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Have you ever wondered how we achieved uniformity in measurements? How did experts decide the specific weight of a gram or a pound? Can you imagine a world where a pound in the United States weighs differently than a pound in France, or even a gram in California weighing differently than a gram in Texas?

I never did until I started my internship at the National Institute of Standards & Technolgy (NIST). This agency is a physical sciences laboratory, and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. The agency’s main mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. NIST’s activities are organized into laboratory programs that include nanoscale science and technology, engineering, information technology, neutron research, material measurement, and physical measurement.

As an intern, I work on the less-technical side of things since I am in the Program Coordination Office (PCO). The PCO supports the NIST Director and Associate Directors, working closely with all NIST organizations across Laboratory Programs, Innovation and Industry Services, and Management Resources. The PCO focuses on three areas: planning, evaluation, and policy coordination.

The PCO consists of full-time analysts and rotational engineers. They usually handle various tasks from memo writing to literally reformatting the agency’s strategic plan. While I help will all these tasks, there are some projects that I have been working on. My main project is to analyze and gather data around ethics and ethical usage from the responses we got from NIST’s Request for Information (RFI) that was published in response to President Trump’s recent Executive Order (EO) on Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Right now, I will not get into much detail, but I will say that what I’ve enjoyed the most about this project is learning what different stakeholders care about, like the private organization vs a non-profit or even a Microsoft vs a Google. In fact, fully understanding how stakeholders view tech policy issues is probably the most rewarding aspect of my project so far. I say this because it has allowed me to know where my passions and goals in this field would flourish the most.

So far, I have really enjoyed the work that I am doing, and it has helped me confirm that I do want to work with tech policy when I graduate. However, I also now know that I think I will start in the private sector then possibly transition to government work, even though having a government badge makes me feel very cool.