A 2007 index of scholarly productivity ranks Princeton as number one in civil engineering, environmental engineering, and computer engineering. The survey ranks Princeton as second in aerospace engineering and computational sciences. And in mechanical engineering and operations research? Princeton ranks in the top ten.

The Chronicle of Higher Education explains the survey’s methodology in this article, where you can find rankings of all 375 Ph.D.-granting universities included in the study.

Princeton Engineering faculty are known for being not just world-class scholars but also world-class teachers.

A recent New York Times article on graduate programs points out that Princeton University guarantees its doctoral students hefty financial support — both in free tuition and in stipends — so that they have the freedom to focus on research and earn their Ph.D.s in a timely way. Princeton, according to the Times, “has developed a culture where professors keep after students. Students talk of frequent meetings with advisers, not a semiannual review.”

To learn more about how William Russel, dean of the graduate school and professor of chemical engineering, keeps in close contact with his graduate students, read the full Times article here.

By the way, Russel’s fellow chemical engineering professor Pablo Debenedetti — also legendary for his teaching — has some intriguing new research coming out on, broadly speaking, the role that water plays in causing proteins to unfold under pressure, and at both low and high temperatures. For a preview, dive into this Water in Biology blog post.



The Princeton Laptop Orchestra made its Washington, D.C., premiere last night at the National Academy of Sciences’ Marian Koshland Museum.

Johnathan Rickman writes about PLOrk’s fresh sounds in the Washington Post Express. NPR’s All Things Considered covered the rehearsal before the Koshland concert.

If you are in Princeton today, you can hear PLOrk perform at a showcase of free performances sponsored by Princeton’s new Lewis Center for the Arts, chaired by poet Paul Muldoon.

Stay tuned: PLOrk is booked to play Carnegie Hall in late April.


The Princeton Urban Grand Challenge team has arrived in Victorville, Calif., just in time for today’s opening ceremonies.

The Princeton team is the only undergraduate team among the 35 semifinalists in the event, which promises $3.5 million in prize money. Most teams participating in the qualification event have serious financial and technical support from industry sponsors. By contrast, the Princeton team has been operating on a shoestring budget; its main resources have been spunk, enthusiasm and brainpower.

You can catch up on their exploits by reading some recent coverage by Humphrey Cheung of Tgdaily and Kevin Coughlin of the Star-Ledger. For more on the technology driving the car, see this post on And offers a novel funding idea for Princeton’s team of “baby Einsteins.”

You can see the full team roster here (trading cards not yet available). And be sure to follow Princeton’s progress in the competition by reading the team blog.

More photos below, from a send-off ceremony last week in Princeton: Team members peer inside the Princeton vehicle; Dean H. Vincent Poor (center) offers his benediction to faculty adviser Alain Kornhauser and team; a film crew interviews one of the Princeton team members.


Photos by Frank Wojciechowski



This week in Nature Materials, Princeton researchers from MIRTHE report that they have created a new type of “metamaterial” that has the rare ability to bend light in the opposite direction from all naturally occurring materials.

Metamaterials are an exotic new class of materials that, according to Kevin Bullis of Technology Review, “could be used to make flat and distortion-free lenses, powerful microscopes, and even cloaking devices that make objects invisible.”

The problem with metamaterials thus far, however, has been that they haven’t proved suitable for practical applications. But Bullis says that the Princeton metamaterials are higher performing and easier to manufacture, “perhaps bringing these applications closer to reality.”

“It’s quite an important step,” Igor Smolyaninov, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who works with metamaterials, tells Technology Review. “It’s much less expensive than anything else that people are doing.”

You can read the full Technology Review piece here. The Princeton metamaterials story is also getting seriously dug on Digg.

Computer simulation courtesy Anthony Hoffman



Cryptographer Boaz Barak yesterday was named as one of the Packard Foundation’s fellows in science and engineering. The much coveted fellowships give researchers $625,000 over five years — and the freedom to push the edge of scientific inquiry unfettered by funding restrictions.

A former postdoctoral researcher for Avi Wigderson at the Institute for Advanced Study, Barak works at the intersection of mathematics and computer science. Although he is an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton, Barak tells Kitta MacPherson of the Star-Ledger that he doesn’t use computers in his theoretical work — he works out his ideas with pen and paper.

While surely his work will have implications for securing the transmission of data over the Internet, Barak’s research is more fundamental. “I’m not asking what can we build that will not be broken today,” Barak, a native of Israel, tells MacPherson. “What we are looking at is what can we prove that’s simply impossible to break within, say, the computing resources that exist in the universe.”

Barak has written a forthcoming book with Sanjeev Arora on computational complexity theory, a draft of which can be downloaded (note: this will not be a breezy read for the mathematically phobic, who may prefer to check out the blog discussion and readings for the reputedly mind-blowing class for non-majors that Arora taught last year on the computational universe).

