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Kathryn Beers Named Director of NIST’s Material Measurement Laboratory

Beers managed NIST’s Circular Economy Program, which supports the nation’s transition to an economy in which materials retain their value through repeated repair, reuse and recycling.

picture of Kathryn L. Beers
Kathryn Beers

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has named Kathryn Beers as the new director of the agency’s Material Measurement Laboratory (MML).

MML, one of NIST’s six research laboratories, conducts measurement science research in the chemical, biological and material sciences and contributes technical expertise to the development of standards. MML has more than 850 staff members and visiting scientists performing fundamental and applied research to advance measurement science in ways that promote innovation, protect health and safety, and improve our quality of life.

“Kate has lived the NIST values of excellence, integrity, perseverance and inclusivity since she arrived here,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio. “Her leadership of the NIST Combinatorial Methods Center expanded access to NIST’s world-class polymer science for a broad set of industry customers, and she had the vision to establish the NIST Circular Economy Program to provide the measurement science and tools to move the planet to a new paradigm of production. Kate is an experienced leader of organizations and teams, cares deeply about the success of the people she leads, and will help MML and NIST continue to excel at serving the nation.”

Beers, a polymer chemist by training, joined NIST as a National Academies/National Research Council (NRC) postdoc in 2000 after earning a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. She later served as director of the Combinatorial Methods Center in the Polymers Division and led the Renewable Polymers Project in the Polymers Division and the Polymers and Complex Fluids Group in the Materials Science and Engineering Division. 

She also served as deputy division chief of the Polymers Division at NIST and as the assistant director for physical sciences and engineering in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In 2020, she became manager of the Circular Economy Program, which focuses on standards and technologies needed to support a more sustainable economy. 

In a Taking Measure blog post two years ago, Beers defined the circular economy as “keeping atoms and molecules inside the economy, producing value, and out of unwanted sinks such as the environment.”

“A perfect circular system may not be strictly possible,” she wrote. “But transitioning to a culture of constant improvement toward this goal, and supporting technology, innovation and systems that enable it, is the only path forward to a future where we can simultaneously preserve the planet and expand prosperity, health and security for everyone.” 

Beers won the 2012 Arthur S. Flemming Award for exceptional young employees within the federal government and was named a fellow of the ACS in 2014. In 2022, she received the Mark Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Polymer Chemistry.

Released May 6, 2024