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Powell Named as New Head of Advanced Technology Program

Lura J. Powell, a chemist who created and has managed the Biotechnology Division at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been selected as the new director of the NIST Advanced Technology Program. Powell replaces George Uriano, who directed the ATP from its establishment until his retirement earlier this year.

A 23-year veteran of the NIST laboratory research programs, Powell also serves as chair of the Biotechnology Research Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (that coordinates all federal biotechnology research), as chair of the Board of Overseers of the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (a joint venture of the University of Maryland, NIST and Montgomery County, Md.), and as a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-European Commission Task Force on Biotechnology.

The Advanced Technology Program provides cost-shared funding to private industry to help develop high-risk, enabling technologies that, if successful, could form the basis for new and improved products, manufacturing processes and services. The program supports R&D; projects that have strong commercial potential and that could improve the competitive position of U.S. industries, but that industry would not undertake aggressively or at all without the ATP's help because of the risk factor. Since 1990, the program has underwritten 177 projects in fields ranging from materials, manufacturing, electronics and information technology to biotechnology, chemical processing and DNA analysis.

In announcing the selection, NIST Director Arati Prabhakar said, "The ATP is one of our most important programs because it partners with industry to tackle technologies for the future of the U.S. economy. Dr. Powell brings to the ATP a rare combination of vision, technical skills, the ability to work with industry and the leadership capabilities to carry the program forward."

Powell earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Maryland. Her professional honors include the Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award and the Outstanding Public Service Award of the Montgomery County Chapter of the International Personnel Management Association. 

A biographic sketch of Powell is below.

Brian Belanger, who served as acting director of the ATP since Uriano's retirement, resumes his duties as deputy director of the program.

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Lura J. Powell

Director, Advanced Technology Program
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Professional Experience

2/91 to present

Chief, Biotechnology Division, NIST. Responsible for all aspects of NIST intramural biotechnology programs including DNA technologies, bioprocess engineering, biosensor technology, and structural biology.

7/89 – 2/91

Deputy Director, Center for Chemical Technology, NIST. Responsible for Gaithersburg operations of the Center including programs in disciplines of biotechnology, physical chemistry and chemical engineering.

7/88 – 6/89

Director, NIST Program Office. Responsible for NIST-wide program evaluation and planning, staff support for the NIST Director, and interactions with Department of Commerce, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.

11/87 – 6/88

Acting Deputy Director, National Measurement Laboratory, NIST (on assignment). Responsible for NIST research and development programs in chemistry and physics and NIST service programs including reference data, Standard Reference Materials, and calibrations.

2/85 – 10/87 

Analyst, NIST Program Office (on assignment). Responsible for representing NIST chemistry and physics programs as member of NIST Director's staff.

7/84 – 2/85

Project Manager, Office of Standard Reference Materials, NIST (on assignment). Managed all aspects of production of Standard Reference Materials for quality assurance of environmental, industrial hygiene, spectrophotometric, and mass spectrometric measurements.

1972 – 7/84

Research Chemist, Inorganic Analytical Research Division, Center for Analytical Chemistry, NIST. Conducted research in high- accuracy trace analysis and determination of atomic weights using isotope ratio thermal ionization mass spectrometry.


University of Maryland, B.S. in Chemistry with honors, June 1972

University of Maryland, Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, December 1978

Honors and Awards

  • Sigma Xi
  • Department of Commerce Silver Medal
  • International Personnel Management Association Distinguished Public Service Award

Federal Government Committees


8/93 – present

Chair, Biotechnology Research Subcommittee, National Science and Technology Council

1993 – present

Member (ex officio), NIH Women's Health Initiative, Advisory Committee

1991 – 93

Department of Commerce Representative, Biotechnology Research Subcommittee, Committee on Life Sciences and Health, Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering and Technology (FCCSET); Chair, Working Group on Technology Transfer

1990 – 91

Member, Department of Commerce Committee on Environment and Competitiveness

1990 – 91 

Member, Subcommittee on Mitigation, Adaptation and Research Strategies, FCCSET Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professional Society Memberships 

  • American Chemical Society
  • Chemical Society of Washington
  • Alpha Chi Sigma
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Society for Testing and Materials Committee E48, Biotechnology
  • Sigma Xi
Released July 14, 1995, Updated November 27, 2017