March 2022: An Eye on the Environment

Written by
Office of State Affairs
March 25, 2022

In a recent message to alumni, President Christopher L. Eisgruber reiterated the University’s core values of scholarly excellence; talent and truth-seeking; access, affordability, and inclusivity; and service broadly understood.  He shared how, throughout its history, “Princeton University has planned carefully for growth while investing boldly in human potential and groundbreaking inquiry. We have sought to address the most complex challenges of each age with depth of purpose and creative collaboration.”

Climate change is one of the complex challenges of this age, and this newsletter features the diverse efforts of University researchers to address its many components, including a recent study by the ZERO Lab that identifies a series of options for New Jersey to reach a carbon-free economy by 2050, as well as studies of the relationship between intricate inland and coastal waterways and carbon storage; the cultural impact of sea level rise; and new technologies for lithium battery re-use.   This newsletter also revisits recent University-wide announcements and highlights other path-breaking research happening on campus including a potential new cancer therapy from Yibin Kang’s lab, a deeper look at a dog’s lifespan and a smartwatch app that can determine if someone has COVID-19.

Addressing Climate Change

Princeton University Professor Jesse Jenkins testifies in front of the NJ State Senate Environment Committee

Green grid goal is practical for NJ, researcher testifies

On March 14, at the invitation of Chairman Bob Smith, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Jesse Jenkins presented his report detailing a path to achieving New Jersey’s clean energy goals to the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment.  The head of Princeton’s ZERO Lab – the Zero carbon Energy systems Research and Optimization Laboratory – Jenkins and his colleagues conduct research to assess the costs and trade-offs associated with different choices facing policymakers working to accelerate rapid, affordable, and effective transitions to net zero.  At the hearing, he told committee members that New Jersey’s goal of providing electricity without generating carbon pollution by 2050 is attainable and affordable under a range of scenarios that include solar PV, offshore wind, nuclear power, and imported electricity Those scenarios are explained in “New Jersey’s Pathway to a 100% Carbon-Free Electricity Supply: Policy and Technology Choices Through 2050.” 

Stock photo of wetlands

Study reveals how inland and coastal waterways influence climate

Most global carbon-budgeting efforts assume a linear flow of water from the land to the sea, which ignores the complex interplay between streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries, mangroves and more. A study co-led by climate scientist Laure Resplandy, an assistant professor of geosciences and the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI), details how carbon is stored and transported through the intricacy of inland and coastal waterways. Published in the current issue of the journal Nature, the work has significant implications for enforcing the carbon calculations that are part of international climate accordsLearn more.

Professor Christina Gerhardt

Barron Visiting Professor Christina Gerhardt studies how sea-level rise influences culture

Christina Gerhardt, a professor and journalist whose work explores how people engage the experience of sea-level rise through culture, is the 2021-22 Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities in the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI). Professor Gerhardt will host a series of panels that will engage the public in understanding the impacts of sea-level rise on the New Jersey shoreline by examining the science related to sea-level rise, how the humanities can translate and make science more accessible, and the solutions that engineering and policy can offer.

Check out these upcoming free, virtual panels presented by the High Water Line:

High Water Line: “Presenting the Science,” Wednesday, April 13, 2022 12:00pm – 1:30pm

The panel discussion “Presenting the Science” will bring together climate experts to engage the public in understanding what scientists project for the future shoreline of New Jersey, the impact of sea-level rise on the state, and the areas that will be most affected.

High Water Line “Translating Science Into Art,” Wednesday, April l20, 2022 12:00pm – 1:30pm

The panel discussion “Translating Science Into Art” will bring together artists and outreach experts to explore how the environmental humanities can translate science into art — with a focus on sea-level rise — and the visual strategies that work best for making scientific information more relatable to everyone.

High Water Line: “Solutions” Wednesday, May 4, 2022 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

The panel discussion “Solutions” will examine the range of engineering and public policy approaches available for mitigating and adapting to the impacts of sea-level rise and those that are under consideration in New Jersey as the state faces a receding shoreline.

Princeton University Announcements

Princeton University President Chris Eisgruber with faculty

President Eisgruber’s annual State of the University letter, 2021

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber shared his annual State of the University letter with faculty, students and staff in February. Reflecting on the role of the University in a time of crisis. Eisgruber wrote: “In a more ordinary year, I might use this letter to describe plans for the coming semester. In this exceptional year, when my colleagues and I have already written to all of you many times about the crises that confront us, I want to speak to more fundamental issues, issues about what it means to be a great research university at a time when the political controversies of the moment press upon us with searing moral urgency.” Read more.


Outdoor concert at Princeton University

, Princeton town officials praise COVID-19 partnership and consider future collaboration at annual meeting

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber joined Princeton municipal officials on March 14, to discuss shared interests affecting the University and the community, highlighting their mutual support during the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking ahead to continued partnership, particularly as it relates to the local downtown area. Learn more.


Princeton University students on Witherspoon St

University contributions to Princeton town: 2021 summary

Summary of the many ways in which Princeton University currently contributes to and engages with the Princeton community. For decades, the University has made voluntary contributions to the Town of Princeton. In late 2020, the municipality and the University agreed to a two-year extension of the existing contributions agreement that had been adopted in 2014. Under the new 2020 agreement, the University will contribute nearly $8.5 million to the municipality in 2021 and 2022. The agreement also includes a $850,000 commitment to support the hiring of career personnel for the Princeton Fire Department and a $250,000 commitment toward the construction of a new storage facility for the municipal Department of Public Works. Learn more.

Princeton University Podcasts and Upcoming Events

She Roars Podcast


Tigers don’t meow. They Roar. In celebration of Women’s History Month, take a look back on previous episodes of the She Roars podcast celebrating women at Princeton. One the very first episode, Princeton Emeritus Professor Nancy Weiss Malkiel discusses letting the “damn women” in - the pivotal few years around 1969 when a handful of elite, all-male universities in the U.S. and the U.K. suddenly took steps to admit women. And listen as New Jersey native and Nobel Prize winner, Maria Ressa discusses the existential threat facing free speech, journalism, and democracy.



Princeton Research Day Logo

Princeton research day

Princeton Research Day celebrates the research and creative endeavors of the campus-wide community. The event serves as an opportunity for researchers and creators to reach across disciplines by communicating in non-specialist language about their research or creative work. Now in its seventh consecutive year, the event highlights work from across all areas of study at Princeton, including the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, the arts and humanities. Presenters include undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and other early-career researchers. In 2022, PRD will be held online and in person.