Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tigers of the Week: Astronomy Prizewinners Claire Max *72 and David Weinberg *89

David Weinberg *89 (Lisa Florman)

David Weinberg *89 (Lisa Florman)

Claire Max *72 (Sameer A. Khan)

Claire Max *72 (Sameer A. Khan)

Two Princeton graduate alumni — Claire Max *72, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California–Santa Cruz, and David Weinberg *89, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State University — were recognized for their achievements in instrument development and scientific research at last week’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. Max received the Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation, and Weinberg was awarded the Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize. Past Tiger of the Week honoree and Princeton professor David Spergel ’82 also was among the AAS prizewinners, sharing the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics with colleague Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins.

Max, the 2009 winner of Princeton’s James Madison Medal, is an expert in adaptive optics, which enables earth-based telescopes to see distant objects more clearly by correcting for image distortions produced by the earth’s atmosphere. Specifically, the AAS award recognized her invention of sodium-laser-guide-star adaptive optics, and her long-term contributions to the field. “Her leadership has transformed how we observe by making near-diffraction-limited imaging possible on large ground-based telescopes, thus opening new fields of discovery including resolving stars and gas near supermassive black holes and studying extrasolar planets,” the AAS release said.

Weinberg, who was recognized for “highly meritorious work in advancing the science of astronomy,” delivered the final plenary lecture of the AAS meeting, an overview of insights in cosmology and galaxy evolution drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which has been actively mapping the universe since 2000. Weinberg’s involvement with SDSS actually dates back to 1992, when he was a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study. In addition to his research and teaching, Weinberg has collaborated with artist Josiah McElheny on cosmology-inspired sculptures. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: George Hawkins ’83, Water Authority Chief

George Hawkins ’83 (Courtesy DC Water)

George Hawkins ’83 (Courtesy DC Water)

As CEO and general manager of DC Water, Washington’s water authority, George Hawkins ’83 helps to provide clean water and wastewater management to a city of more than 600,000 people. But his interest in water and the environment began far from the pumping stations and treatment facilities that are now his domain.

Hawkins was an associate at the Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, not long after his graduation from Harvard Law School, when a partner asked if he would be interested in working on a project examining environmental issues. The case centered on a manufacturer’s new water conservation plans, how the change would affect the concentration of chemical discharge at its factory, and which EPA regulations would apply.

“I loved it from the minute I got it,” Hawkins said. “It was one of those moments in life — it was very clear that this lined up everything that I ever liked in the humanities and sciences, all in one project.”

From that moment forward, Hawkins said, he knew that he wanted to be in the environmental field. The path led him to a job at the EPA; later work directing the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, near Princeton, and New Jersey Future, a smart-growth advocacy group; and most recently, recognition as one of Governing magazine’s 2014 Public Officials of the Year, for his forward-looking management of DC Water. Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: Princeton’s SPIDER Scientific Ballooning Project Team

The SPIDER payload, in warmer climes. (Jon Gudmundsson *14)

The SPIDER instruments, in warmer climes. (Jon Gudmundsson *14)

While other Princetonians were marking the start of 2015 at holiday parties, a team of stalwart scientists led by assistant professor of physics William Jones ’98 gathered in Antarctica to launch a research balloon that will collect information about gravitational waves from about 110,000 feet above the Earth.

The project, called SPIDER (for “Suborbital Polarimeter for Inflation, Dust and the Epoch of Reionization”), could provide new insights about the early stages of the Big Bang. But first, the high-tech payload of telescopes needed to reach its perch in the stratosphere. After threatening weather cleared, SPIDER was able to lift off on Jan. 1. News of the successful launch was featured in The New York Times. Associate research scholar Zigmund Kermish ’03 also described the researchers’ experience on the project blog.

In addition to Kermish and Jones, the 21-member SPIDER team includes alumni John Ruhl *93, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University; C. Barth Netterfield *95, a professor of astronomy at the University of Toronto; Aurelien Fraisse *10, an associate research scholar at Princeton; and Jon Gudmundsson *14, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton.

The SPIDER launch initially was slated for December 2013, but a 16-day federal government shutdown in October 2013 forced a one-year delay. Jones told PAW at the time that the postponement stemmed from “a terrible confluence of politics, our artificial fiscal calendar, and the very real reality of the Antarctic climate.”

