Google CEO Eric Schmidt — who graduated from Princeton Engineering in 1976 — spoke June 30 at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the annual intellectual pow-wow which this year included among many others starchitect Frank Gehry, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, and the photorealist painter Chuck Close.

In his wide-ranging conversation with Kai Ryssdal of NPR’s Markeplace, Schmidt talked about  technological upheaval,  innovation, privacy,  Facebook, Youtube and — of course — Google. Watch the full conversation above or click here for the transcript.


STENGEL_fw.JPG Robert Stengel, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, was interviewed for the June 2009 issue IEEE Control Systems Magazine about his work developing aerospace and biomedical technologies.

The magazine asked Stengel about the changes he designed the manual control logic for the Apollo Lunar Module in the 1960s. He noted that early in his career "aerospace engineers used slide rules, hand-drawn graphs, mechanical calculators, blueprints, rules of thumb, precedent, and intuition to design and build airplanes."

"Today’s aerospace engineer has a wealth of computational tools to employ," he said. "Digital computers have replaced most of the earlier engineering tools, and user interfaces are interactive. Computer memory and speed have increased by orders of magnitude, turn-around time between program runs may be a few seconds, the cost of computing has plummeted, and new applications software has revolutionized the nature of engineering analysis and design."

The interview also discusses Stengel’s new textbook, Flight Dynamics, which took him 25 years to complete. Princeton engineers have written several text books on flight dynamics, and Stengel said he felt a responsibility to continue that tradition.

"Flight dynamics is the first ‘airplane course’ that most Princeton mechanical and aerospace engineering students take, building on the dynamics, aerodynamics, and math of earlier courses," Stengel said. "We cover fundamentals of aircraft, including historical material that motivates the evolution of aviation, as well as configuration aerodynamics, nonlinear flight dynamics, aircraft performance, stability, and control."

Stengel said his interest in biomedical applications of engineering began in 1970 after the Apollo program wrapped up. He said a number of aerospace engineers at the time were asking: “Now that we have gone to the moon, what shall we do next?”

He said his current areas of interest in the biomedical field – using computer networks based on the brain to classify data on DNA and optimal therapy for treating diseases – came from homework assignments he gave students in his Robotics and Intelligent Systems class.

"The objectives of my work are to identify those genes that are over or underexpressed in primary tumors, normal tissue, and lung and liver metastases and to correlate gene expression with various patient outcomes."


Almost 15,000 votes have already been cast in the online Art of Science voting gallery. The top vote-getter as of noon on July 1 will receive a special “people’s choice” award. It’s fascinating to watch the ever-changing lineup of the top 10 vote getters. When EQN last checked, none of the images that were heavy contenders for the people’s choice award was one of the top three official prize winners  determined in May by a panel of distinguished judges.

The serious programmers in the audience might like to know that the beta version of the software toolkit developed at Princeton by graduate student Bill Zeller of the Center for Information Technology Policy to build the Art of Science voting website can be found for free at

The Art of Science voting site grows out of research by Princeton sociologist Matthew Salganik in collaboration with Zeller and others that combines sociology, systems engineering and theoretical computer science.

Read a little more about the Art of Science exhibit in Science Magazine, the American Scientist, the New Scientist, and the Italian science weekly Nòva24. Look for future coverage in Science Illustrated, the Daily Publico in Spain, the Chinese language version of Sciences et Avenir, and the British edition of Wired magazine.

You can check out the blog commentary at The Rumpus, Science Planet, Bioephemera,, Madsilence, SophieMunns, Ideonexus, Tonmo, Ectoplasmosis, Versewetenschap, and the Smithsonian magazine.

If you weren’t able to make the opening, please watch the slideshow (also at the top of this post). Or come visit. The Art of Science exhibit is on display at the School of Engineering’s Friend Center through April 2010.


EE Times reports that next week Eli Harari — the co-founder, chairman and CEO of SanDisk Corp. who earned his Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton in 1973  — will receive the IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal.

The award, to be given at a ceremony in Los Angeles, "recognizes Harari’s innovation of flash memory technology, contribution to the proliferation of flash memory devices, and visionary leadership within the semiconductor industry."

Fortune magazine’s Jon Fortt had a fascinating interview with Harari earlier this month, which in case you missed you can find here.

The medal Harari will be receiving is named in honor of Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel Corporation and a pioneer in  the development of the integrated circuit. By the way, another Princeton Engineering alum, Isy Haas *57, recounts his historic role working with Noyce in the development of the first monolithic integrated circuit in this interview with the Computer History Museum.


