Employment Opportunities

The NIST Applied Chemicals and Materials Division is an exciting place to pursue postdoctoral research, and to gain valuable experience in the development and application of state of the art measurements to the reliability of a wide range of materials. The division has focused on innovative research in the reliability of infrastructure materials, nanoscale materials, biological materials, and biomaterials. Research areas pursued in the division are at the cutting edge and provide ample opportunities for exposure and career networking in both academia and industry. Knowledge of and experience in research on the reliability of materials is always desired in faculty and industrial job postings. Postdoctoral positions are available for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, with salaries starting at $50,000/year, and tenures of 2 years. Specific research opportunities are listed below.

Microdevice Engineer

Type of Position: Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: Many disease processes involve changes in mechanical properties of tissues, cells, or extracellular matrix. The ability to measure such changes as a function of the local mechanical environment is critical for biological research. We are investigating these issues using devices from an in-house microfabrication facility that has allowed rapid turnaround of designs for measurements of fibroblasts and vascular smooth muscle cells. Our research interests include studies where a mechanical aspect is part of a biochemical pathway of interest. The design flexibility of Bio-MEMS allows measurement of single cells or small groups of cells, where intercellular signaling is key for rapid testing of pharmaceuticals, biofactors, and protein substrates as a function of cellular health. We are interested in the development of new devices, modifications of existing devices, and use of existing devices applied to important biological problems.

Contact:  Timothy Quinn, quinn@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-3480

Microdevice Engineer or Materials Scientist

Type of Position:  Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: This opportunity focuses on the development and application of microsystems for the evaluation of materials properties under conditions where conventional test methods cannot provide sufficient information about mechanical behavior. We have interest in application of microsystems technology to the development of test methods: (1) for the evaluation of micro- and nanoscale materials, where material dimensions are comparable to the size of microstructural features that control behavior, (2) for the evaluation of material behavior in harsh environments that make conventional testing extremely hazardous, and (3) amenable to in situ testing of properties such as fatigue, creep, and fracture toughness in conjunction with electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and scanned probe microscopy. This opportunity will involve design, development, fabrication and demonstration of various MEMS-based testing systems. Access to two NIST fabrication facilities allows for rapid design, (hands-on) fabrication, and rework. Testing and evaluation facilities includes in-house microscopy (light optical, SEM, TEM, scanned probe) and x-ray diffraction, as well as access to other world-class NIST facilities.

Contact: Robert Keller, keller@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-7651

Materials Scientist or Mechanical Engineer

Type of Position:  Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: The Federal Highway Administration's data base lists over 70,000 bridges that are structurally deficient. Another 80,000 are functionally obsolete. Given the significant cost of replacing or upgrading each one, it will be many years until the problem is solved, especially as new ones are added. This project includes a multifaceted approach to speed the process. One component is the improvement of inspection technology so the most serious issues can be clearly identified and addressed first (certainly before catastrophic failure). Another component is the development of more efficient (especially lower cost) repair technologies that will allow more bridges to be repaired each year for a given amount of funding. The third component is the streamlining of the repair or replacement process through better procedures and standards, thus minimizing the time that bridges are out of service.

Contact: Thomas Siewert, siewert@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-3523

Physicist or Materials Scientist

Type of Position: Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: In this work, we seek to understand the mechanical properties of polymers and polymer-based composites at micro- and nanometer length scales. Research involves new techniques based on atomic force microscopy (AFM). Other tools such as instrumented (nano-) indentation, SEM, and conventional AFM are used to obtain complementary information. Potential project areas include AFM methods to measure viscoelastic properties; techniques to determine the glass transition temperature in ultrathin films; evaluating the role of the interphase in polymer-based nanocomposites; and understanding the effect of nanoscale mechanical properties on device reliability.

Contact: Donna Hurley, hurley@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-3081


Type of Position: Post-doc or Contract Appointment

Description: The engineering of functionally competent tissue depends on the biochemical and mechanical environment in which the tissue-engineered construct develops. We are currently developing custom bioreactors with integrated measurement systems that can be used to optimize tissue-engineered constructs. In conjunction with collaborators at the University of Colorado, we are conducting demonstration experiments with constructs of poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogel with embedded chondrocytes as well as adult mesenchymal stem cells to develop functional cartilage. Bioreactors are being developed that can provide mechanical stimulation as well as online measurements of the mechanical properties and quality of the constructs. The online measurements include mechanical testing and ultrasonic measurements that will target the quantity of the extracellular matrix. A scanning electrochemical microscope is being developed to assess the permeability of scaffolds and metabolic rates of cells growing on them. Heuristic algorithms will also be developed to optimize the constructs. Possible topics could focus on the scaffold, the bioreactor, the biology of the construct, and/or the heuristic optimization.

Contact:  Timothy Quinn, quinn@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-3480

Materials Scientist

Type of Position: Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: Water encompasses the vast majority of the Earth, but precious little (<1 %) can be used as is. Over the next two decades, the average water supply per person will drop by a third, forcing additional reliance on purified or desalinated water supplies. Nanotechnology offers many potential benefits for improved water purification and quality control, increasing our ability to utilize brackish water sources. New membrane designs are being developed that exploit unique pore shapes and sizes; integrate nanoparticles along pore surfaces for advanced trapping and sensing; and utilize nanocomposites and nanofibers to better mimic naturally-occurring separation materials. Characterization of membrane reliability is essential for ensuring rapid commercialization of these new concepts, including both mechanical robustness and surface stability (anti-fouling). The Materials Reliability Division has extensive capabilities for mechanical characterization of small-scale structures (such as nanostructured membranes), as well as custom tools for quantifying surface interactions of nanoparticles and thin films with chemicals and biological materials. Extension of this work to interaction with specific water-borne contaminants (e.g., pharmaceuticals) is of particular interest.

Contact: Stephanie Hooker, hooker@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-4326

Materials Scientist

Type of Position:  Post-doc; U.S. citizens only

Description: As the country moves toward alternate fuels (especially ethanol and butanol blends), our fuel storage and distribution systems are being exposed to new chemical environments. Already, increased levels of stress corrosion cracking have been identified in some piping and storage systems. We need to develop more data now, so designers can select optimal materials for new pipelines and decide whether additional protection is needed on repurposed pipelines and tanks (those originally designed for other service). This project involves developing new materials test procedures to screen for compatibility issues in existing systems and to evaluate remediation techniques (liners, coatings, and additives).

Contact:  Thomas Siewert, siewert@boulder.nist.gov, Tel 303-497-3523



Created November 20, 2008, Updated August 25, 2016


  • Material Measurement Laboratory (MML)

    Applied Chemicals and Materials Division
    Stephanie Hooker, Chief

    325 Broadway, Mailcode 853
    Boulder, CO 80305-3328

    303-497-4326 Telephone
    303-497-5030 Facsimile