The story appears headed for a happy ending. Each of the subsystems was operating as planned shortly after liftoff, according to Kermish’s post. “Right now, we’re all an interesting amalgam of exhausted, thrilled, and wired by caffeine, as we watch the balloon disappear from view,” he wrote. “I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.”

WATCH: Video of the SPIDER launch Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: 2014

PAW’s Tiger of the Week feature will be taking a break for the next two weeks, but we encourage readers to keep sending nominations of alumni doing interesting or notable things. Many of our honorees make headlines, but several have made their mark away from the public spotlight — and fellow alumni often are the ones who bring their stories to our attention. Follow the links below to read about the alumni featured in 2014.

William Hudnut III ’54 and Steve Adler ’78

Golf Pro Kelly Shon ’14

Rhodes Scholar Joseph Barrett ’14

Author S.C. Gwynne ’74

Disease Detective Rebecca Levine ’01

Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: William Hudnut III ’54 and Steve Adler ’78

Our Tiger of the Week honors this week go to two big-city mayors, one former and one soon-to-be: William Hudnut III ’54, Indianapolis’ longest-serving mayor, who was honored last weekend with a statue that commemorates his contributions to the city; and Steve Adler ’78, the mayor-elect in Austin, Texas, who won a Dec. 16 runoff election for the post.

A clay model of the “Mayor Bill” sculpture. (Courtesy Alan Mayers ’54)

A clay model of the “Mayor Bill” sculpture. (Courtesy Alan Mayers ’54)

Hudnut, the Indianapolis mayor from 1976 to 1992, oversaw an era of remarkable growth in the city. Last year, officials announced the creation of Hudnut Commons, a downtown park refurbished in his honor, and on Sunday, with help from private donors, the city unveiled a final addition: a sculpture called “Mayor Bill,” which depicts Hudnut on a park bench, in a relaxed, affable pose. “I’m grateful that this is a recognition ceremony, not a memorial service,” Hudnut said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I’m embarrassed to get so much credit for this and have this unveiled to me. This should be unveiled to the staff who helped pull this off.”

The ceremony preceded a home game for the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL team that Hudnut lured to town in 1984. “Mayors tend to do some gutsy things,” current Mayor Greg Ballard said, according to FOX 59. “Some are risk adverse, some are gutsy, but I am here to tell you that the gutsiest thing I ever knew of was building a stadium without a football team. … Holy cow! But it worked.”

Adler, a lawyer and longtime Austinite, is a relative newcomer to electoral politics. He served as chief of staff for a state senator in the 1990s and has been a member of civic and nonprofit boards. He received the endorsement of outgoing mayor Lee Leffingwell and earned the most votes in a crowded November election, falling shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

On Tuesday, Adler received two-thirds of the popular vote and defeated City Councilman Mike Martinez. The mayor-elect delivered a message of unity in his victory speech, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “If there is a city that is positioned to get out ahead of poverty, and to get ahead of gentrification, it’s Austin, Texas,” Adler said.

WATCH: Video coverage of the “Mayor Bill” unveiling and Adler’s election victory

Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Golf Pro Kelly Shon ’14

Kelly Shon ’14 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Kelly Shon ’14 (Office of Athletic Communications)

After finishing her senior season at Princeton, golfer Kelly Shon ’14 decided to test herself against a new level of competition in pro tournaments on the Symetra Tour, a minor-league circuit for the LPGA. Last weekend, she earned a promotion: With a top-10 finish in the LPGA’s qualifying tournament, she earned her LPGA Tour card for 2015.

Shon will be the first Princeton woman — and third Ivy League alumna — to play regularly on the LPGA Tour. At Princeton, she was one of the most accomplished players the women’s golf team has ever seen — a two-time Ivy Player of the Year and three-time All-Ivy competitor who earned the league’s best-ever individual finish at the NCAA Championships in 2013 (tied for 37th).

Shon’s recent success came in her second pass through the marathon five-day tournament known in golf circles as “Q-School.” Last year, she played well enough to gain entry on the Symetra Tour but fell short of the LPGA cutoff. This time, Shon carded a 6-under-par 354 to graduate in a class of 20 tour qualifiers, including 14 rookies. She completed the weekend with a tap-in for an even-par 72 on Sunday.

