A scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has won an emerging leaders award as part of the 2021 Sammies program for discovering a technique to identify microscopic flaws within materials that emerge during 3D printing.
Callie Higgins, who is 31, developed the technique, which allows scientists and engineers to detect – and reverse engineer – flaws that can cause catastrophic part failure if undetected.
The discovery made by Higgins and her colleagues centers on the modification of an atomic force microscope, which allows products to be evaluated at the sub-micrometer level, instead of conventional millimeter length scales.
Commenting on the discovery, Robert Keller, a supervisory materials research engineer at the NIST, said: “The impact of the science that Callie has discovered is immeasurable. Manufacturers will have the ability to create high-quality plastic parts. In the health care industry, this technology could lead to advancements in the development of replacement body parts and organs.”
Keller added that Ford Motor Co. has been assertive in talking with Higgins about pursuing the technology because it wants to create engine part components that will perform in a specific way at a much lighter weight.
Higgins is among the federal employees to be honored at the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals awards, known as the Sammies, which are hosted annually by the Partnership for Public Service.
Other medal winners this year include Dr. Kissmekia Corbett and Barney Graham of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who were awarded the federal employees of the year medal, for their work helping to design COVID-19 vaccines in record time.
Dr. Gary Gibbons and Eliseo Pérez-Stable of the NIH were also awarded the COVID-19 response medal, which was created this year to recognize federal workers who played key roles in the government’s response to the pandemic. Gibbons and Pérez-Stable established two outreach programs that funded new partnerships between NIH and COVID-19 vaccine trials.
Evan Kwerei of the Federal Communications Commission has also been awarded the Paul Volcker career achievement medal.
Sammies winners will be celebrated at an in-person event held at the Kennedy Center Thursday evening, and also through a special virtual event due to air on Nov. 1.