Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Tech Innovator Eli Harari *73

Eli Harari *73 (Courtesy SanDisk)

Eli Harari *73 (Courtesy SanDisk)

Eli Harari *73, a Princeton engineering Ph.D. and computer-hardware pioneer, will receive the 2014 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the White House announced Oct. 3. Harari is one of 19 honorees in the fields of science and technology who will be honored by President Barack Obama later this year.

Harari’s idea for “system flash” memory sparked the creation of SanDisk, a Milpitas, Calif.-based company that began with three employees and now has more than 5,000. SanDisk technology is used in thousands of devices, from memory cards and USB drives to mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. “We’re now connected in ways that would not be possible without the technologies that Eli helped pioneer,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, SanDisk’s co-founder, president, and CEO, in a news release.

Fellow graduate alumnus Arthur Levinson *77, a former CEO of Genentech and Princeton’s 2006 James Madison Medal recipient, also will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Levinson was our Tiger of the Week three years ago when he took over as the non-executive chairman of Apple following the death of Steve Jobs. He currently heads Calico, a research and development company in California, and works with former Princeton professor David Botstein, Calico’s chief scientific officer.

Video: Eli Harari *73 on engineering after Princeton, courtesy of Princeton Engineering Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Conservationist Paula Kahumbu *02

Paula Kahumbu *02 speaks at the 2009 PopTech conference in Camden, Maine. (Courtesy Kris Krüg/Flickr)

Paula Kahumbu *02 speaks at the 2009 PopTech conference in Camden, Maine. (Courtesy Kris Krüg/Flickr)

The future of the African elephant is very much in jeopardy, with ivory in high demand in parts of Asia and poaching on the rise. Paula Kahumbu *02 works on the front lines of the battle to save elephants — and rhinoceroses, lions, and other endangered animals — serving as CEO of WildlifeDirect, an organization founded by the anthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey. The ongoing efforts of Kahumbu and Leakey were featured on the cover of Newsweek in early September.

Kahumbu also made headlines last month for leading the charge to assist Kenyan authorities in finding and arresting businessman Feisal Ali Mohamed, a suspected ivory trafficker — an effort that did not find a receptive audience from the national government. She wrote a NationalGeographic.com column about her disappointing encounter with Kenya’s Inspector General David Kimaiyo, who heads wildlife security. Saving elephants, she said, goes beyond wildlife conservation. “Ivory trafficking is a serious international crime, and it involves organized criminal cartels,” she wrote. “It threatens Kenya’s economy, security, and future aspirations. It’s every Kenyan’s business.” In the Newsweek story, Kahumbu added, “There are probably another 10 Feisals operating in Kenya right now.”

Kahumbu, who earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), has conducted field work in Kenya and taught Princeton undergraduates in the EEB department’s Kenya semester. She joined WildlifeDirect in 2007. The group’s board includes fellow Princetonians John Heminway ’66 and Katie Carpenter ’79, documentary filmmakers whose collaborations include A Year on Earth (2006) and Battle for the Elephants (2013). Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: MacArthur Fellow Jonathan Rapping *92

Jonathan Rapping *92 (Courtesy the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Jonathan Rapping *92 (Courtesy the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Lawyer Jonathan Rapping *92 and his wife, Ilham Askia, two leading advocates of legal defense for the poor, created the Atlanta-based organization Gideon’s Promise to train and support public defenders. (The name comes from Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 Supreme Court case that required state courts to provide counsel to defendants who are unable to afford an attorney.) Since the group’s founding in 2007, it has grown to include a community of 300 attorneys, and Rapping’s work has been featured in the award-winning documentary film Gideon’s Army.

This week, Gideon’s Promise received an additional boost when Rapping was chosen as a 2014 MacArthur fellow, an honor that comes with a $625,000 no-strings-attached stipend, paid out over five years. Popularly known as the “genius grant,” the award is given to “exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future,” according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has selected more than 900 fellows since the program began in 1981.

Rapping, a Woodrow Wilson School MPA graduate who subsequently completed law school at George Washington University, is one of four fellows honored for their work “to address persistent social challenges.” He also serves as an associate professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.

Rapping told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he sees public defense as civil rights work for the current generation of lawyers. “I’ve met passionate defenders who entered the legal profession for the right reasons, and the system beat the passion out of them,” Rapping said. “So my wife and I started an organization, a supportive community of lawyers who are working to force the system to live up to its highest ideals.” As for the money, he told the newspaper that it would help Gideon’s Promise “keep the doors open,” which can be an annual challenge for nonprofits. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: N.J. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner ’82

New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner ’82, right, with Gov. Chris Christie in May. (New Jersey Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner ’82, right, with Gov. Chris Christie in May. (New Jersey Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

As Princeton students were preparing to return to class this week, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner ’82 headed back to work, beginning a new term Sept. 8. Rabner, who was reappointed to his post in May, now has tenure until he turns 70 (the mandatory retirement age), and according to Star-Ledger reporter Salvador Rizzo, he “is likely to become one of the most influential legal minds of his generation.”

