Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

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

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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

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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