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NIST’s SURF Event on Capitol Hill Showcases Opportunities for Future STEM Professionals

ANSI’s VP of Government Relations Urges STEM Students to Utilize Skills in Industry


This month, 121 students representing the next generation of scientists and engineers had the opportunity to meet with Congressional staff on Capitol Hill, as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a program that provides exclusive opportunities in science and engineering for selected undergraduate students. Scott Cooper, vice president of government relations at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) served as guest speaker, noting how the next generation of STEM is integral in developing practicable solutions for global issues.

During the full day of events on July 12, students were able to meet several key leaders and representatives, including New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen (below) and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (left, speaking), U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, among others. Speakers emphasized the importance of STEM, and Cooper called on expertise for advancing solutions to real-world projects at federal agencies. Several other congress members also stopped by the event, and many SURF students were also able to meet individually with their Representatives at their offices.

The SURF Program is an opportunity for NIST laboratories to encourage outstanding undergraduate students to pursue careers in STEM fields —science, technology, engineering, and mathematics— at a time when studies indicate that STEM skills are crucial in driving innovation, even as businesses report that finding qualified STEM talent is challenging.

As part of NIST’s SURF Program, selected students have an opportunity to work one-on-one with NIST scientists and engineers, with a goal to expose emerging prospective professionals to cutting edge and world class research. The program also serves to promote the pursuit of graduate degrees in STEM, through a unique research experience that supports the NIST mission.

At the SURF event, Cooper tied the STEM industry to ANSI’s mission, encouraging emerging professionals to utilize skills gained through STEM education. “STEM students are problem solvers, and whether public or private sector, it’s good time to have the STEM skills that allow you to constructively participate,” he said. “ANSI and its members are [also] problem solvers. We develop practicable, consensus standards solutions that solve real-world problems, and whether you take what you have learned to the private sector, or the public sector, our country needs the skills that you have developed through your STEM education.”

Cooper noted how last year in Capitol Hill, ANSI held an event on global supply chains that brought together over 150 people to discuss worker safety, anti-bribery, food safety, and clean cookstoves – just a few recent real-world challenges that have standards-based solutions. He also emphasized that there is need for talented people who can develop these solutions—a recurring theme throughout the day’s events.

For more on NIST’s SURF program, read more on the fellowship website.

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