Since becoming the state’s top judge in 2007, Rabner has presided over important cases on hot-button issues, including same-sex marriage and the right to privacy. Appointed by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, Rabner has made recent decisions that were opposed by the current governor, Republican Chris Christie. But after what Christie described as a “vigorous” discussion of Supreme Court appointments, he nominated Rabner for tenure. “I’ve disagreed with him, and I’ve expressed that publicly,” Christie said. “But never have I thought that he hasn’t run the courts in a fair, effective, efficient manner; never have I thought that he’s brought any bias or partisanship to his execution of his duties as chief justice; and never have I thought that he wasn’t eminently qualified.”

Rabner, a Harvard Law graduate and former federal prosecutor, said in a recent interview with the Star-Ledger that his devotion to justice is inspired partly by family history. Both of his parents immigrated from Poland after surviving the Holocaust. “How do you not have an appreciation for how important the rule of law is, thinking about the experience that my parents and others like them went through?” he told the newspaper. “To be able to come to work and to have as an obligation to be faithful to the rule of law, which is part of the oath that we take, that’s an immensely important thing and a meaningful one.” Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: Tech Innovators Emily Cole *09 and Jonathan Viventi ’03 *04

Emily Cole *09 is a chemistry Ph.D. working on ways to convert carbon dioxide into dozens of other chemicals for commercial use. Jonathan Viventi ’03 *04 is a biomedical engineer whose research could improve the medical community’s understanding of epilepsy. While their work seems unlikely to cross paths, Cole and Viventi do share one notable distinction: Both are included in the annual MIT Technology Review list of 35 Innovators Under 35, published this week in the magazine’s September/October issue.

Emily Cole *09 (Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Emily Cole *09 (Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Cole, the chief science officer of the start-up Liquid Light, began her innovative research as a graduate student in the lab of Princeton professor Andrew Bocarsly, one of Liquid Light’s three founders. Building on earlier work published by Bocarsly, Cole developed new technology to convert carbon dioxide into additional chemicals, such as ethylene glycol, used in plastic bottles. Carbon conversion has become a hot topic because of its potential to reduce greenhouse gasses, and Liquid Light has secured funding from several venture capital firms.

Jonathan Viventi ’03 *04 (Courtesy NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering)

Jonathan Viventi ’03 *04 (Courtesy NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering)

Viventi, an assistant professor of computer engineering at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, has developed a thin, flexible, and implantable sensor that collects detailed data about electrical activity in the brain. So far, the technology has only been used in animals, but Viventi hopes it is an early step in the path to a device that could detect and arrest epileptic seizures, according to an NYU release, in the way that implanted defibrillators detect and treat irregular heartbeats. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Poet Galway Kinnell ’48

Galway Kinnell ’48 at a 2009 reading. (T. Carrigan/Flickr)

Galway Kinnell ’48 at a 2009 reading. (T. Carrigan/Flickr)

When former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin revived the practice of appointing a state poet laureate in 1989, she didn’t need to look far for her first selection. Galway Kinnell ’48, a Pulitzer Prize winner who lives in Sheffield, Vt., about an hour north of the capital in Montpelier, accepted the post, becoming Vermont’s first poet laureate since Robert Frost — and in Kunin’s words, “a treasure for the state.”

Earlier this month, Kinnell returned to the Statehouse for a ceremony celebrating the 87-year-old poet’s life and career. Kunin was on hand, along with several poets and family members who read favorite poems from Kinnell’s career and selections of their own work.

Kinnell, a friend and Princeton classmate of former U.S. poet laureate W.S. Merwin ’48, was a student during the early years of the University’s creative writing program, when the faculty included poets R.P. Blackmur and John Berryman. But he shied away from poetry courses. “The true reason I didn’t enroll was that I didn’t feel my poetry was developed enough,” he explained in a 2011 interview with American Poetry Review. “I didn’t want to submit work that I already knew was badly flawed. But one of the professors in the English department, Charles Bell, saw something in my poems. I liked his poems, too, and we developed a wonderful, lifelong poetry friendship, during which our meetings were sometimes very much like workshops.”

Kinnell’s modesty has endured, even after publishing 18 books of poetry and prose and receiving the American Academy of Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award in 2010, for “proven mastery in the art of poetry.” “A poet should not call himself a ‘poet,’” he said in the  2011 American Poetry Review interview. “Being a poet is so marvelous an accomplishment that it would be boasting to say it of oneself.”