Vanderbei_Princeton_Orion nebulae.jpg Publishers Lunch, an insider’s newsletter in the world of publishing, reports that a book co-authored by Princeton Engineering professor Robert Vanderbei has been snatched up by National Geographic‘s book publishing arm.

The book by Vanderbei and Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott is titled Sizing Up the Universe and according to Publishers Lunch, it "provides new scientific research into the massiveness of planets, stars, and galaxies using scaled maps, beautifully done photographs, and object comparisons to demonstrate actual size, from Buzz Aldrin’s historic footprint to the visible universe and beyond."

The image above, of the Orion Nebula, is by Vanderbei, who is chair of Princeton’s Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering and a researcher in probability and optimization.  Vanderbei pursues astrophotography as a hobby.


Cohesive_Failure_Debenedetti_Lyrebyrd_Klezmatics.jpg The rumors are true: last weekend the School of Engineering’s vice dean Pablo Debenedetti was seen doing performance art in the West Village as part of the Cornelia Street Cafe’s "Entertaining Science" series. Debenedetti, a leading expert in fluid thermodynamics, explored "familiar and strange water, in all its life-enhancing properties — chemical, physical, sociological and musical — with the musicians Katie Down and Matt Darriau."

Down is known for clowning around in the ukulele band Ukuladies. Darriau is known for his work with Paradox Trio and the Klezmatics, the only Klezmer band to have won a Grammy Award. As for Debenedetti? He is known for his work as a theorist in condensed matter physics and engineering. Earlier this year he published research suggesting a novel way to control the behavior of water.

The Entertaining Science series is the brainchild of Roald Hoffmann, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist at Cornell who orchestrates delightful collisions of art and science. That is Debenedetti (in the image above) hovering over the musical duo; the background image is taken from a computational investigation of the fracture mechanisms of thin films of glassy water (non-crystalline solid water) upon cooling. Technical folks who want to know more can explore here.

Ross Ohlendorf_Daily Prince.jpg

Tim Kurkjian of ESPN magazine has posted an interesting essay on Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, who graduated from Princeton in 2005 with a degree in operations research and financial engineering.

Kurkjian focuses on Ohlendorf’s senior thesis at Princeton, which was an analysis of the June amateur draft in baseball. In his thesis, Ohlendorf set out to determine whether draft picks are worth the financial investment that teams make in them. What were Ohlendorf’s findings? Read the ESPN piece here.

Photo courtesy Ross Chin via the Daily Princetonian


Amy Laviers_Princeton_senior thesis.png

Amy Laviers, a 2009 Princeton Engineering graduate who hails originally from Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, received the Calvin Dodd MacCracken Senior Thesis Award for her use of machine learning algorithms in comparing movements made in classical ballet to those made in modern dance.

Laviers’ goal: to create a tool for choreographers and to interpret the aesthetics of dance.

MacArthur "genius" award recipient Naomi Ehrich Leonard, Laviers’ adviser, said the thesis was highly creative and a "deep, original piece of scholarly work." You can see a piece choreographed by Laviers, who served as artistic director of  Expressions Dance at Princeton this year in this Youtube video.

Laviers will be continuing her research into dance and machine learning during graduate studies at Georgia Tech.


Sharad Malik_Keller Center_Princeton.png

Sharad Malik —  the director of the Keller Center and a recipient this year of Princeton’s highest teaching award — has some advice for newly minted graduates: embrace a life of learning.

“I’ve been very impressed by the willingness of our students to learn even if this means stepping out of their comfort zones,” said Malik. “What I hope we have been able to do in their four short years here is train our students in the process of learning because this is something that is going to be with them forever for the rest of their lives.”

Malik urged ’09 graduates to be emboldened, as the world around them evolves and changes,  to continue to learn and explore new areas. You can hear from Malik firsthand — and witness the commencement fanfare — in this video.


Princeton’s Keller Center recently hosted a wide-ranging panel discussion of deans from leading engineering schools on the future of engineering. Princeton’s H. Vincent Poor moderated the panel, which included Linda Abriola of Tufts, David Munson of the University of Michigan, James Plummer of Stanford, Subra Suresh of MIT, and T. Kyle Vanderlick of Yale.

The deans discussed five themes at the heart of the Keller Center’s mission: engineering’s relationship with the liberal arts; engineering and globalization; interdisciplinary teaching; the integration of research and teaching; and engineering and entrepreneurship.

Watch the full program by clicking above. Or read the transcript.

We want to hear from you. Please comment below on this discussion — tell us your thoughts on the future of engineering.