“All the weight on my shoulders just dropped right there,” the Port Washington, N.Y., native told Newsday. “Making it on the tour was my next goal and now I have bigger goals.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Rhodes Scholar Joseph Barrett ’14

Joseph Barrett ’14 at Alumni Day in February 2014. (Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Joseph Barrett ’14 at Alumni Day in February 2014. (Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Joseph Barrett ’14, one of two Pyne Prize recipients from last June’s graduating class, has spent the past few months working to expand the Petey Greene Program, a prison-education nonprofit founded by alumni Jim Farrin ’58 and Charles Puttkammer ’58. Barrett had tutored inmates in GED studies and adult basic education during his time as an undergraduate. Now, as the regional field manager in Massachusetts, he builds partnerships between colleges and nearby correctional facilities. But Barrett’s work will take a detour next fall: Last week, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, joining two current undergraduates, Rachel Skokowski ’15 and Sarah Yerima ’15, in the class of 32 American recipients.

The news, Barrett said, was both exciting and shocking. “It was a really impressive group there as finalists — they could have chosen anyone,” he said. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Author S.C. Gwynne ’74

S.C. Gwynne ’74 (Corey Arnold)

S.C. Gwynne ’74 (Corey Arnold)

As a writer and executive editor for Texas Monthly, S.C. (Sam) Gwynne ’74 covered big names of the early 21st century, including White House adviser Karl Rove and football phenom Johnny Manziel. But as an author of nonfiction books, Gwynne has found a niche telling the stories of notable 19th-century figures. His 2010 book about Comanche chief Quanah Parker, Empire of the Summer Moon, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. His new release, Rebel Yell, a biography of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, has spent four weeks on the New York Times Best-Sellers list and earned praise from reviewers. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Disease Detective Rebecca Levine ’01

Rebecca Levine ’01 of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service during her September deployment in Sierra Leone. (Courtesy CDC)

Rebecca Levine ’01 of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service during her September deployment in Sierra Leone. (Courtesy CDC)

In July, Rebecca “Bex” Levine ’01 started a new job as an officer in Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. She spent one month in training and then began working as a disease detective on one of the most significant health challenges in recent years: the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Levine was deployed for a month in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with a CDC team that supported local partners in epidemiology and contract tracing, finding the people who’ve come in direct contact with sick Ebola patients. She will be heading back for another 30-day stretch beginning in mid-December.

The Ebola outbreak’s size and scope has presented significant barriers for public health officials, according to Levine. “It does sound like a major undertaking for us, as we sit here in the United States,” she said. “Take all of that and put it in a context where computers are not regularly used, where power is not reliable, where resources are so incredibly limited.” What we might think of as easy tasks, she said, become “immense challenges” in Sierra Leone. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Comeback Pitcher Chris Young ’02

Chris Young ’02 (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Chris Young ’02 (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Last December, when former All-Star pitcher Chris Young ’02 came to Princeton to speak on a panel of alumni baseball pros, he said in a PAW interview that he was ready to get back on the mound in the major leagues after missing nearly all of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury. “I’ve always said I want to play as long as I possibly can,” Young said. “I’m 34 right now, and I feel like there are still some good years ahead of me.”

Young’s peers agree: Last week, the Seattle Mariners righthander was voted the American League Comeback Player of the Year by a group of more than 100 players surveyed by Sporting News. Young finished the season with a 12-9 record and a 3.65 earned-run average in 29 starts. He pitched 165 innings, the most since his All-Star season in 2007.

Young had surgery in the offseason to correct a nerve injury that affected his pitching arm. “To think he won as many games as he did, and made 29 starts, coming off the type of surgery and the injuries that he had, I think it’s just tremendous,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told Sporting News. “He is a tireless worker and showed his determination with his performance.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Richard Preston *83, Back on the Ebola Story

Richard Preston *83 (Nancy Jo Johnson)

Richard Preston *83 (Nancy Jo Johnson)

Twenty years ago, Richard Preston *83’s best-seller, The Hot Zone, introduced readers to the Ebola virus in what was billed on the cover as a “terrifying true story.” When Ebola returned to the headlines in recent months, Preston came back to the story, reporting for The New Yorker, the magazine for which Preston first covered the Ebola story in 1992.

