AVS Presents Albert Nerken Award to NRL's Dr. Richard Colton

10/29/2007 - 57-07r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Dr. Richard J. Colton, Director of the Institute of Nanoscience and Acting Superintendent of the Chemistry Division at the Naval Research Laboratory, has won the 2007 Albert Nerken Award from the American Vacuum Society (AVS). The award was presented at the AVS Symposium in Seattle, Washington, on October 17.

The Nerken award is given by AVS to recognize outstanding contributions to the solutions of technological problems in areas of interest to AVS. It was established in 1984 by Veeco Instruments, Inc., in recognition of its founder, Albert Nerken, for his role as a founding member of AVS, his early work in the field of high vacuum and leak detection, and his contributions to the commercial development of that instrumentation.

Dr. Colton is specifically cited "for seminal scientific insights that accelerated the development of vastly improved surface and nanoscale analytical techniques, and of innovative biomolecular sensors."

Dr. Colton's research interests include electron and ion spectroscopies, atomic and molecular structure of surfaces by scanning tunneling microscopy, new methods to measure nanoscale adhesion, friction and mechanical properties of surfaces by atomic force microscopy, and novel physical, chemical and biological sensors using electron tunneling and molecular recognition.

As a scientist, in the late 1970s, Dr. Colton first introduced to the Laboratory the surface analysis technique of secondary ion mass spectrometry. In 1986, while on sabbatical as a Visiting Associate at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, he built a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and used it to understand the then mysterious, atomically-resolved, imaging mechanism of graphite in air. He is credited with bringing the STM technique back to NRL, which has since served as the catalyst for the present nanoscience effort at NRL.

Dr. Colton also introduced the atomic force microscope (AFM) to the Laboratory at the time it was developed. He recognized that the AFM was more than an imaging tool and could be adapted to perform nanomechanics on surfaces and molecules. The AFM formed the basis of an important approach to the detection of bio-threat agents, funded by DARPA, NIH, and the Army.

Dr. Colton earned a B.S. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972 and 1976, respectively. In 1976, he became a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NRL. Dr. Colton joined NRL's Chemistry Division in 1977 as a research chemist working in surface chemistry. He has since served as head of the Advanced Surface Spectroscopy Section in the Surface Chemistry Branch, head of the Surface Chemistry Branch, and is now serving concurrently as head of the Chemistry Division and Director of the Institute for Nanoscience.

Dr. Colton has published over 130 technical papers, including ten book chapters and five patents, which have been cited in the literature over 6,000 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, and has won numerous technical publication and technology transfer awards including the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer in 2001. Dr. Colton also received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2003.

Get NRL News: RSS

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Comment policy: We hope to receive submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that all participants agree to the Department of Defense Social Media User Agreement. All comments are reviewed before being posted.