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  • Dan Powers

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Lab Tour Recap

In February 2024, we visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a beacon of excellence in the physical sciences and precision measurement for over six decades. The NIST Boulder branch engages in groundbreaking research, meticulous measurements, and advanced technologies to shape our understanding of the world and enhance the quality of our lives. NIST empowers businesses to innovate and produce high-quality products across diverse sectors such as electronics, communications, optics, nanotechnology, and public safety.

The impact of NIST's technologies extends far beyond the laboratory, permeating into our everyday lives. From accurate wristwatches and GPS navigation systems to advanced communications networks and safe laser surgery, NIST innovations underpin many commonplace technologies that we rely on daily.

Moreover, NIST Boulder fosters Technology Transfer, catalyzing the emergence of spin-off companies, job creation, and the dissemination of cutting-edge technologies to industry, academia, and federal agencies alike. Commercial products influenced by NIST-pioneered technologies include closed captioning and chip-scale atomic clocks, while laboratories worldwide utilize NIST technologies such as frequency combs, quantum sensors, and single-photon detectors.

The tour was led by Rebecca Jacobson, public outreach coordinator for NIST Boulder, while the planning portion was coordinated by Terri Viezbicke with NIST's Public Affairs Office.

First, we met with Dr. Marlou Slot with the Atomic Devices and Instrumentation group. She described how the group innovates to develop compact, low-power quantum sensors using a combination of precision atomic spectroscopy, silicon micromachining, and photonics. We recommend watching this great presentation by Marlou: Atom by Atom: Designing and Realizing Electronic Quantum Matter with Dr. Marlou Slot. Please note that Dr. Slot is also on the Board of Elevate Quantum.

Woman scientist wearing a blue sweater showing an atomic device to a lab tour group as they look on.
The Atomic Devices and Instrumentation Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

At the Advanced Microwave Photonics (AMP) lab and heard from Dr. John D. Teufel; his group focuses on novel ways to couple quantum electrical and mechanical circuits with an emphasis on problems in quantum information and the limits of measurement. Fun fact: John won the 2021 Arthur S. Flemming Award where he is recognized as a world leader in the field of quantum optomechanics

We finished our tour at the Ion Storage Group lab and heard from Dr. Daniel Slichter and Dr. Dietrich Leibfried. This group has pioneered the use of trapped ions (charged atoms) for quantum information processing over the last 25 years, amassing a long list of “firsts” and “bests”. The field has undergone rapid growth, and recently the US companies IonQ and Honeywell, with many NIST Ion Storage alumni as technical leaders and staff, have started commercial development of trapped ion quantum computing.

Tour attendees in a lab room standing in a line while a speaker on the right talks about their lab.

These labs and groups are just three of numerous labs within the NIST Physical Measurement Laboratory. The NIST PML is a world leader in the science of measurement: they determine the definitive methods for nearly every kind of measurement employed in commerce and research, provide NIST-traceable calibrations, and disseminate standards and best practices throughout the nation. At the same time, PML works continuously at the outermost frontiers of metrology, devising tools and techniques to meet the ever-changing demands of American industry and science.

Lab room with a tech device on the left and a man in a suit on the right.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to NIST for opening their doors and sharing their remarkable work with our group. Special thanks to Autymn Rubal with GEJohnson and Brian McClenahan with CBRE for the outreach to help convene the guests, it was great to have new attendees, in addition to several CO-LABS members. Lastly, we wanted to extend our thanks to GE Johnson's sponsorship of the social hour afterward.

lab tour group comprised of 12 people posing outside of the lab facility

CO-LABS is fortunate to be able to facilitate these fascinating tours year-round at our various federally funded-laboratory facilities.  We love being able to connect technologists to help manifest scientific discoveries that improve our world. If you'd like an invite for future tours sign up to become a CO-LABS member. Please reach out to our Executive Director, Dan Powers at if your organization is interested in acquiring memberships. Individual memberships (including tours) can be purchased at our Colorado Gives portal.

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