Careers in Instrumentation & Measurement

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The International Society of Automation, founded in 1945 as the Instrument Society of America, has over 30,000 members worldwide, many of whom have careers in instrumentation and measurement. Anything that involves measuring and controlling thermodynamic quantities like pressure and temperature, hydrodynamic quantities like flow and viscosity, radiation, electrical quantities like current and capacitance, and chemical composition and properties could be considered a physics related job in measurement. Instrumentation engineers typically have jobs in chemical or manufacturing plants with automated processes. Examples of measurement instrumentation are chronographs, interferometers for measuring length, tachometers, mass spectrometers, tribometers for measuring friction on a surface, dynamometers for measuring torque, oscilloscopes, magnetometers, actinometers for measuring the heating power of radiation, calorimeters, dilatometers for measuring thermal expansion, Thiele tubes for measuring melting points, spectroscopes, scanning electron microscopes, seismometers, cloud and bubble chambers, gas chromatographs, and electrocardiograph and tomographs for medical purposes. Thus, people who work with these tools are said to have careers in instrumentation.

Inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization at around 2000 BCE held the first measurement and instrumentation jobs. They worked with a system of weights made of chert (1.4 grams, 2.8 grams, 5.6 grams up to 1.4 kilograms) and had rulers with 1.704 mm divisions.

The science of measurement is called metrology. Metrology careers usually require international cooperation. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures is located in Sèvres, France, and is one of three organizations established to maintain the International System of Units. An organization concerned with a wide range of measurement problems from food safety to environmental pollution is the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements, located in Geel, Belgium.

There are many job opportunities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), formerly called the National Bureau of Standards. The NIST employs about 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, and supports 1,800 guest researchers, many of whom have careers in instrumentation or jobs in measurement. NIST has laboratories and job opportunities in physics, information technology, chemical science and technology, electronics and electrical engineering, materials science and engineering, manufacturing engineering, and building and fire research. The NIST also has a nationwide network of centers (Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership) to assist small manufacturers and has a grant program to promote innovative but high-risk technologies.

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