September 2016 Newsletter: Learning by Doing - Research and Service

Written by
Maura M. Fennessy
Sept. 28, 2016

Princeton's Class of 2020 has settled in on campus, after having completed first year orientation activities - working in Trenton, Camden and Newark through Community Action; backpacking on the Appalachian Trail or canoeing in the Delaware River through Outdoor Action; or training with their fall sport teammates. Like in past years, approximately 16% of the class is from New Jersey. Under Princeton's pioneering financial aid program, roughly  60% of students in the Class of 2020 receive financial aid.  The average grant is $48,000 per year, and because no student is required to take out loans, they can graduate debt free.

This summer was more exciting than usual for the 13 Princeton students and recent alumni who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, including senior Ashleigh Johnson who brought home a gold as the goalie on the U.S. women's water polo team.

This issue of share stories of lessons learned in the lab and in the field through research and service, provides an update on major campus construction, and, in the context of the upcoming presidential election, includes some analysis of political polls and the next four years under a new president. 



As a major research institution, Princeton University attracts hundreds of millions of federal research dollars to New Jersey each year - much of which is spent locally - to push the boundaries of human knowledge. As federal funding for university research has decreased, the university has dramatically stepped up its internally-funded research spending, investing approximately $285 million just in FY2015. Princeton's research endeavors provide a significant benefit to the public - by generating new research findings that benefit humanity, by educating the next generation of researchers in the methodologies, creativity and determination required to persevere, and by being able to take the very long-range view that basic research findings today can lead to fundamental societal or scientific advancements in the future. 


Below is a taste of Princeton University research released over the summer. 


Brain autism modules

Researchers flag hundreds of new genes that could contribute to autism

Investigators eager to uncover the genetic basis of autism could now have hundreds of promising new leads thanks to a study by Princeton University and Simons Foundation researchers. 

Learn more.




piton chip image

New microchip demonstrates efficiency and scalable design

Princeton University researchers have developed a new computer chip that promises to boost the performance of data centers that lie at the core of numerous online services such as email and social media. 

Learn more.




undergrad summer research

Undergraduates get research experience in leading labs

Princeton University hosted more than 50 college students this summer who were participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Funded by the National Science Foundation and supplemented by Princeton, the program engages a diverse set of science students from around the nation in original scientific research.  Learn more.





PPPL experiment

PPPL and Princeton demonstrate a novel physical technique that may have applicability to future nuclear disarmament agreements

A system that can compare physical objects while potentially protecting sensitive information about the objects themselves has been demonstrated experimentally at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). This work, by researchers at Princeton University and PPPL, marks an initial confirmation of the application of a powerful cryptographic technique in the physical world.  Learn more.




Princeton University's informal motto is "In the nation's service and the service of humanity."  This dedication to service is demonstrated to students from the moment they arrive on campus through the university's teaching, research and operations and the wide breadth of student-led opportunities. Over the last 10 years, an average of 19.3 percent of graduating seniors pursued employment in non-profit or service-based organizations.  Learn more about a few summer programs that prepare students for lives of service and build stronger educational foundations for youth from the region.


Mikecia Clarke

Community and civic engagement internships provide opportunity to explore careers in public service

Internship programs expose students - including Mikecia Clarke, who had a position in Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman's Ewing district office - to the rewards of service and encourage participants to continue as volunteers and board members for nonprofits after graduation. 

Learn more.




QUEST teachers

NJ teachers take on summer QUEST to improve science education

QUEST, a weeklong, hands-on program at Princeton, helps New Jersey teachers enhance their knowledge of science, math and technology. 

Learn more.




LEDA classroom

LEDA summer at Princeton guides high school students on path to success

One hundred high school juniors from NJ and across the country spent seven weeks on Princeton's campus with LEDA, an independent nonprofit dedicated to developing the academic and leadership potential of exceptional public high school students from low-income backgrounds.  

Learn more.





Lewis Center construction

Princeton University is housed on an historic campus that has evolved over the centuries to keep pace with advancements in technology and new fields of study. Investments in world-class academic facilities, research laboratories, spaces for arts education, and an extensive local transportation system have created an environment that is as much a tourist destination and resource for the local community as it is a center of learning. Over the past decade, Princeton University has invested over $2.5 billion - more than $318 million in FY2015 alone - in capital construction and major maintenance projects. This summer was a busy season on campus as major construction and renovation projects moved forward to expand initiatives in sustainability, arts, residential housing and other areas.  Learn more.

The 2026 Campus Plan will guide the evolution of the campus through 2026 and beyond.  Key projects envisioned for the plan include new facilities for the School of Engineering and Applied Science and for environmental studies, new student housing, and potential expansion towards Route 1 into West Windsor.  A status report on the plan, scheduled to be completed in 2017, was presented to Princeton residents, council members and planning committee members on September 19.  Learn more.



gerrymander website

Sam Wang looks for order in chaos - in neuroscience, political polling and redistricting

Sam Wang - explorer of the brain and wrangler of political polls - made a prediction in 2012 that turned out to be wrong. A professor of molecular biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Wang wanted to know why. His pursuit of the answer led him to dive into a new area of inquiry - political redistricting, and how to identify when a set of districts has been unfairly drawn to benefit a given political party.

Listen to "Politics & Polls", Wang and Princeton political scientist Julian Zelizer's serial podcast on the 2016 presidential election. 


The Next Four Years

The outcome of this year's presidential election remains unknown. But there's no doubt the next U.S. president will face a wide range of challenges over the next four years. What are the most pressing issues facing the nation, and how can the new president tackle them? Over the next eight weeks, Princeton faculty experts will address these questions in a Q&A series titled "The Next Four Years." Among the topics: the economy, climate change, health care, foreign policy, Middle East relations, gun violence, race and cybersecurity.

The first week, Alan Krueger and Cecilia Rouse discuss the economy.  Both Krueger and Rouse are economists who have served in the White House.

In the second part of the series, Princeton University researchers Rob Nixon, Michael Oppenheimer and David Wilcove examine environmental and climate-change issues.

Part three of the series examines health-related issues with Janet Currie, Heather Howard, Adel Mahmoud and Uwe Reinhardt. 


Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President - 9/29/16
Clinton's presidency during a self-described time of, "a paradigm shift . . . from the industrial age to an information-technology age, from the Cold War to a global society," will be the subject of a book discussion by Boston College history professor, Patrick J. Maney, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Robertson Hall, on the Princeton University campus. A book sale and signing will follow the discussion.

The Fight to Vote - 10/5/16

The history and continuing struggle to win and maintain voting rights for all citizens is the subject a book discussion by Michael Waldman, president of New York University's (NYU) Brennan Center for Justice, at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 in Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall, on the Princeton University campus.  Waldman will be joined in conversation by Julian Zelizer, the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs, at the Woodrow Wilson School.

All the Way: LBJ & the Civil Rights Bill - 10/20/16

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter, Robert Schenkkan, and Julian Zelizer, the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at the Wilson School, will discuss the making of President Johnson's Civil Rights Act of 1964, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 in Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall, on the Princeton University campus.This historic period of time was the focus of the Tony Award winning play titled "All the Way" by Schenkkan.