January 2020 Newsletter: Research and Innovation that Impact People's Lives

Jan. 15, 2020
Public affairs icon

Happy 2020!

This  new year presents the occasion to look back on the accomplishments of 2019 and look ahead toward the opportunities of 2020.

2019 was an exciting year for research and innovation at Princeton. Professor Emeritus and 1962 graduate alumnus James Peebles received the distinct honor of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology." Then President Christopher L. Eisgruber was named 2019 Educator of the Year by the Research and Development Council of NJ at the 40th annual Thomas Alva Edison Patent Awards, for his leadership in connecting research to real-world problems and solutions.

These highlights, along with the incredible research advancements made every day on campus, such as those featured in this issue of @princeton.edu, and the appointment of Rodney Priestly to the new position of Vice Dean of Innovation, demonstrate the University's ongoing commitment to sparking innovations that improve lives and benefit society.

This issue of @princeton.edu features a number of new discoveries by Princeton faculty and students. Through these stories, we hope to share the potential of research and innovation at Princeton to improve lives and benefit society. 

We look forward to 2020 and the possibilities that new discoveries will offer.


Rodney Priestley
Rodney Priestley named Princeton vice dean for innovation

Rodney Priestley, professor of chemical and biological engineering and a leading researcher in the area of complex materials and processing, has been named Princeton University's vice dean for innovation, effective Feb. 3. The newly created position provides academic academic leadership for innovation and entrepreneurship activities across campus. Learn more.




CPI event
Princeton’s annual technology celebration spotlights innovation and societal impact

Celebrate Princeton Innovation (CPI) highlights research with the potential to have real-world impact in areas such as health, energy and the environment. The annual gathering attracts members of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem outside the University — such as members of the venture capital community, industry, as well as representatives from state and local governments — who come to learn about the newest University discoveries and meet the faculty and staff engaged in Princeton’s innovation initiative. Learn more.


Here are just a few of the inventions and discoveries highlighted from the CPI event:
Solar shade
Adaptive Solar Shade celebrated for energy savings potential

The system inspired by the biomechanics of insect-trapping plants aims to provide energy savings by altering building façades to adapt to changing sunlight throughout the day. With buildings accounting for nearly 40% of U.S. energy consumption, new energy-efficient technologies are in high demand. Learn more.




Novel gene delivery system
Novel gene-delivery technology for treatment of disease

A newly developed system for turning on the therapeutic activity of genes could benefit the treatment of a broad range of genetic diseases. Learn more.






HiT Nano batteries
HiT Nano Inc. makes high-performance batteries affordable

A new method for making high-nickel and cobalt-free lithium-ion battery materials promises to increase performance for markets such as electric vehicles and grid energy storage while increasing battery density and battery life, all at lower cost. Learn more.






PCI collaboration with Janssen
Princeton Catalysis Initiative announces 10-year collaboration with Janssen

A collaboration between Princeton and Janssen Research & Development, LLC will advance cutting-edge basic research that may significantly impact human health over the next 10 years. This partnership aims to accelerate novel therapies for patients. Learn more.


Better biofuels
How to make better biofuels? Convince yeast it’s not starving

Princeton researchers have discovered a genetic switch that significantly increases yeast's production of the efficient biofuel isobutanol. Isobutanol has about a 25% greater energy density than ethanol and is much better suited for use in vehicles than current ethanol-based fuels. Learn more.




Microbes chew PFAS
Microbe chews through PFAS and other tough contaminants

In a series of lab tests, a relatively common soil bacterium discovered by Princeton researchers in a New Jersey swamp has demonstrated its ability to break down the difficult-to-remove class of pollutants called PFAS. Learn more.





Big storms
Why are big storms bringing so much more rain? Warming, yes, but also winds

A new analysis by Princeton researchers explains why storms with record-breaking rainfall have caused catastrophic flooding and why this trend is likely to continue with global warming. Both the higher moisture content of warmer air and storms’ increasing wind speeds conspire to produce wetter storms. Learn more.





P&P callout
Politics & Polls #163: The Crisis of Democracy

Is democracy under attack? With the rise of authoritarianism abroad and the erosion of rights and norms at home, many have started to reexamine the strengths and weaknesses of democratic institutions. Listen to the podcast.




All for Earth
All for Earth Episode 8 – Ensuring Clean Water for All with Farhana Sultana

Over a billion people lack daily access to clean, safe water. That staggering number is destined to rise as climate change exacerbates water inequities around the globe. Professor Farhana Sultana says it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s enough water to go around if we farm, eat, and make lifestyle and political decisions with equal access to water in mind. Listen to the podcast.