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PREP Fellowship: Digital Twins in Manufacturing

Science and Technology Fellowship Opportunity at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

With recent advancements in smart sensors, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence, cyber-physical systems (CPS), and modeling and simulation, digital twins of manufacturing systems can be realized. This research supports the development and testing of digital twin standards by implementing digital twins for manufacturing. Various manufacturing data will be used for creating digital twins, research activities include real-time data collection, data communication, data modeling, data analytics, system integration, system performance optimization, and automatic control of a manufacturing system. Digital twins allow users to measure the status of production systems and processes in near real-time and gain the insight needed to decide how to improve overall system performance. For example, a digital twin can help evaluate alternative plans and schedules, set up maintenance, optimize operations in near real-time, and prescribe future operations. Such an approach would improve the agility and flexibility of manufacturing systems and the competitiveness of the US manufacturing base.

NIST’s Engineering Lab (EL) has an opportunity for a researcher to collaborate on the development of digital twins in manufacturing. This research collaboration will support professional growth in

  • developing first-hand knowledge and research experience with one of the country’s premier research and development labs
  • learning about the current state of the art in manufacturing technologies and practices around Smart and Advanced Manufacturing with an emphasis on digital twins for manufacturing
  • testing relevant digital twin standards by applying the standards for development of prototypes of digital twins of manufacturing equipment, systems, and processes
  • networking with the advanced manufacturing community through engagement with strategic partners from academia, industry, other government agencies and standards development organizations.

An ideal collaborator will have an eagerness to learn about digital twins, a strong interest in developing digital twin applications in manufacturing, and some background or familiarity in engineering, manufacturing, and supply chains or a related field. Specific skills that would be helpful for the research include:

  • familiarity with data collection, data processing, data analytics, data representation, data visualization, and modeling and simulation.
  • familiarity with activity, material flow, or process modeling methodologies (e.g., IDEF0, BPMN, UML, or XML)
  • strong modeling and coding skills
  • ability to relate high level goals to operational procedures
  • strong oral and written communication skills


The work will be conducted through coordination with a NIST advisor and the partnering university. Until the pandemic is over, the researcher may need to work remotely by using their own or university IT resources and be able to work independently with remote guidance. Once the NIST campus fully reopens, access to NIST resources will be provided, including office space, IT, etc.

Together we will determine a schedule for collaboration that suits needs of both parties - either part-time options during the school year with full-time during breaks (including summers) or a full-time for a graduate.  This is a year-long, compensated opportunity with potential for extension.

For further information please contact

Gordon Shao
gshao [at] (gshao[at]nist[dot]gov)


About NIST

NIST is an agency of the Department of Commerce. Our mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. NIST is the world's leader in creating critical measurement solutions and promoting equitable standards. Our efforts stimulate innovation, foster industrial competitiveness, and improve the quality of life. NIST is an organization with strong values, reflected both in our history and our current work. NIST leadership and staff uphold these values to ensure a high performing environment that is safe and respectful of all.

About EL

Our vision is to enable the next generation of innovative and competitive manufacturing through advances in measurement science. EL research projects aim to speed development, adoption, and integration of leading-edge intelligent technologies to advance U.S. manufacturing while making sure that new technologies are integrated in ways that address fundamental competitive factors including, productivity, agility, quality, and sustainability. Through research that stretches the limits of measurement science and pushes the envelope of current measurement and test capabilities, EL will:

  • Safely increase the versatility, autonomy, and rapid re-tasking of intelligent robots and automation technologies for smart manufacturing and cyber-physical systems applications;
  • Enable real-time monitoring, control, and performance optimization of smart manufacturing systems in the factories of small, medium, and large companies;
  • Enable rapid, agile, and cost-effective production of complex, first-to-market products through advanced manufacturing processes and equipment; and
  • Facilitate straightforward integration of engineering information systems used in complex manufacturing and construction networks to improve product and process performance.


Advanced Manufacturing technologies are revolutionizing manufacturing practices globally. NIST is the US government agency charged with helping manufacturers deploy these new technologies. EL performs the scientific research to ensure the technologies can be deployed in sound and reliable ways through standards and measurement science. Smart Manufacturing is one of EL’s top priority goals. Alternatively described as “Industry 4.0” or the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Smart Manufacturing refers to the increasing integration of cyber systems (e.g., models, databases, software) and physical systems (e.g., machine tools, robots) in production. Understanding emerging technologies surrounding this revolution (e.g., digital twins, AI, internet of things, sensing, data governance, cybersecurity, etc.) and their intersection with U.S. manufacturing (the role of technical standards) is important to facilitating this research.


Created August 19, 2021, Updated August 20, 2021