IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

CU Boulder Nets $94M for Government Research Partnership

CU Boulder
Shutterstock/Red Herring
(TNS) — The National Institute of Science and Technology awarded the University of Colorado Boulder $94.5 million to continue its research partnership for another five years.

The research partnership between the CU Boulder physics department and NIST, called the Professional Research Experience Program (PREP), provides funding for undergraduate and graduate students to work with NIST researchers in areas such as atomic clocks, precision quantum measurement, international measurement standards, new laser applications, GPS technology and more.

NIST is part of the U.S Department of Commerce and sets nationwide standards for measurement and technology. Kara Robinson, academic program manager at NIST, helps lead and manage the PREP program at CU Boulder. She said CU Boulder was chosen for the renewal of the partnership because its proposal scored highly.

"Their quality of research and research collaboration has been good year in and year out," Robinson said.

John Cumalat, CU Boulder professor of physics, said the department was "thrilled" at the renewal of the partnership. While the relationship has changed and grown, CU Boulder and NIST have had a PREP grant and partnership for the past 30 years.

"We've been through this before, but it doesn't matter when you're submitting grants and writing proposals," Cumalat said. "You hope that they'll be approved but you never quite know until you get confirmation."

Part of NIST's goal is to give research experience to individuals and help build the stem workforce in the United States, Robinson said.

"The benefit of the partnership is that we get to have students and professionals get research experience," Robinson said.

CU Boulder graduate student Wesley Brand works in the NIST Boulder labs, located near campus on Broadway. His research involves atomic clocks, which is the most accurate form of timekeeping and is used in GPS technology. Brand is working with NIST scientists and others in the lab to condense the full-sized atomic clock, which fills two rooms, into a portable version.

"It's been a really great experience to be working with these faculty," Brand said. "They're very experienced, they have a lot of knowledge about timekeeping and atomic physics ... and this has been a great facility to do graduate work at."

Cumalat said the partnership gives people research experience at all levels — undergraduate, graduate, post doctoral, post bachelor's, post master's, along with a few senior scientists.

"It's been a fantastic opportunity for NIST scientists to work with students," Cumalat said.

Paul Beale, CU Boulder professor of physics, said the partnership provides students with valuable research experience and employs many young scientists.

"It's training people to become experts, and so those people have gone on to become federal scientists themselves, they've gone on to develop small startup companies in high tech, they go into larger research and development companies," said Beale.

For more than 60 years, the physics department at CU Boulder has had a close relationship with NIST. Three of the department's four Nobel Laureates are NIST federal scientists. David Wineland was at NIST-Boulder when he won the Nobel Prize in 2012, and dozens of PREP research students and scientists contributed to his research program.

More than 130 students and research scientists work at NIST-Boulder and are working toward new scientific discoveries through the PREP program. For more information, visit

© 2023 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.