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Senate Confirms May as 15th NIST Director

Willie E. May

NIST Director Willie E. May

Credit: NIST

Washington, D.C. – On May 4, 2015, the U.S. Senate confirmed Willie E. May as the second Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and the 15th director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). May has been serving as acting director since June 2014. He has worked at NIST since 1971, leading research activities in chemical and biological measurement science activities prior to serving as associate director for laboratory programs and principal deputy to the NIST director.

"Willie has been a partner and champion in our efforts to strengthen America's manufacturing sector and promote innovation, key drivers to spurring economic growth, and core pillars of the Department's 'Open for Business Agenda.' In addition to serving as a world-class research institute, NIST has taken the lead on several major Department of Commerce and Obama Administration priorities, including implementing a national network of manufacturing institutes and working with industry and other stakeholders to develop the NIST Cybersecurity Framework," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

This honor is something I could never have imagined when I began working as a bench chemist at the National Bureau of Standards more than 40 years ago," said May. "I am fully committed to maintaining NIST as a world-leading scientific research institution providing measurements, standards and technology solutions to our stakeholders. I will work to strengthen our Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Baldrige Performance Excellence programs, which also can significantly contribute to our nation's advanced manufacturing and innovation goals. I look forward to working with Secretary Pritzker to address the department's new responsibilities called out in the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act."

In addition to his responsibilities at NIST, May also serves as the vice president of the International Committee on Weights and Measures (CIPM) and president of the CIPM's Consultative Committee on Metrology in Chemistry and Biology.May received a B.S. in chemistry from Knoxville College in Tennessee and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Maryland. Before joining NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards), May worked as a senior analyst at the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. At NIST, his research has focused on trace organic analytical measurement science, the physical and chemical properties of organic compounds and liquid chromatography, which is used to identify the components in a mixture.

Among many other awards and honors, May was elected a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2011. He has been recognized with the Department of Commerce's Bronze (1981), Silver (1985) and Gold (1992) medals. The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) has recognized him with both the Percy Julian Award for outstanding research in organic analytical chemistry and the Henry Hill Award for exemplary work and leadership in the field of chemistry. May received the 2007 Alumnus of the Year Award from the College of Chemical and Life Sciences at the University of Maryland, and in 2010 he was among the first class of inductees into the Knoxville College Alumni Hall of Fame. He was the keynote speaker for the 2002 winter commencement ceremonies for the University of Maryland's College of Life Sciences, and for Wake Forest University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences commencement exercises in 2012.

NIST was established in 1901, and since then, has carried out its mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by making essential contributions to industry, science, public safety and national security. NIST's research and standards development activities cover a broad array of disciplines, from quantum physics to cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing to forensic science.

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department, NIST promotes 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. To learn more about NIST, visit

Released May 5, 2015, Updated January 25, 2023