The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a dynamic organization with four main research laboratories: the engineering laboratory, the information technology laboratory, the material measurements laboratory, and the physical measurements laboratory. Additionally, there are a number of programs by which NIST interacts with industry partners to promote innovation through accurate metrology and standards. As a result, there are many facets that must work together in order to maximize the productivity of the organization.
The Program Coordination Office (PCO) supports the Director and Associate Director for Laboratory Programs by leading NIST’s planning, evaluation, and policy efforts. As an intern for the PCO, I have been involved in an ongoing strategic planning analysis to maximize the functionality of the agency. In doing so, I attended several meeting with various groups of leaders within NIST. At each of these meeting the employees participated in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis. In addition to being exposed to some of the brightest researchers and directors at NIST, I was able to see how a government organization goes about improving the functionality of their agency. The variation between individual groups was very apparent, with what one group came up as a strength showing up in the weakness category of another group. This was an informative experience that helped to elucidate the complexities of functioning within the budget and mandates of department oversight, while trying to please as many people at once. In charge of compiling the results of each analysis, the work I did was a substantive part of the NIST mission, and is being used by other members in the office to develop a cohesive description of what NIST does well, and what NIST can improve upon.
Another great experience I’ve had at the PCO was the opportunity to go to events in D.C. that coincide with my ongoing research into artificial intelligence and quantum information technology. I attend a workshop, Advancing Open Science in the EU and US, that provided me with unique perspectives from experts in the US government, the EU, and industry.
Overall my experience so far at the PCO has been both enjoyable and informative. The PCO has a unique structure in which there are five long-term positions and four rotator positions, in which people in these positions come up from each of the four labs and work with the PCO for a year at a time. With a chemist, an engineer, and a computer scientist, the program coordination office is very interesting, as there is a wide array of expertise. Additionally, with co-workers that are friendly and collegial I haven’t had any problems asking for help when necessary or creating genuine relationships. I have thoroughly enjoyed the first half of my DukeEngage experience and am excited to see what I can accomplish in the next half. With an AI event hosted by Politico and a few congressional hearings on my calendar so far, I’m sure the remainder of my time at NIST will be very informative and engaging.