March 2019 Newsletter: Innovations in Big Data, Climate Science and Beyond

Written by
Maura M. Fennessy
March 11, 2019
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President Chris Eisgruber was recently selected as one of ROI’s top Higher Education Influencers for 2019, in no small part due to the University’s efforts to increase access to higher education, promote and support entrepreneurship, and enter into groundbreaking industry partnerships that push the limits of technology.  

This issue of features a number of new technologies – using data science to advance knowledge in a wide range of fields, understanding drug-resistant antibiotics, mapping the ocean floor – as well as the expertise of climate scientists at the University who bring different approaches to the challenges of carbon emissions reduction and the impacts of global warming.

We also highlight the joint MD-PhD program between Princeton and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School that was launched in 2005 to build research expertise for aspiring medical doctors who want to both treat patients and explore the causes of medical conditions.

Data science drives new discoveries

Data points connecting to form a Princeton University chevron
DataX effort jumpstarts demonstration data science project at Princeton

Princeton University researchers will push the limits of data science by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning across the research spectrum in an interdisciplinary pilot project made possible through a major gift from Schmidt Futures.The Schmidt DataX Fund will help advance the breadth and depth of data science impact on campus, accelerating discovery in three large, interdisciplinary research efforts and creating a suite of opportunities to educate, train, convene and support a broad data science community at the University.   Learn more.


Visusalization of gene activity
Data science tool that reveals molecular causes of disease shows power in infant cancer analysis

Princeton University researchers are gaining new insights into the causes and characteristics of diseases by harnessing machine learning to analyze molecular patterns across hundreds of diseases simultaneously. Demonstrating a new tool now available to researchers worldwide, the team of computer scientists and biologists has already uncovered and experimentally confirmed previously unknown contributions of four genes to a rare form of cancer that primarily affects babies and young children.  Learn more.


Climate scientists on emissions and impacts

3 smokestacks belching white smoke
Andlinger Center Speaks: U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rise by 3.4 percent

Carbon dioxide emissions rose in the U.S. by 3.4 percent in 2018, according to preliminary estimates released earlier this year. Increased electricity demand and economic growth are among the contributing factors the report cites. Interestingly, electricity production from coal actually dropped last year.  Experts Judi Greenwald, Eric Larson and Michael Oppenheimer from Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment comment on the news.  Learn more.


Map of locations of North Carolina fishing boats off Atlantic Coast of U.S.
North Carolina boats are now fishing off New Jersey’s coast

As the oceans warm in response to climate change, fishing boats in the Mid-Atlantic that focus on only one or two species of fish are traveling more than 250 miles farther north than they did 20 years ago, while others catching a wide diversity of species have not changed fishing location, reported Talia Young, a postdoctoral research associate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton.   Learn more.



backs of cars in traffic
Autonomous vehicles could be an environmental boon or disaster, depending on public policy

Widespread use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could either massively increase or drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions depending, in large part, on public policy, according to new research from Princeton University. “We need fuel economy standards to ensure the cars are clean, and policies to encourage ridesharing to reduce vehicle miles traveled,” said Judi Greenwald, non-resident fellow at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and co-author of a Jan. 4 paper published in the journal Energy Policy.  Learn more.


From MERMAIDs to meds: research and collaborations

A Son-O-Mermaid instrument over the ocean on a crane
MERMAIDs reveal secrets from below the ocean floor

“Imagine a radiologist forced to work with a CAT scanner that is missing two-thirds of its necessary sensors,” said Frederik Simons, a professor of geosciences at Princeton. “Two-thirds is the fraction of the Earth that is covered by oceans and therefore lacking seismic recording stations. Such is the situation faced by seismologists attempting to sharpen their images of the inside of our planet.” MERMAIDs are helping to fix that.  Learn more.



Still shot from time-lapse of bacterial growth over four hours
Dying bacteria absorb antibiotic, allowing others to survive and grow

Bacteria have multiple strategies to survive antibiotics: developing genetic resistance to the drugs; delaying their growth; or hiding in protective biofilms. New results from researchers at Princeton and California State University-Northridge (CSUN) have shed light on yet another approach: self-sacrifice.  Learn more.




Digital representation of adaptive solar shade
Princeton IP accelerator funding awarded to seven promising technologies

Seven innovations with the potential to benefit society and spur the economy – including new approaches for treating mosquito-borne viruses and for improving the energy efficiency of buildings- have been awarded funding to bridge the gap between laboratory research and the development needed to move promising ideas into the global marketplace.  Learn more.




Tom Pisano and Sam Wang in lab
Princeton-Rutgers M.D.-Ph.D. program trains future physicians in scientific research

A joint program between Princeton University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School offers the opportunity to combine scientific research and medical training, leading to a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree at Princeton with a medical degree (M.D.) at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson. The program trains students to care for patients as well as explore the underlying causes of medical conditions.   Learn more.





Zakiya Smith Ellis speaking in front of a screen with the words "Innovation Forum" on it

Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis delivered the keynote address at Princeton’s 14th Annual Innovation Forum on Feb. 27 stating “NJ is the state of innovation, and higher education is where opportunity meets innovation.” 







Karen Jerzierny, Debbie Hart, Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Nishta Rao at Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs

We were happy to host Asm. Herb Conaway ’85, with Debbie Hart of BioNJ, for a tour of the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs in Plainsboro, the premier coworking space for science startups in NJ.