This time, security is tighter after 9/11, and rules forbidding furloughed employees from working are strictly enforced.
So Madrzykowski, whose work has helped develop better tactics and equipment for firefighters, is devoting time to projects for a professional group, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. And he's had to break his habit of answering email on his government-issued Blackberry from firefighters around the country.
Last week, Madrzykowski and colleagues had planned to begin work on developing standards for radio communications equipment to function in the extreme temperatures that firefighters face. The research is used by industry groups to set standards for equipment manufacturers.
That work will wait.
Madrzykowski said his biggest worry is that NIST won't be able to recruit and retain young researchers because government work no longer has the stability that once made it attractive.
"I'm old. My wife works. We've got a little bit of a cushion," he said. "But for young people in a metro area, they're barely making it. We've lost several young people to private industry."
Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga. Associated Press writers Martha Irvine in Chicago, Mike Stobbe in Atlanta, Bridget Murphy in Boston, Jessica Gresko in Washington, Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati and Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., contributed to this story.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.