NEWS | May 17, 2011

Dr. Richard Colton Receives Navy Superior Civilian Service Award

By Donna McKinney

Dr. Richard Colton, superintendent of the Naval Research Laboratory's Chemistry Division, has been awarded the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award. He is recognized for being instrumental and critical to the creation and growth of the nanoscience community at NRL. His efforts have resulted in coalitions of scientists and engineers that propose and execute high quality, highly relevant science in the area of nanoscience. The award was presented in a ceremony held on May 12.

Colton is credited with making two significant and lasting contributions to NRL that will serve NRL and the Department of Navy for many years to come. Under his leadership, he turned NRL's budding Institute for Nanoscience into a world-class facility designed to foster strong, collaborative, multi-disciplinary research teams and programs from across the Laboratory. Using the Institute for Nanoscience as a model, he subsequently developed a concept to create an Autonomous Systems Research Laboratory to stimulate and foster collaborative research across the Laboratory leading to innovative research prototype systems. This concept ultimately led to an FY09 MILCON project for which Colton led the NRL design team.

From 2005 to 2008, as director of the NRL Institute of Nanoscience, Colton directed and managed highly innovative, interdisciplinary research programs and facilities that operate at the intersections of the fields of materials, electronics and biological sciences in the nanometer size domain. The facilities were designed to exploit and complement the broad multidisciplinary character of NRL in order to bring together scientists with disparate training and backgrounds to address common goals at the intersection of their respective fields at this length scale. Colton's own research in nanoscience began in 1986 while on sabbatical at the California Institute of Technology where he built his first scanning tunneling microscope - a technology that he brought back to NRL. He was also a member of the team that designed the NRL Nanoscience building, an FY01 MILCON project.

Similar to what the Institute of Nanoscience provides the Navy, the new centralized Autonomous Systems Research Laboratory will enable the integration of various S&T components developed throughout NRL into prototype systems using sensors, power systems, networking/communications, modeling/simulation, and mobility/robotics. This unique facility will also provide simulated environments (such as aquatic, littoral, desert, tropical, mountain, and outdoor upland forest) and reconfigurable high bay space, not currently available for initial systems testing.

As technical lead for this new facility, Colton collected all of the necessary facts and figures, and prepared and presented briefings to various Navy-wide MILCON committees and NAVFAC design engineers on the project. During the three years that he led the marketing campaign (with the help of course of NRL management and others including a pivotal letter from then Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Delores M. Etter), he took the P-010 project from its lowly ranked position where it was constantly deferred over the previous 5 years to the number one priority for FY09. Subsequently, he planned the initial specifications and led the internal NRL design team for this 50,000 square foot, $24M facility. The building construction is scheduled for completion in October 2011.

Colton earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a doctorate in physical chemistry, both from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1976, he became a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NRL. Colton joined NRL's Chemistry Division in 1977, working as a research chemist. In 1982, he was appointed to head the Advanced Surface Spectroscopy Section. Then in 1998, he was appointed to head the Surface Chemistry Branch. In 2005, Colton was appointed director of the Institute for Nanoscience, a position he held until 2008. While serving as the director, in 2007, he was selected to be superintendent of the Chemistry Division, the position that he holds today.

Colton has published over 130 technical papers, including ten book chapters and five patents, which have been cited in the literature over 7,700 times. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, the American Physical Society, the Materials Research Society and AVS. He was the first chairman of the AVS Division on Nanometer-scale Science and Technology, former chair of the AVS Applied Surface Science Division, and served on the AVS Board of Directors in 1992-93. He was elected a Fellow of the AVS in 1995. He received the 1992 Hillebrand Prize from the Chemical Society of Washington, received the NRL-Edison Chapter of Sigma Xi Applied Research Award in 1999, received the AVS Albert Nerken Award in 2007, and has won numerous technical publication and technology transfer awards including the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer in 2001. Colton also received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2003.