Dr. William M. Pitts is a research chemist in the Flammability Reduction Group of the Fire Research Division (FRD) of the Engineering Laboratory (EL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Dr. Pitts was group leader of the Smoke Dynamics Research Group from 1989 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2001 and served as the Program Manager for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory effort on "Reduced Risk of Fire Spread" from 2001 to 2007. Other current and recent duties include directing a project on "Visual Evidence, Damage Estimates, and Timeline Analysis," which is part of the NIST Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster, and projects on fire spread and growth on solid fuels and hydrogen dispersion and fire behavior when released in enclosed spaces. In the past he has served as leader for numerous projects including "Improvement and Development of Fire Diagnostics," "Carbon Monoxide Production and Prediction," a NIST Advanced Technology Program-funded project on "Carbon Monoxide Monitoring for Fuel Cell Applications," a Department of Defense-sponsored project on "Characterization and Identification of Super-Effective Thermal Fire-Extinguishing Agents," and several related efforts on halon replacement, and "Chemically Reacting Turbulent Flows."
Dr. Pitts received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1973 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in physical chemistry from the University of California, Los Angles in 1978. His doctoral thesis, which was done under the direction of Professor Mostafa El-Sayed, was entitled Triplet-Spin Labels in Structural and Dynamic Studies of Mixed Aromatic Solids. Before joining NIST, Dr. Pitts served two years as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chemistry Division at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Research efforts involved laser-based studies of reaction behavior for chemical species which are intermediates in hydrocarbon combustion.
Dr. Pitts has over fifty publications in refereed journals and monographs and has also authored numerous internal and contract reports. He has made over a hundred forty presentations as an invited or meeting speaker. His efforts at NIST have focused on the development of diagnostics for characterizing turbulent flow and fires, characterization of chemistry turbulent interactions, carbon monoxide formation in fires, limiting flashover in enclosure fires, forensic analysis of the World Trade Center disaster, fire spread and growth, and dispersion and combustion behavior of gases in enclosed spaces. In addition, he has authored review papers on wind-aided fire spread and carbon monoxide formation in fires and was lead author or coauthor on two extensive reports dealing with possible alternatives to the use of halons for fire extinguishment. Dr. Pitts was awarded the Department of Commerce Bronze medal for his work on turbulent mixing and flame stabilization mechanisms (1991), the Building and Fire Research Laboratory Communication Award (with W. L. Grosshandler and R. G. Gann) for a report entitled "Evaluation of Alternative In-Flight Fire Suppressants for Full-Scale Testing in Simulated Aircraft Engine Nacelles and Dry Bays" (1994), the Building and Fire Research Communication Award for the paper "The Global Equivalence Ratio Concept and the Formation Mechanisms of Carbon Monoxide in Enclosure Fires" (1995), the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for his work on carbon monoxide formation in fires (1996), the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for his work on the NIST Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster (2005), the BFRL Communicator of the Year Award for his work on the World Trade Center Investigation (2005), and a special BFRL award for his efforts on the WTC 7 Investigation (2008).
Dr. Pitts is a member of the Combustion Institute, the American Physical Society, and the International Association for Fire Safety Science. He is an active reviewer for numerous journals and funding agencies and has served on various review panels. Dr. Pitts was a member of the advisory committee and organized the poster session for the Twenty-Third International Symposium on Combustion, was a member of the Site Selection Committee for the Twenty-Eighth International Symposium on Combustion, was the program chair for the First Joint Meeting of the United States Sections of the Combustion Institute, is on the advisory panel for the 4th International Symposium on Hydrogen Safety, and serves as a member of the Program Review Subcommittees for the Combustion Institute and the International Association of Fire Safety Science.