FED FACES: Wendy Davis

Scientist Wendy Davis is working on new energy-efficient lighting.
Scientist Wendy Davis is working on new energy-efficient lighting.
  Enlarge Photo    
Monday, March 21, 2011; 1:43 PM

Wendy Davis: Vision Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Part of Davis's mission is to help manufacturers bring energy-saving lighting to consumers.

Best known for: Establishing and leading the Vision Science Laboratory at NIST. The laboratory - the only one of its kind in the world - is running experiments with LEDs or energy-efficient light-emitting diodes that are used primarily in traffic signals, night lights and backpackers' headlamps. The aim is to develop new technical standards for manufacturers who want to expand usage to a broader consumer market, and need certainty that their lights make food, interiors and objects appear natural. Nearly 12 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States goes to powering lights in people's homes and 25 percent is used in commercial buildings.

Government service: After completing her doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley in 2004, Davis joined NIST as a contractor for one year, served two years as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate and then became a full-time staff member.

Biggest challenge: Moving new measurement methods and techniques through the international consensus standards process requires far more than technical knowledge and scientific data. A diverse group of people representing industry interests and varying practices have to find a way to reach an agreement on countless technical details. Part of the challenge is leading those activities, which Davis compares to "herding kittens."

Quote: "Even the most new-fangled, high-tech, ultra-efficient light source is worthless if people won't use it. Sometimes we get caught up in the numbers, measurements, and specifications, but we need to always remember that the primary purpose of lighting is to enable people to see the world around them."

From The Partnership for Public Service; send your nominations to fedfaces@washpost.com.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company