In August, Preston told the story of Daniel Bausch, an American doctor in an Ebola ward in Kenema, Sierra Leone. This week, the magazine published “The Ebola Wars,” Preston’s in-depth look at the situation on the ground in Sierra Leone intertwined with reporting on scientists at MIT’s Broad Institute who are working to understand Ebola’s genome. He also traced the stories of American Ebola survivors Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, and U.S. hospitals’ first encounter with the virus. “We weren’t prepared,” Preston told CNN on Monday. “I would say that many health workers in Africa were more prepared for Ebola than people in the most sophisticated hospitals in the U.S. This is a learning curve, but they’re coming up fast on that learning curve in the United States, and I have confidence that they’re going to be able to handle it.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Senate Candidate Greg Orman ’91

Greg Orman ’91 (Wikipedia)

Greg Orman ’91 (Wikipedia)

A few months ago, Greg Orman ’91 was a little-known independent candidate in the race for a Senate seat in Kansas, where the entrepreneur and investor lives. But as Orman has picked up momentum, endorsements, and some promising poll numbers — along with an assist from Democrats, who withdrew their candidate to avoid splitting votes — he’s earned some new titles: “Stormin’ Orman” (via The Economist); “the most interesting man in politics” (according to NBC’s Chuck Todd); and, if he were to defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, perhaps the “Senate kingmaker” (The New York Times).

By PAW’s count, there are at least nine alumni running for Congressional seats this fall — five Democrats, three Republicans, and one independent — and Orman’s race is by far the most closely watched. Poll trackers believe that Orman, who has said he’ll caucus with the majority party, could block the Republicans’ bid to claim a majority in the Senate (the latest New York Times odds put the probability of that outcome at 14 percent).

Orman, an economics major at Princeton, hinted at his political independence in his senior yearbook entry, which included a quote by independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. While he seems destined to be wooed by both parties, for now he’s being critical of both and pushing for bipartisan cooperation. “We’re still sending the worst of both parties to Washington — people who seem more interested in getting reelected than they do in solving problems,” he said last month, according to The Atlantic. “They draw childish lines in the sand, they refuse to cooperate, and as a result, inaction has replaced leadership when it comes to solving our most pressing problems.” Continue reading

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: Roger Nierenberg ’69, a Maestro of Organizational Dynamics

Roger Nierenberg ’69, left. (Courtesy Portfolio Publishing)

Roger Nierenberg ’69, left. (Courtesy Portfolio Publishing)

For nearly two decades, conductor Roger Nierenberg ’69 has used examples from orchestral music to illustrate principles of organizational dynamics that apply in other contexts. Hundreds of companies, in industries ranging from health care to finance, have invited him to conduct his interactive Music Paradigm seminars, which feature live orchestra rehearsals. And Nierenberg continues to find new fans — including music critic James R. Oestreich, who recently reviewed a Music Paradigm session in The New York Times.

Nierenberg, meeting with nursing directors at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, “was making real music and making good sense,” Oestreich wrote, when the conductor began his rehearsal with string players from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He also modeled dysfunctional dynamics, acting aloof or micromanaging, before finishing with a performance that illustrated best practices. A conversation with the nursing directors followed.

Nierenberg, who outlined his program in the 2009 book Maestro, was deeply engaged in music by the time he began his undergraduate years at Princeton, and during his time on campus, he was active in the University Orchestra, the Glee Club, the Opera Club, and the Princeton Chamber Singers. He served as music director of the Stamford (Conn.) Symphony and the Jacksonville Symphony in the 1980s and ’90s before turning his attention to the Music Paradigm program. “I found, somewhat to my astonishment, that it was a very potent business tool,” Nierenberg told PAW in 2002. “It grew slowly, by tiny increments. I, and others, began to discover the power of music as metaphor.” 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.”

Tiger of the Week: Fields Medal Recipient Manjul Bhargava *01

Manjul Bhargava *01 (Courtesy International Mathematical Union)

Manjul Bhargava *01 (Courtesy International Mathematical Union)

High-level math is not all fun and games, but for alumnus and Princeton professor Manjul Bhargava *01, games can be an important part. Bhargava, one of four mathematicians to receive the Fields Medal last week, has used games to help visualize problems. He explained one notable example in an interview with New Scientist:

“Gauss’ law [of composition] says that you can compose two quadratic forms, which you can think of as a square of numbers, to get a third square. I was in California in the summer of 1998, and I had a 2 x 2 x 2 mini Rubik’s Cube. I was just visualizing putting numbers on each of the corners, and I saw these binary quadratic forms coming out, three of them. I just sat down and wrote out the relations between them. It was a great day!”

