The U.S. Senate confirmed Patrick D. Gallagher, Ph.D. by unanimous consent as the 14th director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, Gallagher has worked at NIST since 1993 as a scientist and as a laboratory director. He has carried out the functions of the director in his current position as deputy director since September 2008. U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Gallagher, 46, to his new post on September 10, 2009.

“NIST is a unique agency with a strong culture of world-class scientific achievement and is critically important to the nation”s ability to innovate and create jobs. Dr. Gallagher is a top-notch scientist, administrator, and proven leader,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, in a prepared statement. “We expect him to continue his capable stewardship of NIST as we tackle complex problems like cyber security, developing an interoperable ‘smart’ energy grid, standardizing electronic health records and advancing the manufacturing sector.”

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the next Director of NIST,” Gallagher said, in a prepared statement. “NIST is at an important juncture in its history. We have a world-class workforce, state-of-the-art research facilities, and the opportunity to make a real difference helping find practical, innovative solutions to some of the nation’s toughest technical challenges.”

Gallagher has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. He taught high-school math and science for a year after receiving his B.A. in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Gallagher came to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) in 1993 to pursue research in neutron and X-ray instrumentation, and accompanying studies of the properties of technologically important “soft” materials such as polymers, liquids and gels.

In 2000, Gallagher was a NIST agency representative for the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and became active in U.S. policy for scientific user facilities. At the Office of Science and Technology Policy, he served as chair of the Interagency Working Group on neutron and light source facilities.

In 2006, he was awarded a Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the department’s highest award, in recognition of this work. In 2004, he became director of the NCNR, a national user facility for neutron research that is one of the most heavily used facilities of its type in the nation.