Sharon Woodard keeps the metrology lab at the top of its game

by | Feb 11, 2022

Sharon at AX106 Mass Comparator

Keeping North Carolinians safe at the gas pump and the register involves more than a few different things.

There’s the technology and expertise needed to carry out inspections. There’s the regulatory and legal knowledge required to enforce safety and accuracy standards.

And for Sharon Woodard, there’s a whole lot of math.

While for some that might sound intimidating, for Woodard it’s just right. As manager of the NCDA&CS Metrology Lab, she is responsible for overseeing measurements of everything from grocery store scales to gas pump meters and even lottery balls, all to make sure that consumers get what they pay for.

It’s a job that Woodard seemed fit for from the start. Born in Raleigh, Woodard hold a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Winston-Salem State University. After graduation, Woodard looked around for jobs in that math field that interested her, which led her to NCDA&CS.

“Metrology is the study of weights and measures, so it’s centered all around mathematics. Usually when we interview people, we’re looking for people with a math degree or a physics degree,” she said. “It’s so funny, but I never thought I would actually find a job involved with math. I went to school to be an actuary or a statistician, and I didn’t really want to be a math teacher, and I just happened to find the metrology lab.”

That chance encounter kicked off a career which will reach its third decade in July. Beginning as a metrologist doing basic and intermediate training, Woodard worked her way up over the years to become program manager. During that time, the job has understandably changed quite a bit.

“Now that I’m program manager, the responsibilities are very different. Now I’m in charge of picking those individuals who both have that knowledge around math and volume, and who also understand the need for what we’re doing,” she said. “We have to make sure that our people are well-trained and that they really understand the details of what we do so that it’s easy for them to communicate with others.”

The NCDA&CS metrology lab is often looked to as a high benchmark for weights and measures work, due to the precise nature and broad spectrum of the work performed there. Right now, however, Woodard’s focus has shifted somewhat as the lab gets running again in its new home at the Steve Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center in Raleigh. After moving, the lab must go through a lengthy accreditation process which Woodard hopes will be finished within the next few months.

Woodard finds value in what she does, even though people may not always realize she does it.

“It comes up all the time that we’ll run into people who don’t realize how many things we do. A lot of things we do are to help the consumer not get cheated. We go from grocery stores to scales, grain moisture meters, basically anything involving measurement we are checking,” she said. “If you’re buying a five-pound bag of sugar, we want to make sure that the net content of that bag really is five pounds. We are here for you to make sure that your dollar is not being wasted, and that you are getting your money’s worth.”

Woodard commended her team for their dedication and hard work in staying up-to-date on the latest practices and technology. It’s that exact attitude that has led North Carolina to be one of the leading entities worldwide in metrology.

“This new facility gives us a lot more space to work with, and that will let us bring in more people to do more things and I think we’ll quickly get back up to being in the top two labs in the world,” Woodard said. “I have a really great staff that is ready, they’re out there and working to be on top of their game with the latest technologies. Training is important for us, and they’re always working hard to make sure that we stay on top as one of the best labs in the country.”