Bhargava teaches a freshman seminar called “The Mathematics of Magic Tricks and Games,” which uses card tricks and the like to dig into meaty math topics such as number theory, topology, and cryptography. But his interests don’t end with groundbreaking math and clever magic: He also plays the tabla, a traditional Indian drum, and enjoys rhythmic Sanskrit poetry, according to a Quanta Magazine profile.

Bhargava is the eighth Princeton mathematician to receive the Fields Medal, presented every four years to influential researchers under age 40. His fellow 2014 honorees included the first woman to win the award, Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University, who taught at Princeton from 2004 to 2010.

READ MORE: Bhargava’s thoughts on the intersection of music, poetry, and mathematics, from a 2010 PAW story.

Tiger of the Week: Clayton Raithel ’12 To Debut Show at Fringe Festival

Clayton Raithel ’12 (Taylor Hooper Photography)

Clayton Raithel ’12 (Taylor Hooper Photography)

In the year after graduating from Princeton, Clayton Raithel ’12 faced a series of obstacles. He was living in a new city, dealing with a painful breakup, and unsure about his career plans — familiar territory for new college grads. But for Raithel, the sadness and anxiety caused more than a temporary low. “I think my friends can attest to the fact that I wasn’t me,” he says.

Raithel learned that he was depressed. In the course of seeking therapy and treatment, he found himself talking about his depression with just about anyone who would listen. And because he’s an aspiring comedian, he began to highlight the humor in each story. “As I got more and more distance from it, I would find natural punch lines,” he says.

The Quipfire! and Triangle Club alumnus decided to turn his experiences into a one-man show called Smile. Today through Aug. 24, Raithel will perform the hour-long Smile as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, with classmate Jeff Kuperman ’12 and his brother, Rick Kuperman, directing the production.

Creating Smile helped Raithel to process what he was going through, and he says that he hopes the show will help to destigmatize depression. In preparing for the Fringe performances, he has been focusing on practical issues, such as timing his delivery of particular lines, but he adds that “there are moments when I still feel very close to the material.”

While comedy is still very much in his future plans, Raithel also has found a second career direction. Last summer, he returned to his hometown in Massachusetts to volunteer at a special-needs camp where he had worked in previous years, and the experience inspired him to pursue a nursing degree. He recently completed his first semester in the nursing program at Columbia University.


This year’s New York International Fringe Festival also is home to a new play by John Simon ’63 and his wife, C.C. Loveheart. Jackass Flats, set in Las Vegas in the early 1950s, was inspired by Loveheart’s childhood in Nevada. Show times are posted at fringenyc.org.

Tiger of the Week: Energy Regulator Cheryl LaFleur ’75

Cheryl LaFleur ’75, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Courtesy FERC)

Cheryl LaFleur ’75, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Courtesy FERC)

Cheryl LaFleur ’75, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) since 2010 and acting chair of the commission since November, officially took the helm as chairwoman last week. Her appointment had been approved in the Senate two weeks earlier by a 90-7 vote, and her term as chair runs through April 15, 2015. In a statement released by FERC, LaFleur said she was “very honored to lead the commission at such an important time for the nation’s energy infrastructure and markets.”

LaFleur spent part of the week on Capitol Hill, speaking on behalf of FERC, which oversees much of the nation’s energy infrastructure, including interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. President Barack Obama’s push for stronger limits on carbon emissions has put LaFleur and her fellow commissioners in the spotlight. While the Environmental Protection Agency is at the helm of the Clean Power Plan, LaFleur said, “FERC can and should help the EPA understand the implications that such regulations may have on electric reliability and support utility compliance with those regulations where necessary and to the extent possible.”

A politics major at Princeton, LaFleur continued her education at Harvard Law School and later began work in the energy industry at New England Electric System and its successor, National Grid USA. She eventually served as executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid before leaving the company in 2007.

