduction Group Leader Rick Davis. Engineering technician Ed Hnetkovsky says Shields seemed able to “pull a new part out of his hat — whether it was tube fittings, thermocouples, or a myriad of other potential parts” to make a device work so that a project could continue in the lab.
The NIST Flammability Reduction Group (FRG) is conducting a series of full-scale fire experiments in collaboration with the National Fire Research Laboratory (NFRL) …