NIST and Utah State University Partner in Advance Sensor Technology

March 14, 2005
Signing the Memorandum of Understanding

Washington, DC – An agreement signed today between the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and Utah State University (USU) will create a partnership for collaboration in the development and calibration of optical sensors for defense, homeland security, weather prediction, and climate research.

The signing ceremony was hosted by Utah Senator Bob Bennett with Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Philip Bond, NIST Acting Director Hratch Semerjian, USU President Stan Albrecht, staff from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Utah Rep. Rob Bishop’s offices, and other NIST and USU representatives in attendance.

“NIST is signing this memorandum of understanding today because we believe that, by working together, exchanging people, and sharing resources, our institutions can spur greater progress in innovation, research, and education,” said Bond.

NIST and Utah State have an extensive history of collaboration in measurements and standards for optical instruments, with an emphasis on space-based applications. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will enhance that partnership. The two organizations will address areas of critical technical importance for improving national security and calibrating instruments used in assessing the extent and consequences of climate change, a necessary prerequisite for developing effective environmental policies. Other potential areas of collaboration include biotechnology, nanotechnology, and computational chemistry.

“This partnership will allow USU and NIST to perform state-of-the-art research in calibration measurements that could ultimately benefit the world,” said Albrecht. “What an amazing opportunity for our students, faculty and staff.”

Examples of possible collaboration stemming from the MOU include postdoctoral programs, joint seminars, shared facilities, and sabbatical, faculty and joint appointments. Programs such as these will enable NIST’s staff and resources to contribute to USU’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral education and research programs, and in return, USU’s resources will contribute to NIST’s measurement and standards research programs.

“I am delighted the cooperation between Utah State University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology is being expanded and formalized today,” said Bennett. “USU’s expertise in calibration is particularly important for defense and homeland security applications, and this agreement will help further its efforts in these areas.”

Bennett first became acquainted with USU’s space science and engineering capabilities when he hosted a series of Space Talk forums during his first term. Since that time, he has repeatedly visited USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) and watched it grow into a premier research laboratory, developing advanced remote sensor systems for both civilian and department of defense programs. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, he works to promote issues important to the lab and the industry.

Both institutions possess unique expertise that is particularly well suited to the development and dissemination of advanced sensor technology. NIST provides the critical measurement and standards infrastructure to ensure that sensor readings are accurate and traceable to national and international standards. In the area of space-based sensors, NIST provides standards to validate the accuracy of climate-change measurements and establish their comparability independent of locale or time.

USU, through its SDL, is a national leader in the development and application of sensor technology for civilian and military space-based measurements. SDL will play a major role in the agreement. The Lab is nationally and international renowned in its expertise in optical calibration. Its facilities include a 43,000 square foot Calibration and Optical Research Laboratory capable of classified work. Providing NIST programs access to SDL’s specialized facilities for classified research and development is an important part of the collaboration.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.