Tiger of the Week: Architect Tod Williams ’65 *67

National Medal of Art recipient Tod Williams ’65 *67, left, looks on as President Barack Obama congratulates Williams’ wife and fellow honoree Billie Tsien. (WhiteHouse.gov)

National Medal of Arts recipient Tod Williams ’65 *67, left, looks on as President Barack Obama congratulates Williams’ wife and fellow honoree Billie Tsien. (WhiteHouse.gov)

Architect Tod Williams ’65 *67 and his wife and professional partner Billie Tsien have made their mark on American urban landscapes with award-winning projects such as the David Rubenstein Atrium at New York’s Lincoln Center, the Barnes Foundation museum in Philadelphia, and Skirkanich Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. Their firm, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, also designed Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, currently under construction next to the Engineering Quadrangle.

On Monday, Williams and Tsien visited the White House to receive the latest honor in their distinguished careers: the National Medal of Arts. Joining them on the list of 2013 honorees were dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones, singer Linda Ronstadt, visual artist James Turrell, and a handful of other notable names from the fields of literature, music, and film.

The National Endowment for the Arts citation for Tsien and Williams hailed their contributions to their field, both as practitioners and educators: “Whether public or private, their deliberate and inspired designs have a profound effect on the lives of those who interact with them, and their teaching and spirit of service have inspired young people to pursue their passions.”

While Williams and Tsien often make headlines for their innovative designs or their creative use of materials, the last year has also seen them in the news as defenders of one of their most memorable creations, the Folk Art Museum in New York City, which was demolished by its new owner, the Museum of Modern Art, just 13 years after its completion. “Yes, all buildings one day will turn to dust, but this building could have been reused,” Williams told The New York Times. “Unfortunately, the imagination and the will were not there.”

Video: Take a look inside the New York office of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in a 2013 video produced by the American Institute of Architects. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: John Sawin ’07, Amateur Golf Standout

John Sawin ’07, at the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Elverson, Pa., July 16. (Courtesy the Golf Association of Philadelphia)

John Sawin ’07, at the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Elverson, Pa., July 16. (Courtesy the Golf Association of Philadelphia)

Last year, John Sawin ’07 was working 80 to 90 hours a week in an investment banking job in California, using whatever free time he had to play golf, a sport he’s loved since childhood and excelled in at Princeton. He managed to play well enough to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship — his first USGA qualification after a dozen years of trying — and later won the Stocker Cup Invitational, a top amateur tournament in Northern California.

With his game reaching a new peak, Sawin made the bold decision to leave his job as a vice president at Barclays Capital and spend a year competing in amateur golf events around the country.

“I wanted to see how good I could get,” Sawin told PAW. “What would happen if I spent all my time playing, and preparing to play, competitive golf?”

What has been a rewarding experience got even better last week as Sawin qualified for two national championships in the span of six days: He shared medalist honors at the U.S. Amateur qualifier at Stonewall in Elverson, Pa., July 16, and gained entry to the U.S. Mid-Amateur, for players age 25 and older, in a July 21 qualifier at Huntingdon Valley (Pa.) Country Club. (Michael Davis, an incoming Princeton freshman, caddied for Sawin in the latter event.) Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Danielle Allen ’93, Up Close and Personal With the Declaration of Independence

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Can a single period change the way we think about one of the United States’ founding documents? Danielle Allen ’93 thinks so. Allen, a professor and political theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study, notes in her new book, Our Declaration, that there is a discrepancy between the parchment version of the Declaration of Independence and the official transcript in the National Archives: In the latter, a period appears after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” reshaping the meaning of a section that discusses both individual rights and the government’s role in protecting those rights.

“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Allen explained in The New York Times. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

The historical detail was big news on the eve of Independence Day, receiving coverage from the Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, PBS NewsHour, and dozens of other media outlets. But it was just one example extracted from a remarkably detailed examination of the Declaration of Independence. As Washington Post reviewer Thane Rosenbaum noted, relatively few Americans have read the full 1,337-word document or can recall much about the group of five men who drafted it — no, it was not Thomas Jefferson’s work alone. But Allen, applying a “geek’s gaze” and her experiences as a teacher and scholar, brings the full story to life, Rosenbaum wrote, with a book that is “not just an invaluable civics lesson but also a poignant personal memoir.”