By the way, Arora was a Packard fellow in 1997. Other former Packard fellows among Princeton Engineering faculty are Stephen Chou, Yannis Kevrekidis, and Kyle Vanderlick.



In what is sure to be a historic conversation, Internet visionaries Robert Kahn and Larry Peterson will talk tomorrow with Jennifer Rexford about the future of the Internet.

Kahn is of course one of the fathers of the Internet, having formulated the key concept of open-architecture networking and co-invented the TCP-IP protocols. Peterson, chair of computer science at Princeton, headed the planning group for GENI — aka the Global Environment for Network Innovations — which is the National Science Foundation-backed initiative charged with figuring out how to ensure that the virtual world remains worthy of society’s trust. Rexford, who will moderate the Kahn-Peterson conversation, is a professor of computer science at Princeton and also a key player behind GENI.

Josh Fischman, an editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, recently wrote a cover piece on GENI that opens with Larry Peterson trying to navigate the subway system in New York City.

Fischman cleverly likens Peterson to a packet of digital information and points out the similarities between the mass transit system in Manhattan and the Internet: “Both were cobbled together out of a series of smaller networks; switching from one to another has always been a problem; and people [or packets] have trouble finding the best route to their destinations.”

The Chronicle makes clear that GENI is an ambitious effort. “This is our moon shot,” Peterson tells Fischman. “It’s the computer field’s version of the International Space Station. It’s our chance to do big science.”

GENI has been widely covered by the media — see for example, a recent piece in the Guardian Unlimited. But Peterson tells EQN that often journalists, when writing about GENI, tend to set up a false dichotomy of two diametrically opposed camps of thinking about the Internet, with one camp wanting a wholesale restructuring and the other opposing any kind of restructuring whatsoever.

“We have been battling a misconception about GENI’s goals,” Peterson says.

“It is an extreme position to believe that we are going to replace the entire Internet.” On the other hand, Peterson notes, the Internet itself is a model for its own reinvention. “Thirty years ago the Internet was the crazy clean-slate idea on the block and telecommunications was the entrenched system,” Peterson tells EQN.

Peterson does acknowledge that he and clean-slate skeptics — for example that other titan of computer Big Think at Princeton, Ed “The Internet is Broken; Let’s Not Fix It” Felten — might have legitimate differences of opinion on how to best implement security on the Internet. But those differences have yet to be been delineated.

If you can’t be in Princeton tomorrow to hear the Kahn-Peterson conversation, stay tuned to this blog. Princeton Engineering soon will be posting a webcast of the event, which by the way is being held to commemorate Larry Peterson’s appointment as the first Robert E. Kahn Professor at Princeton.

In the meantime, you may want to watch a couple of already historic interviews with Kahn.

Back in 1995 Kahn and Google CEO Eric Schmidt — who by the way is another illustrious Princeton Engineering graduate — engaged in an interesting panel discussion on the future of the Internet. This of course was when we quaintly called the Internet the Information Superhighway.

Schmidt’s pre-Google prescience is striking. Said Schmidt in 1995: “I believe that the information age — as driven by the computer revolution and the decentralizing of networks as pioneered by Bob Kahn and his team — will drive restructurings of governments, restructurings of societies, and restructurings of businesses.”

You can watch the entire video here.

Also, don’t miss this charming interview Kahn did with Robert X. Cringely for NerdTV in 2005. He talks about his graduate days in Princeton’s electrical engineering department, fondly mentioning his thesis advisors, Bede Liu and John Bowman Thomas. He also talks about working for Bell Labs back when its headquarters was in New York City overlooking the Hudson River; knowing Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, as a young assistant professor at MIT; playing four rounds of golf seven days a week during one stretch of graduate school; and being told by virtually everybody back in the 1960s that computer networking was a dead-end idea.

Photo: Kahn appearing on 1995 Sunergy panel, courtesy Sun Microsystems



Business maverick and philanthropist Lee Iaccoca’s new book on leadership is getting lots of attention.

Iacocca, who earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Princeton in 1946, is known for his straight-talking, no-nonsense style. His 1984 autobiograpy has been called one of the most influential business books of the last century.

The Times of India, among others, recently quoted Iacocca on his “nine Cs of leadership.” Among them: Character, Conviction, Courage, and Creativity. What are the rest of the Cs? Click here to find out (hint: one of them is Curiosity).

Charlie Rose also had an interesting conversation recently with Iacocca.

Speaking of leadership, the Center for Innovation in Engineering Education tomorrow kicks off its first talk this year in its Leadership for a Technological World lecture series. The speaker: Frank Moss, director of MIT’s Media Lab.

