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Sharon Smith

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Sharon Smith

Director, Advanced Technology

Lockheed Martin Corporation
Bethesda, Maryland, United States


  • B.S. Chemistry, Indiana University
  • M.S. Physical Chemistry, Purdue University
  • Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry, Indiana University

Work Focus:

"My responsibilities include the coordination of nanotechnologies across Lockheed Martin's four business areas and the coordination with external nanotechnology organizations."

Advice to Students:

"Study the basics and get a good grasp of all of the basic sciences which make up nanotechnologies-such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology."


  - Lockheed Martin Corporation


Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
About 7 years ago when I was leading the MEMS/microsystems Focus Group for Lockheed Martin. It became obvious at the time that a potentially much broader benefit to the corporation and our customers could be achieved by exploring technologies at the nanoscale. I established the corporation's Nanotechnology Focus Group and became its chair in 2002.   

Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?  
I work at the corporate and Business Area level so I get involved in many of the nanotechnologies being developed across the company. These areas include almost all areas of nanotechnology including sensors, electronics, computing, materials, and many more. For example, we are developing new, more sensitive sensors for infrared imaging that are expected to operate closer to ambient temperature than existing sensors which typically must be cooled to achieve desired sensitivities.    

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
It is exciting to see new solutions to old problems. Things that we thought might never be improved are being looked at from a totally different point of view. For example, we now have nanomaterials that exhibit new, unique properties that we did not know about before. It is like having a new engineering toolbox to work with and the tools keep changing and improving as more research into nanotechnologies is done. What an exciting time to be an engineer or scientist!   

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
That would be nice but I am afraid I have not influenced the world yet. I have, however, influenced the direction that Lockheed Martin has taken in nanotechnology by spear-heading two major and several minor corporate initiatives as well as having established a few strategic partners with external organizations. My most recent contribution has been the establishment of LANCER, the Lockheed Martin Advanced Nanotechnology Center at Rice University. This center was kicked off April 2008.   

Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?  
Apart from the specific technology advances, e.g., the use of nanomaterials in medicine, energy and other industries, nanotechnology has brought together many academic disciplines that have historically been isolated stove-pipes such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology, etc. The collaborations across disciplines will continue to result in major technological advances well into the future.   

Q: Please give an example of what you envision nanotechnology applications leading to in the future. 
There are too many examples to mention here. In the commercial world, we will likely see new textiles with improved properties, smaller and more integrated electronics, more in vivo diagnostics, more targeted drugs and delivery systems, and lighter weight, stronger building materials just to name a few.  

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
I definitely work in a team situation, working with many development groups across Lockheed Martin, as well as with many groups outside the corporation, both technical and non-technical. As examples of external interactions, I was elected to the Nanomaterials Advisory Board of the National Academies in 2005, I serve on the Board of the U.S. Nanobusiness Alliance, and I give numerous talks at nanotechnology conferences worldwide. Involvement in these kinds of organizations is key to learning what is going on in nanotechnology in this country and abroad.   

Q: If you work more as a team, what are some of the other areas of expertise of your team members?   
Our team members inside Lockheed Martin come from many backgrounds and have expertise in diverse areas such as aeronautics, manufacturing, modeling, chemistry/composites, and biology.  

Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Absolutely. My Masters Degree in Physical Chemistry focused on Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics. Nanotechnology is all about working at the nanoscale which is dominated by quantum physics. And, my Ph.D. in Chemistry provided a good basis for understanding the chemical interactions of nanotechnologies.  

Q: Do you have a mentor?  Did you in your college years?
I do not have a formal mentor, nor did I while in college. Such programs were not very prevalent during my early, formative years. However, I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of creative and productive people during the course of my career, and I tried to learn from each of them. I do formally mentor others in Lockheed Martin and thoroughly enjoy that part of my role as a senior leader in the corporation.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Yes. Nanotechnologies, in my opinion, are the most exciting technologies being explored today. They have so much potential that has yet to be realized. I expect to see major developments continue for many, many years to come. 

Q: If a high school or college student was interested in nanotechnology, what advice would you give them to help prepare take on those roles?  
I would suggest that they study the basics and get a good grasp of all of the basic sciences which make up nanotechnologies-such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology.

Q: What other advice do you have for pre-university students?
I would suggest that they get involved in the sciences as early as they can, look for creative opportunities where they can get actively involved such as science fairs, summer programs at universities and industries, and read/explore nanotechnologies and their applications as much as possible. The field will be constantly changing, another reason for students to become excited by nanotechnologies.