Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.

If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Chemist nominated to lead the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology

Copan spent years in industry and in government

by Andrea Widener
September 14, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 37

Credit: Courtsey Walter G. Copan
Credit: Courtsey Walter G. Copan

Walter G. Copan, a chemist with extensive experience in industry and government, has been nominated to head the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology.

Copan says he is honored to be President Donald J. Trump’s pick for the federal laboratory’s next director. “NIST is so central to the U.S. innovation system and to U.S. commerce. It is an organization that I have respected for many years,” he tells C&EN.

Now Copan awaits confirmation to the job by the U.S. Senate.

Most of NIST’s previous directors have come from inside the organization, so Copan’s expertise in industry—especially in technology transfer—will set him apart from previous directors.

Copan began his scientific career in 1975 at Lubrizol immediately after getting an undergraduate degree in chemistry and music from Case Western Reserve University, where he later earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

Initially, Copan worked in Lubrizol’s physical and analytical chemistry lab. He rose through the ranks during his 28 years at the company. He led the company’s European R&D expansion during the late 1980s and early 1990s, including working with countries that had recently broken off from the Soviet Union. When he returned to the U.S., Copan was involved in molding the company’s venture capital arm as well as incubating and spinning off new businesses.

That experience led him to his next career: heading technology transfer at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and, later, Brookhaven National Laboratory. He has also worked at several start-ups and small businesses.

Copan worked with NIST during his technology transfer work at DOE, and he is a former advisory board member of the Federal Laboratory Consortium, an interagency technology transfer group.

“Everybody loves NIST because it supports all sectors of our economy,” he says. “It does so much in terms of advancing technology transfer for our nation.”

Copan’s goals for NIST are to improve cybersecurity for small and midsize businesses and maintain the integrity of the institute’s core programs. Copan also plans to apply his expertise in technology transfer and manufacturing to NIST’s work in those areas.

“I believe that it is important for science and technology-data-driven decisions to be well represented in our national lab system and in our administration as well,” he says.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Ted Cross (September 15, 2017 1:43 PM)
Congratulations Walter- I just happened on this pleasant announcement cruising through my Linked in messages - hopefully our paths may cross again soon.

Cheers, Ted
Gheorghe D. Mateescu (September 16, 2017 1:25 PM)
I am delighted to see that Walter Copan is about to become the leader of our prestigious NIST. Actually, the results of Walter's first research (to be found in his PhD thesis) constitute a major contribution to the understanding of the mechanism of human vision. I am sure he will use his "vision" not only for the maintaining, but further enhancing NIST's valuable influence on Sciences.

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment