Stimulus funds, major grants promote high-impact research

carter-in-dc-1.jpgPrinceton Engineering professor Emily Carter (left) joined Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, at an event to launch the website www.scienceworksforus.org. (Photos courtesy of The Science Coalition)


Federal stimulus funding has provided a badly needed boost to basic scientific research and creates a foundation for long-term economic strength, Princeton engineer Emily Carter said at a Washington, D.C., event Nov. 17 with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“With one fell swoop, this bill has changed the tone among the whole scientific community,” said Carter, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Applied and Computational Mathematics.

Decades of insufficient funding for the physical sciences and engineering had left researchers “feeling demoralized,” Carter said, calling for a sustained investment in research.

“The discoveries that come out of this basic scientific research lead immediately to patents, which leads immediately to small companies, which then leads to jobs,” Carter said. “It is a long process, but you in fact know that the unemployment that we are experiencing today is partially because we didn’t invest 20 or 30 years ago in getting the new ideas, getting the new inventions.”

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Princeton received more than $21 million in research funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including $9.8 million for engineering. For a full listing, visit www.princeton.edu/recoveryact.

Among the largest grants was $2.9 million to chemical engineer Ilhan Aksay and colleagues to investigate how adding nano-sized particles to fuels could allow jets to travel faster and produce less pollution. Chemical engineer Christodoulos Floudas and colleagues from molecular biology and chemistry received $1.3 million to further research on a breakthrough method for analyzing proteins.

Beyond stimulus funding, Princeton recently received major grants that integrate engineering and other areas of research. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, a 1976 engineering alumnus, and his wife, Wendy, created a $25 million fund to foster the invention, development and use of cutting-edge technology to transform research across the natural sciences and engineering.

The Department of Energy awarded Princeton $20 million to create the Energy Frontier Research Center for Combustion Science, which will focus on non-petroleum fuels and their optimal use in transportation. A $15.2 million award from the National Cancer Institute created the Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, which brings together physical scientists and engineers in the fight against cancer.

Two electrical engineers, a sociologist and a political scientist received $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to study the relationships between technological and social networks, with a goal of combating terrorism, improving emergency response and tapping collective wisdom.

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