June 2020 Newsletter: Princeton Stands Up and Speaks Out

June 11, 2020
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Princeton University’s virtual 2020 Commencement on May 31 fell in the days following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and amid the protests around the country and around the world, inspired by the tragedy.  President Chris Eisgruber used the opportunity to share a statement with this year’s graduates about the importance of confronting racism, saying "We all have a responsibility to stand up against racism, wherever and whenever we encounter it. Commitments to diversity, inclusivity, and human rights are fundamental to the mission of Princeton University."

This issue of @princeton.edu features the voices of Princeton faculty and alumni as they bring their expertise and experience to the national conversation on race relations in the U.S.  And, as we are still in the middle of a public health crisis, we share some of the research underway at the University to combat COVID-19 and other diseases.


Race relations: A path forward


Princeton faculty speak out against systemic racism and police violence in the nation

As the United States grapples with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black lives destroyed by systemic racism and police violence, and as protests extend across the country, Princeton scholars are speaking to the moment. Several Princeton faculty members are using op-eds, television and cable news programs, online publications, and social media to grasp current events and navigate a path forward, drawing on their research as well as their own personal experiences. Learn more.

Mentorship speakers

Valedictorian Johnson, faculty, alumni discuss the power of mentorship

Since his selection as Princeton’s first black valedictorian, Nicholas Johnson has spoken eloquently about the importance of role models and mentors to his success at the University.


On Wednesday, June 3, Johnson explored this topic in greater depth during a panel titled  “The Power of Mentors: Blazing Paths for Underrepresented Minorities in STEM,” along with Princeton alumni Professor William Massey, Class of 1977, the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering; Dr. Marian Croak, Class of  1977, vice president of engineering at Google; and Professor Kim Pearson, Class of 1978, of The College of New Jersey.  Watch the full conversation.


Maria Ressa: Make the choice to learn

Maria Ressa - CEO and Executive Director of Rappler.com, a Time 2018 Person of the Year, graduate of Princeton’s Class of 1986, and former resident of Toms River - addressing the Class of 2020, … “You are standing at the rubble of the world my generation created.  Your class will be among the first to have a freer hand to re-create the world as it should be – more compassionate, more equal, more sustainable.” She also shared this advice with Princeton’s graduating seniors: Make the choice to learn. Embrace your fear. Build a community, but avoid the mob.  Hear the full address. 


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Princeton Prize in Race Relations


The Princeton Prize in Race Relations is an alumni-managed program to recognize and reward high school students from across the country who have undertaken significant efforts to advance racial equality and understanding in their schools and communities.  Learn more about the impressive activism and community building by this year’s Princeton Prize winners from New Jersey:  Darlene Folas, of West Orange, and Calvin Bell III, of Moorestown.



Innovations in biomedical research

Macmillan research group

Could the answer to our COVID-19 problems come from a N.J. lab?  Here are 13 promising projects 

This nj.com article features four projects underway at Princeton:

• Fluid dynamics research led by Howard Stone.

• A cellphone system for government officials to provide proximity tracing of people diagnosed with COVID-19 while preserving individuals’ privacy, developed by Kyle Jamieson.


• A COVID-19 math model that accurately predicts how the virus is spreading, even as it mutates, created by H. Vincent Poor and colleagues.

• Work by Alexander Ploss and colleagues to study how the virus attaches to cells and develop a version of SARS-CoV-2 that is less dangerous for labs to work with.


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AI tool gives doctors a new look at the lungs in treating COVID-19

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton researchers have developed a diagnostic tool to analyze chest X-rays for patterns in diseased lungs. The new tool could give doctors valuable information about a patient’s condition, quickly and cheaply, at the point of care. Learn more.



Princeton team develops ‘poisoned arrow’ to defeat antibiotic-resistant bacteria




A team of Princeton researchers reported in the journal Cell that they have found a compound that can simultaneously puncture bacterial walls and destroy folate within their cells — while being immune to antibiotic resistance. Learn more.




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Politics and Polls

Hear Sam and Julian talk about the Black Lives Matter protests and social media and listen to their interview with John M. Barry on using the 1918 pandemic as a blueprint for today, or with Jennifer Steinhauer on female changemakers in Congress.




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We Roar

The “We Roar” podcast shares stories of how the Princeton University community has responded to COVID-19.  Hear Kate Foster *93, President of TCNJ, on the future of higher education; Dr. Gordon Douglas ’55 on producing a vaccine; and Prof. Andrew Chignell on finding hope during pessimistic times.




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Let’s Talk About…

This new podcast series by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement includes community conversations with Princeton faculty and regional partners about their work and the COVID-19 crisis.  Hear a discussion of housing insecurity with Ben Thornton of Anchor House and of healthcare systems and policy with Heather Howard.