Allen, a classics major at Princeton, completed Ph.D. studies in classics and government at Cambridge and Harvard, respectively, before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago. She joined the Institute for Advanced Study in 2007, and in a PAW feature published the following year, she talked about her book about the Declaration of Independence, then it its early stages: “People have a very clear narrative about liberty, and they’re very confused about equality. You need both to have a successful democracy. It seems to me it’s time to go to work on rebuilding our understanding of what the concept of equality means, why it’s important, and what it takes in order to secure its value through democratic politics.”

Tiger of the Week: Art Historian Jonathan Brown *64

By David Marcus ’92

Jonathan Brown *64 (Courtesy of The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb)

Jonathan Brown *64 (Courtesy of The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb)

Jonathan Brown *64 is one of the most important art historians of the last 50 years. In books and exhibitions he has explored the work of Spanish Golden Age artists such as Velazquez, Ribera, and Zurburan in a rigorous yet approachable way and set it in a rich political and religious context. Brown offers a more personal view of his subject in his most recent book, In The Shadow of Velazquez, which is based on a series of lectures he delivered at the Prado Museum in Madrid in 2012.

Brown’s parents, Leonard and Jean, started buying art in the 1950s, when they acquired paintings by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem De Kooning. As those men became art-world superstars with prices to match, the Browns moved on to collect documents and publications by the Surrealists and members of the Dada movement. After Leonard died, Jean focussed on the work of the Fluxus group and other “anti-artists” of the 1960s. She sold her collection to the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 1985.

Brown grew up surrounded by his parents’ growing collection, but his choice of career was determined by a year of study in Madrid while he was an undergraduate at Dartmouth. The city was only a generation removed from the civil war in which General Francisco Franco had seized power, and its university still showed the signs of the conflict, Brown remembers: “Buildings partially in ruins, bullet holes in the walls of structures that had remained standing, broken windows waiting to be replaced.” He was also struck by “the omnipresence of police officers; it was a vivid introduction to the machinery of a military dictatorship.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Hester Blum ’95, Scholar at Sea

Hester Blum ’95 (Courtesy Hester Blum)

Hester Blum ’95 (Courtesy Hester Blum)

Ishmael, the narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, memorably noted “a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.” Hester Blum ’95 had the benefit of a Princeton education — plus a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania — but as a scholar of Melville and oceanic studies, she’s often yearned to experience a bit of Ishmael’s maritime schooling. Next week, she’ll have that opportunity.

Blum, an associate professor of English at Penn State University, will be spending two days at sea on the Charles W. Morgan, a recently restored 19th-century whaling ship, and writing literary reflections about her experiences. Mystic Seaport, where Blum has conducted some of her research on sea narratives, launched the months-long “38th voyage” of the Morgan to promote interest in America’s maritime heritage. “Where once the Morgan’s cargo was whale oil and baleen,” Mystic Seaport’s website said, “today her cargo is knowledge.”

Two days is a far cry from the two-to-four-year journeys of 19th-century whalers, but Blum said that the voyage is a rare opportunity to “inhabit the space of the artifact that I’m usually encountering on paper.” Her work often takes her to archives, to read out-of-print books or never-in-print manuscripts. This time, it will take her to the narrow perch of a night watchman, like the one Ishmael describes in “The Mast-Head,” one of Blum’s favorite chapters from Moby-Dick — and the inspiration for the title of her book The View from the Masthead, a study of the role that seamen played in American literature of the 1800s.

Tiger of the Week: NBA Newcomer David Blatt ’81

David Blatt ’81 in 2012, when he was the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. (© Sebastian Kahnert/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

David Blatt ’81 in 2012, when he was the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. (© Sebastian Kahnert/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Until this week, David Blatt ’81 was arguably the most accomplished basketball coach outside the NBA. He’d coached in Israel, Turkey, Russia, and Italy, winning league championships, a European title, and an Olympic bronze medal (with the Russian team in 2012). Now, fresh off a stunning Euroleague championship with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, Blatt has made history as the first international coach to jump directly to a head-coaching position in the NBA.

The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Blatt as their new coach on June 20, and praise soon arrived from past players, basketball experts, and a certain Hall of Fame coach who lives just down the road from Jadwin Gym. Pete Carril, Blatt’s mentor during four seasons at Princeton, told Star-Ledger columnist Dave D’Alessandro that the NBA newcomer has great potential. “He knows the game. He knows how to teach it,” Carril said. “Now let’s hope he has the kind of guys who understand what he’s selling.”

