December 2016 Newsletter: Research and Discovery: Pathways to Innovation

Written by
Maura M. Fennessy
Jan. 17, 2017

As a major research institution, Princeton University attracts hundreds of millions of federal research dollars to New Jersey each year to develop knowledge that addresses human needs.  In FY2016, sponsored research expenditures at the University and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory totaled over $307 million; supported 1,433 research projects; and generated 172 patent applications, 25 patents and 25 licensed technologies.  

While much of the University's research expenditures focus on basic research, there has been growing emphasis on developing real-world applications of basic research findings, programs to encourage entrepreneurism, and research collaborations with industry partners.  This issue of features a number of these efforts.


Cover of Celebrate Princeton Invention 2016 magazine

Innovations With Potential to Benefit Society on Display
A nanoscale sensor for environmental monitoring and an implantable medical device to restore brain function after a stroke were two of the research projects on display at Celebrate Princeton Invention.  The event, held Thursday, Nov. 10, celebrated more than 350 Princeton faculty members, staff researchers and students who over the past year have made discoveries or advances in the natural sciences and engineering that have the potential to be developed into technologies valuable to the public.




Two men walking through the new lab for the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials

Open to Outside Researchers
The University recently held a tour of the new imaging and fabrication facilities in the Princeton Institute for the Science and Techology of Materials (PRISM), now housed in the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Open to researchers from outside of the University as well as from across the campus, the facilities were designed in an uncommonly vibration-free environment to optimize conditions for atomic-scale work. 




The Office of the Dean for Research recently published the 2016-2017 issue of "DISCOVERY: Research at Princeton," an annual magazine that highlights the University's most significant research advances, initiatives, projects and honors in the fields of engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.  Here are a few of the featured articles.

Image of mobile in Frick Chemistry Building Atrium with blue lights

Bright Future
Using blue LED light and photoredux catalysis, Princeton researchers are unlocking the potential of light to rewrite the rules of organic chemistry.  They are partnering with industry - such as N.J.'s Merck & Co. - to create medicines, solvents, plastics and other products.




Image of outline of city skyline

Cities: Resilient. Adaptable. Livable. Smart.
Researchers in Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science are pursuing innovations in building materials, design, water systems and power grids to help make cities more livable. These cities will require buildings that heat and cool themselves on a limited energy budget.  They'll require bridges and other infrastructure built with the flexibility to adapt to a changing global climate and rising sea levels.  And they'll require innovations in the networks that supply cities with water and energy.  



Photo of a road through an area of wandering green hills

Better Living Through Behavioral Science
Over the past two decades, policy planners from the Oval Office to the middle-school principal's office have become aware that people often do not behave rationally, nor even in their own best interests. Understanding why people act as they do is the basis of the growing discipline of behavioral science, which is helping shape policies that tackle society's biggest problems, from financial planning to public health. Researchers at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs are exploring the behavioral aspects of policies that combat poverty, school bullying, discrimination and many other issues.


DATA TO DECISION: Engineering News

Cover of EQuad News Summer 2016 edition, "Data to Decision"

EQuad News
The most recent issue of EQuad News, the School of Engineering and Applied Science's research magazine, features the vast scope of work by its researchers to use the power of data to drive better decision-making and innovative solutions to societal challenges.  This includes efforts to explore the relationship between the interaction of genes and their effect on human diseases; to better understand the internet censorship tools used by China; and to control the behavior of plasma in order to make fusion energy a practical reality.




Cover of Andlinger Center Annual Report 2015-2016 featuring photos of the new Andlinger Center building and researchers associated with the Center

Annual Report
The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment has had a busy year.  Its new dean, Lynn Loo, was appointed when founding dean, Emily Carter, became the Chair of the School of Engineering and Applied Science - creating a woman-dominated leadership team in a historically male-dominated field. It opened its stunning and sustainable new facility, with a design that embodies the center's mission - to preserve the planet for future generations through innovative, sustainable energy and environmental technology. And it launched a partnership with the U.S. Army and the Picatinny Arsenal Garrison on energy and environmental research and information exchange, including how to convert unused ammunition into biofuels.  You can read about these and other recent accomplishments in the Andlinger Center's 2015-2016 annual report.


Special Exhibition Tour: Epic Tales from India: Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art 

The Princeton University Art Museum's new exhibit, which runs through Sunday, February 5, 2017, introduces viewers to the world of South Asian paintings from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century through the classics of literature that they illustrate.  Dive deeper into the exhibition with a docent-led tour, offered free of charge, on Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 3:00pm.

Princeton Women's and Men's Basketball vs. University of Pennsylvania 

Princeton basketball will take on their Ivy League rivals from Penn on Saturday, January 7, 2017.  The women's team plays at 2:00pm at Jadwin Gym and will be giving away Princeton "We Are" t-shirts.  The men's team, which will be giving out foam tiger ears, will follow at 7:00pm.

Social Pressure on Social Media: Using Facebook Status Updates to Increase Voter Turnout 

This presentation, to be held on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 12:30pm-1:30pm at Sherrerd Hall, will demonstrate the findings of analysis of the effectiveness of voting reminders sent within Facebook networks on increasing turnout. The results show that Facebook reminders were able to generate increases in turnout greater than that which is usually produced by face-to-face methods. This study suggests that digital media offer citizens the power to generate gains in voter participation and addresses concerns that our increasingly digitally networked society may prove harmful to democracy.