February 2017 Newsletter: Diversity, Climate Change, Digital Privacy

Written by
Maura M. Fennessy
Feb. 27, 2017

On January 29, 2017, President Chris Eisgruber issued a statement in response to the executive order, issued by President Trump, which barred access to the United States by refugees and citizens of predominantly Muslim countries. He spoke about how the University historically has "depended on America's ability to attract and engage with talented people from around the world" and expressed vigorous support for the "extraordinary individuals of diverse nationalities and faiths" from whose presence the University benefits today. He shared the university's support for legislative efforts to assist non-citizens, particularly protections for students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and efforts to permit foreign scholars and students to come to the United States.

He followed up this statement with a letter to President Trump that he drafted, along with University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, and that 47 other American college and university presidents signed, urging him to "rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country's borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world." "If left in place," the letter says, "the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country."

This issue of @princeton.edu features the work of the University, as a research institution and convener of experts in their fields, to address global policy issues that challenge our nation and those around the world. In this issue, we place particular emphasis on diversity, climate change and digital privacy.


Sarah Jane Leslie

Smart talk: Stereotypes about 'brilliance' may set in for girls as early as age 6

By the age of 6, girls become less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. This could have an immediate impact on their interest level in activities and may have long-term effects, such as whether women feel confident pursuing careers in certain academic fields that "cherish brilliance," according to a new study conducted by researchers at Princeton University, New York University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers concluded that women often avoid or are "locked out" of academic careers commonly believed to require raw, innate "brilliance" rather than hard work.  Learn more.

Susan Fiske

Movin' on up? Views on social mobility shape Americans' faith in the status quo

Is the American socioeconomic ladder sturdy, offering a good chance for people to move up and down? Or is it rickety, leaving most people stuck where they are? Psychologists at Princeton University and Memorial University of Newfoundland have found that how Americans view social mobility affects their willingness to defend the basic underpinnings of American society - such as social and economic policies, laws, and institutions.

"Now seems like a particularly important time to understand why people don't support a system they see as fixed against them," said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University.  Learn more.

Panel of women speakers at Undergraduate Women in Physics Mid-Altantic Regional Conference

Conference gives undergraduate women skills, inspiration to pursue physics careers

Undergraduate women from across the region gained tools to stay in physics and other STEM fields and learned from the experiences of accomplished women researchers at Princeton, Rutgers and other institutions at the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, held at Princeton University in January. The event was one of 10 regional conferences held simultaneously across the country.  Learn more.



World map showing change of annual number of mild days over time

Climate change to alter global pattern of mild weather

Scientists from Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have produced the first global analysis of how climate change may affect the frequency and location of mild-weather days - and it may be soon. Within the next 20 years, the current global average of 74 mild days a year will drop by four days, and fall by another six days by the end of the century, the researchers report. In summer, some mid-latitude areas - including a sweep of the United States from the Mountain States through the Midwest and into the Northeast - will likely get more very hot and humid days, which translates to a decrease in mild days.  Learn more.

Image of thick bark of Connarus suberosus tree which grows in the Brazilian Cerrado

Tree-bark thickness indicates fire-resistance in a hotter future

A new study has found that trees worldwide develop thicker bark when they live in fire-prone areas. The findings suggest that bark thickness could help predict which forests and savannas will survive a warmer climate in which wildfires are expected to increase in frequency.  Learn more.




In a world filled with cyber hacks, communication silos, fake news and government surveillance, can liberty really survive the digital age? These issues are playing out in real time across the globe and will be discussed at the Princeton-Fung Global Forum in Berlin on March 20 and 21.  

Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?

Your 'anonymized' web browsing history may not be anonymous

Raising further questions about privacy on the internet, researchers from Princeton and Stanford universities have released a study showing that a specific person's online behavior can be identified by linking anonymous web browsing histories with social media profiles. "It is already known that some companies, such as Google and Facebook, track users online and know their identities," said Arvind Narayanan, an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton and one of the researchers involved in the project. But those companies, which consumers choose to create accounts with, disclose their tracking.  The new research shows that anyone with access to browsing histories - a great number of companies and organizations  - can identify many users by analyzing public information from social media accounts, Narayanan said.  Learn more.

How the digital cookies crumble

Can liberty survive the digital age? In this WooCast episode, Princeton University professors Jennifer Rexford and Janet Vertesi discuss internet infrastructure and its effect on how people use the web as a vehicle for communication and information. Learn more.

Q&A: Using technology to advance, not suppress, human dignity and equality

In an age where technology is often used to harm, can it still be harnessed to advance human dignity and equality? In this Q&A, Nuala O'Connor, CEO and president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, describes how technology can be designed to protect human rights in the digital world. She will be a panelist at the upcoming Princeton-Fung Global Forum.  Learn more.

Q&A: Online censorship in a digital age

Governments around the world tried to shut down the internet nearly 50 times in 2016, raising serious questions about the value and harms of online censorship in a world dramatically influenced by the digital sphere. In this Q&A, Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), explains what she sees as the risks associated with online censorship and mass surveillance. York will be a panelist at the Princeton-Fung Global Forum.  Learn more.


12th Annual Innovation Forum
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 3:00pm - 6:00pm
The Keller Center, in conjunction with Princeton's Office of Technology Licensing, will host the annual Innovation Forum to showcase Princeton research that offers the potential to be commercialized. The forum consists of three-minute "elevator pitches" by participants, a networking reception during which participants further discuss their work, and and awards ceremony.  Learn more and register.

Science on Saturday: Cities in the 21st century: The nexus of the climate, water and energy challenges
Saturday, February 18, 2017, 9:30am to 11:15pm
Science on Saturday is a free series of talks geared toward high school students but open to all.  Students, Teachers, parents and community members are welcome.  This talk features Eli Bou-Zeid, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University.  Science on Saturday talks take place at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Plainsboro.  Learn more.

Willem de Kooning: Drawn and Painted
On view now through March 19, 2017
This installation at the Princeton University Art Museum comprises paintings of the late 1960s through 1970s by the Dutch-born American artist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), on loan from The Willem de Kooning Foundation in New York. Learn more.

Going Public: My Adventures Inside the SEC and How to Prevent the Next Devastating Crisis
Monday, Feb 27, 2017,4:30pm to 6:00pm
The call to rein in Wall Street has been championed by high-profile figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, while the Trump administration's relationship with Wall Street has yet to unfold. Lessons can be learned from how federal agencies, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), modified and enforced regulations following the stock market crash of 2008. Princeton alumnus Norm Champ, formerly of the SEC, will discuss his new book, "Going Public: My Adventures Inside the SEC and How to Prevent the Next Devastating Crisis" at Robertson Hall.  Learn more.