Alumni, government and industry are priorities for materials institute

After a year of nationwide lockdown, organizers of the annual symposium of the Princeton Institute of Materials looked to the future, focusing on strengthening engagement with alumni, government and industry.

Despite the pandemic, the materials institute expanded its faculty, added new courses and signed research agreements with government organizations, companies and universities, Craig Arnold, the institute director, told a virtual audience during a full-day presentation on April 21. “Last year has been a particularly challenging time for all, but throughout that time our materials community has risen to the challenge and despite any obstacles in its way has continued to move the institute forward,” said Arnold, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Conversations in the institute's high-tech labs and in the hallways between those labs have been key ways to spark creativity, but have been difficult over the past year. “We miss meeting people face to face over lunch and over coffee, those places where relationships are forged, and ideas are nucleated,” Arnold said. “Today is about recognizing that light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to re-establishing our past relationships and creating new kinds of engagement for our entire community. And when I say community, I am not just talking about Princeton University faculty, students and researchers. I am also including in that our alumni, over 100 of whom have signed up to join us today.”

symposium banner

The 2021 symposium of the Materials Institute featured presentations by faculty, alumni, and experts from government and industry.


Pablo Debenedetti, the dean for research, echoed Arnold’s optimism, noting that a superb level of compliance with safety protocols allowed the University’s labs to continue to operate through the pandemic and even increase its research activity. He said that the rapid development of effective vaccines underscored the importance of scientific research to society.

“Princeton University is one of the premier locations worldwide for material science, research and education,” said Debendedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “Through its groundbreaking fundamental research in quantum materials optical materials; materials for energy, the environment and sustainability; living and soft materials; and advanced manufacturing, its robust engagement with industry; and its excellent undergraduate and graduate educational programs, the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials plays a key role in the research, innovation, entrepreneurship continuum at Princeton. Today's symposium reflects the health and vitality of materials, research and education at Princeton and signals a bright future that lies ahead for the Princeton materials community.”

The event’s opening keynote speaker, Judith Sheft, executive director of the NJ Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology, said forging a strong community among researchers, entrepreneurs and industry is critical for the region’s economic growth. Besides highlighting the state’s new efforts to support development in materials, optics and photonics, in life sciences and offshore wind, Sheft said New Jersey would emphasize including all communities in the state in technological advances.

“We are looking to create these connections and these collaborations,” she said. “And we are looking to see what are the kinds of things that we can put into place to make the innovation ecosystem more efficient and more effective.”

Andrea Goldsmith, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said increasing diversity will be key to building a stronger community and advancing engineering at Princeton and beyond.

“The engineering profession cannot really reach its full potential unless we welcome diverse people with diverse ideas and perspectives into the profession and allow them to reach their full success,” said Goldsmith, the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

A strong and diverse materials science community is essential to her broader vision for engineering, Goldsmith said. In the next several years, the engineering school is scheduled to grow by more than a third, and Goldsmith said that growth will have an impact far beyond the campus in areas such as bioengineering, quantum computing, robotics, clean energy and the future of cities. Each of these areas, and many other areas technology, demand innovations in the underlying materials, and the Princeton Institute of Materials “will be at the heart of” the efforts “for the United States to regain leadership in semiconductors, and other hard technologies,” she said.

“Another thing that I am very excited about is fostering more innovation, entrepreneurship and connections with industry,” she said. “Now is an unbelievable opportunity for Princeton to seize the moment and be a catalyst for building a high-tech hub coming out of Princeton, spanning all of New Jersey and also reaching into New York City and down to Philadelphia.”

Symposium panels

Expert panels highlighted how materials science touched on nearly every technological endeavor.

The symposium presented a series of panels on different aspects of materials science at Princeton from quantum computing research to initiatives in education. Besides Sheft, speakers included Manyalibo Matthews, a group leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who spoke about defect formation in metal 3D printing, and Adam Hopkins, the founder and CEO of Uniformity Labs. Hopkins, who received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 2005 and a doctorate in 2012, has developed highly uniform feedstock material for additive manufacturing. Based on technology Hopkins developed along with Professor Salvatore Torquato, the new material radically increases the speed and efficiency of additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, while allowing for the creation of larger, higher quality components.

Introducing Hopkins at the symposium, Rodney Priestley, vice dean for innovation, called Uniformity Labs “an outstanding demonstration of how very fundamental research can lead to intellectual property that can subsequently lead to the formation of a new venture that is clearly taking off and having tremendous success.”

Hopkins said moving a technology from the lab to consumers is a challenging task and requires business leaders to make tough decisions and adjust their strategy along the way.

“Princeton has been immensely supportive of these efforts,” Hopkins said. “There are lots of different resources on campus that are available. Even a decade ago, when we first got started and we were first looking into this, and the resources have even expanded since then.”

In his opening and closing remarks, Arnold emphasized that his priority is to accelerate the expansion of those resources, including hosting more events like this symposium to gather diverse expertise. "This is only the start of the new and improved Institute of Materials at Princeton," Arnold said. "A down payment, if you will, on our commitment to grow our community and to engage all of you in the months and years ahead.”

The symposium’s panels included:

Materials for the Second Quantum Revolution

Moderator: Andrew Houck '00, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Princeton University.
Malcolm Carroll *01, Managing Principal Research Physicist at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University.
Alicia Kollár ‘10, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, University of Maryland.
Hanhee Paik, Research Staff Member, Experimental Quantum Computing, IBM.
Jeff Thompson, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Princeton University.

Materials Science: Bridging Engineering and the Arts

Moderator: Sigrid Adriaenssens, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University.
Buse Aktas ‘14, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, Harvard University.
Susan Beningfield *03, Architect and Designer of Fine Jewelry.
Bart J.C. Devolder, Chief Conservator, Art Museum, Princeton University.
Barry Glazier, Senior Fellow Chocolate, Mars Wrigley.
Joe Scanlan, Professor of Visual Arts in the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University.

Widening the Spectrum of Materials Education

Moderator:  Alejandro Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Director, Program in Material Science and Engineering, Princeton University.
Suzanne D’Addio *12, Director, Discovery of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Merck.
Nikita Dutta, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University.
Jim S. Smith, Lecturer in Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, Princeton University.
James C. Sturm ‘79, Stephen R. Forrest Professor in Electrical Engineering. Co-Director, Program in Plasma Science and Technology, