Alum and Director of National Institute of Standards and Technology Is Named Commencement Speaker

Issue Date: 
April 15, 2013

Patrick D. Gallagher,Patrick D. Gallagher director of the U. S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will be the featured speaker at the University of Pittsburgh’s 2013 Commencement on April 28. Gallagher was sworn in on Nov. 20, 2009, following his nomination by President Obama and his confirmation by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate. Gallagher also serves as cochair of the Standards Subcommittee under the White House National Science and Technology Council and as under secretary of commerce for standards and technology.

The ceremony, which will include the presentation of an honorary doctoral degree, will begin at 1 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center, with doors opening at 11 a.m. Gallagher previously returned to the University to deliver the Provost’s Lecture as a part of the University’s celebration of science in 2010, and, more recently, he served as the keynote speaker at the opening of the midcampus science complex in October of 2012.

“Dr. Gallagher is one of our truly distinguished and most nationally visible graduates,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Among other things, he has been a champion of the mission of our nation’s research universities in educating future generations of teachers, business leaders, physicians, and scientists. As director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, he also recognizes that research universities play a key role in the technological innovation and medical and scientific research that have helped fuel the economic growth of our nation. It will be a privilege to welcome this accomplished scientist and respected federal official back to campus as our University’s 2013 commencement speaker.”

Gallagher earned his undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Atchison, Ks., in 1985. He taught high school math and science in Missouri before coming to Pitt in 1986 for graduate studies in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in physics in 1987 and 1991, respectively, under the direction of Professor of Physics and now-Provost Emeritus James V. Maher. Gallagher did postdoctoral research at Boston University before joining NIST in 1993 as a research physicist and instrument scientist at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), where his research interests included neutron and X-ray instrumentation and studies of soft condensed matter systems such as liquids, polymers, and gels.

Over the course of his two-decade career with NIST, Gallagher has held a number of increasingly responsible positions within the agency. In 2000, he became group leader for the NCNR’s Research Facility Operations, and in 2004 he was appointed NCNR director. A major accomplishment of his tenure as NCNR director was the successful planning and funding for a substantial expansion of the Cold Neutron Guide Hall to allow about 500 additional non-NIST researchers to use the facility each year.

From 1999 to 2001, Gallagher was a NIST agency representative at the National Science and Technology Council, where he had responsibility for such major science facilities as the Spallation Neutron Source Project and the National Ignition Facility, science funding, the government-university research partnership, radioactive waste management, radiation protection regulations, science and security at the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, and laboratory reform. He has also chaired the Interagency Working Groups on neutron and light source facilities under the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Gallagher was appointed deputy director of NIST in 2008, a position he held for 13 months before being nominated to serve as director. In his current role, Gallagher leads one of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories, one that traces its roots back to its establishment as the National Bureau of Standards by an act of Congress in 1901. The agency promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. NIST’s FY 2013 budget includes $775.4 million in direct and transfer appropriations, an estimated $49.7 million in service fees, and $120.6 million from other agencies. Gallagher directs a workforce of more than 3,000 at state-of-the-art facilities at two main locations in Maryland and Colorado. The agency also hosts about 2,600 associates and facility users from academia, industry, and other government agencies on its campuses at any given time.

Under Gallagher’s leadership, NIST has greatly expanded its participation, often in a leadership role, in collaborative efforts between government and the private sector to address major technical challenges facing the nation. NIST’s participation in these efforts stems from the agency’s long history of technical accomplishments and leadership in private-sector-led standards-development organizations and in such research fields as manufacturing engineering, cybersecurity and computer science, forensic science, and building and fire science.

Specific examples of public-private efforts initiated by NIST, often in coordination with other federal agencies, during Gallagher’s tenure as director include:

• accelerating the development of advanced manufacturing technologies in U.S. industry through the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office;

• safeguarding individual identity and information in cyberspace though the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence;

• modernizing the national power grid through the Smart Grid Program;

• developing a cybersecurity framework to reduce cyberthreats to the nation’s critical infrastructure through improved standards, guidelines, and best practices for information systems;

• advancing the state of forensic analysis research through the National Commission on Forensic Science; and

• improving the safety and effectiveness of the nation’s first responders through a wide variety of research projects and the Public Safety Communications Research Program.

Gallagher has served on a number of committees, including the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation, the Committee of Visitors for Basic Energy Science in the U.S. Department of Energy, the Neutron Sciences Advisory Board of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Advanced Photon Source for Argonne National Laboratory. In 2006, Gallagher received the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal award in recognition of his leadership in interagency coordination of policy.

Raised in Albuquerque, N.M., Gallagher now lives in Maryland with his wife, Karen, and their three sons.