Moss, who earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton Engineering in 1971, will talk about Inventing the Future.

If you would like a sneak preview of what Moss might say, check out this two-part profile of Moss by Robert Buderi on Better yet: if you are in striking distance of Princeton, come to the talk.



Global warming gurus and Princeton professors Rob Socolow and Stephen Pacala are often in the news but this month they seem to be more in the news than usual.

In the July 13 issue of the journal Science, Rep. Rush Holt D-N.J. writes an essay on Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth and the movie of the same name. Holt, a Ph.D. physicist (one of the few scientists in Congress) says he finds Gore’s science solid, noting Gore’s endorsement of the “wedge model” of carbon reduction propounded by Socolow and Pacala.

Steven Mufson, writing in the Washington Post, describes the Socolow-Pacala wedge solution in great detail. “The impact of the wedges has been huge,” writes Mufson. Since the duo introduced the concept in 2004, he notes, each has “given about 100 talks, prodding scientists, policymakers and companies to attack global warming in concrete ways.”

The problem of climate change is daunting, Mufson acknowledges. But, Socolow tells him, “We’ve gone from a problem people scarcely recognized, to one that seemed impossible to address, to a serious determination to address it.”

Socolow also appears in a blog post by Andrew Revkin in New York Times this month, offering less sanguine words about whether solar panels might contribute much to the wedge approach in the near-term.

While Socolow and Pacala’s fan club grows larger by the minute, they have their critics. Among them is Warren Meyer, a small-business owner in Phoenix, Arizona, who received his undergraduate degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton in 1984. Earlier this month Meyer posted on his contrarian Coyote blog a draft of his book A Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic (Man-Made) Global Warming.

“Despite good evidence that global temperatures are rising and that CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and help to warm the Earth,” writes Meyer, “we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made CO2. We are even further away from being able to accurately project man’s impact on future climate.”

In other news, Rep. Holt (who wrote the Science essay mentioned above) has given no indication that he plans to leave his House seat in order to run for the Senate. Even so, is running a poll to see who would be likely to win the Democratic nomination for his House seat in such a scenario. The front runner? Juan Melli, a Princeton graduate student in mechanical and aerospace and founder of the liberal Blue Jersey blog, which has quickly become a must-read in New Jersey politics.


bigstockphoto_Bicycles_in_Motion_768961.jpg features a profile of Princeton undergraduate Nick Frey, who recently won the 2007 U.S. Espoir National Time Trial. Logging 25 hours a week in training surely contributed to Frey’s victory. But the article also details how Frey — who majors in mechanical and aerospace engineering — uses his knowledge of aerodynamics to his advantage.

Clearly, Frey is not the only engineer whose expertise gives him a sporting edge. Kyle Vanderlick is chairman of the chemical engineering department at Princeton and one of the world’s foremost experts on atomic-scale interactions that govern friction and adhesion between two surfaces. She is also a bowling champ. Read more to find out how her research informs her bowling.



As part of an hourlong feature on wired art, New Jersey Public Television’s State of the Arts will be broadcasting a piece tonight produced by Eric Schultz on the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, otherwise known as PLOrk.

The piece was actually recorded last year, shortly after PLOrk gave its world premiere performance, to much acclaim. So what have PLOrk cofounders Perry Cook and Dan Trueman been up to in the meantime?

Cook is making music with a lithophone originally created with sculptor Jonathan Shor for Quark Park. Drawing upon his digital music expertise, he also is researching an inexpensive way to screen patients for the risk of having a stroke and developing technologies to help those who suffer from aphasia.

Trueman has spent the last year as a Guggenheim fellow in part working on his Cyclotron, which he describes as a “tool for tweaking time” and “a visual interface for experimenting with rhythmic cycles.” Trueman invented his Cyclotron more than a decade ago. But during his sabbatical he decided to figure how to hook it up to ChucK, a new music programming language written by Ge Wang, who just finished his Ph.D. under Cook’s supervision and in the fall will join the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics as an assistant professor.

Last year Wang got high praise for ChucK from Linden Lab chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka (aka Cory Linden), who wrote in his blog that that he was blown away by ChucK when he came to Princeton to talk at the invitation of Ed Felten about Linden Lab’s 3-D virtual world Second Life.

By the way, the Educational Technologies Center at Princeton is building a campus on Second Life. Blogger Aleister Kronos — who recently got a sneak preview and tour from Princeton’s charming virtual tourguide, Persis Trilling — describes it on 3pointD, where you can take a peak at Nassau Hall’s virtual doppelganger. Just below is the Second Life version of Princeton’s Chancellor Green, where PLOrk gave a fabulous in-the-round performance last May. Surely PLOrk will be headlining on Princeton’s Second Life campus sometime soon.