Blatt, a native of Framingham, Mass., has lived abroad since graduating from Princeton, first as a professional player in Israel and then as a coach. With the Tigers, he was a talented point guard, making second team All-Ivy his junior year with a team that tied for the league title. But that did not guarantee a starting spot in his senior year, as Carril told PAW contributor Tim Warren in 2007. “I had to bench him and put in a freshman,” Carril said. “It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. But instead of pouting, Dave worked even harder. And in the second-to-last game of the season, we were losing and my freshman wasn’t doing anything. Dave scored six or eight points in a short time, made a couple of steals, and we won the game.”

With similar perseverance and patience, Blatt worked and waited for his shot in the NBA. In October, he’ll take the floor for the first time with his new team — and in a twist of fate, the Cavaliers will be facing his old team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, as part of the NBA’s series of exhibition games against international clubs.

Tiger of the Week: Jason Aramburu ’07, Green Entrepreneur

Jason Aramburu ’07 (Courtesy Edyn)

Jason Aramburu ’07 (Courtesy Edyn)

Jason Aramburu ’07 has had his eye on soil since his undergraduate days. As an ecology and evolutionary biology major, he conducted senior-thesis research in Panama, studying how a population of ants chose nesting sites based on soil properties. After graduation, he started a company called Re:char, which developed a charcoal fertilizer and brought it to farmers in developing countries.

Now, Aramburu’s devotion to soil is coming to gardens in the United States. His new company, Edyn, has created a Wi-Fi-enabled probe that measures soil properties and uses the data to automatically regulate irrigation through a solar-powered water valve.

The product received positive reviews in The New York Times and Wired last week, and funding for its Kickstarter campaign more than doubled its $100,000 goal in less than two weeks.

Aramburu told PAW that while his biology background has been immensely important, a course outside his department also had a major influence: Ed Zschau ’61’s High-Tech Entrepreneurship. “It was an incredibly inspiring class and made me think about doing something entrepreneurial,” Aramburu said.

Re:char launched in 2009 and has been adopted by thousands of farmers in Kenya, Aramburu said, and its proceeds helped him to create Edyn. Perhaps the most valuable experience was doing soil research in Kenya — that’s where Edyn’s first prototypes were developed.

Aramburu said that other Princetonians have contributed to his new company’s promising start. Paul Cowgill ’08, is a software developer for Edyn; Ron Sachs ’88 was among the first investors; and Aaron Lee *00, the chief technology officer at Home Depot and cofounder of Redbeacon, serves as a company adviser.

Tiger of the Week: Tony Nominee Jarrod Spector ’03

Jarrod Spector ’03, far right, with Beautiful castmates, from left, Jake Epstein, Jessie Mueller, and Anika Larsen. (Lev Radin/Shutterstock.com)

Jarrod Spector ’03, far right, with Beautiful cast-mates, from left, Jake Epstein, Jessie Mueller, and Anika Larsen. (Lev Radin/Shutterstock.com)

By the time he reached fourth grade, Jarrod Spector ’03 had started a career in theater, playing the role of Gavroche in Les Miserables, first in a regional production and later on Broadway. He would watch the Tony Awards and dream of someday hearing his name called. But that dream was tempered over time, as Spector recently told BroadwayWorld.com:

“You get older and you realize how hard it is just to get a job, let alone get a job in a good show, let alone for that show to be on Broadway, let alone for that show on Broadway to be considered for Tonys. … I’d sort of written it off as a fantasy.”

Spector joined elite company this year as a nominee for best featured actor in a musical — he plays the role of Barry Mann in Beautiful — The Carole King Musical. Though he did not win the award, he was thrilled by the nomination, and by the recognition that Beautiful has received (two Tonys and five other nominations, including writer Douglas McGrath ’80 for best book of a musical).

The 2014 Tony winners and nominees had several Princeton connections. Roger Berlind ’52 is one of the producers of A Raisin in the Sun, the winner for best revival of a play. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the best musical, is running at the Walter Kerr Theatre, owned and operated by Jordan Roth ’97’s Jujamcyn Theaters. Alumnus Jonathan Schwartz ’10 plays Omar in Aladdin, a best-musical nominee. And Princeton lecturer Jane Cox was nominated for best lighting design of a play for her work on Machinal.