Princeton celebrates innovations that can benefit society at annual event

Written by
Alaina O'Regan, Office of the Dean for Research
Oct. 18, 2023

Princeton University opened its doors last week to the broader entrepreneurial community to engage with faculty members and their teams whose research provides solutions in technology, energy and the environment, health and more at the annual Celebrate Princeton Innovation event.

 Dean for Research Peter Schiffer at the podium

 Dean for Research Peter Schiffer highlighted Princeton's commitment to serve humanity and the world through research and scholarship. Photo by Tori Repp


This year at the October 12 reception, Princeton's new Dean for Research Peter Schiffer, professor of physics, highlighted the university’s commitment to serving humanity and the world through research and scholarship. “Some of the work we do is immediately translatable to practice, while other research may lead to innovations far in the future, or simply expand our worldview and help us to better understand ourselves and the universe around us,” Schiffer said.

Princeton faculty members were on hand to explain their findings in person with members of the venture capital community, industry, as well as those in the Princeton campus community, sparking new collaborations and ideas. The event, which was held in the Frick Chemistry Laboratory Atrium, is sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Research, including the Office of Technology Licensing and the Office of the Vice Dean for Innovation, as well as by the law firm of Meagher Emanuel Laks Goldberg & Liao, LLP.

Provost speaking at the podium.

Provost Jennifer Rexford reflected on how innovation and entrepreneurship connect to Princeton's missions of research, teaching and service. Photo by Tori Repp

Innovation and entrepreneurship are central to the mission of Princeton, said Jen Rexford, Provost and the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering and Professor of Computer Science. “Innovation and entrepreneurship reflect the three main pillars of the university: research, teaching and service,” she said. “Here, in particular, innovation often has an interdisciplinary flavor because we have this incredible, intimate campus full of high quality departments, as well as new and emerging interdisciplinary institutions.”

Princeton’s Vice Dean for Innovation Craig Arnold welcomed the faculty and guests in attendance, emphasizing the importance of opening the conversation to support innovative growth. “We’re celebrating some of the incredible inventions, technologies, and ideas that are generated at Princeton, and the researchers who turn them into products and services that positively impact the world,” he said.

Keynote speaker at the podium.

Keynote speaker Andrew Hsieh, who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton, is the co-founder and CEO of Liminal Insights, a startup company developing lithium-battery evaluation technologies based on discoveries made at Princeton. Photo by Tori Repp.

Princeton innovators often go on to start companies to translate their discoveries into real-world societal benefits. Andrew Hsieh, co-founder and CEO of Liminal Insights, spoke about his journey from making a discovery as a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton to starting a company whose mission is to catalyze a global transition to electric vehicles by helping battery manufacturers achieve higher levels of production quality and efficiency at a lower cost. “My training as a scientist at Princeton really served me well as an entrepreneur,” he said. “As a university and a community we should continue to strengthen the scaffolding and support for scientific entrepreneurs, and a big part of that is facilitating conversations and helping trainees build their networks.”

Award presentation

Vice Dean for Innovation Craig Arnold hands awards to Peter Jaffé, William L. Knapp '47 Professor of Civil Engineering, and Shan Huang, professional specialist, for their discovery of bacteria that break down persistent environmental contaminants. The two won the Dean for Research Award for Distinguished Innovation. Photo by Tori Repp

The discovery of a bacterium that can biodegrade harmful environmental chemicals earned two researchers the 2023 Dean for Research Award for Distinguished Innovation. Peter Jaffé, William L. Knapp Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Shan Huang, professional specialist in civil and environmental engineering, are developing technologies that harness this bacterium to remove PFAS (per and poly-flourinated alkyl substances) from contaminated soil and water. “To do this kind of research, you need a lot of support,” Jaffe said. “Without the help from Princeton and dedicated alumni that supported us, we could not have done this work.” Jaffé thanked the Princeton School of Engineering and Applied Science’s support of the early-stage research, and especially the Helen Shipley Hunt Fund, named for Helen Hunt, who earned a master’s degree in mathematics at Princeton in 1971 and was in attendance at the event.

Award winners at Celebrate Princeton Innovation

Dean for Research Peter Schiffer stands with Tiger Entrepreneur Award-winner Lou Chen, Class of 2019; Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, and Vice Dean for Innovation Craig Arnold. Photo by Tori Repp

The impacts of Princeton-based entrepreneurship go beyond developing new technologies and processes that improve people’s lives. The recipient of the seventh annual Tiger Entrepreneur award, Lou Chen, Class of 2019, created a youth orchestra in Trenton to meet the needs of students in the neighboring community who do not have access to the same resources as students in Princeton. Chen’s idea soon grew into Trenton Arts at Princeton (TAP), which Chen helped establish in 2019 and now runs. It includes not only the Trenton Youth Orchestra (TYO) that he originally envisioned, but also Trenton Youth Singers, Trenton Youth Dancers and Trenton Youth Theater that make up the Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) program on campus. “In the process of building and growing his idea, Lou has become a passionate advocate for accessible arts education and for place-based community engagement,” said Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, who presented the award.

Discover all of this year’s featured innovations on the Celebrate Princeton Innovation event page, and learn more about how Princeton researchers are changing the world through innovation. 

View the photo gallery from the event.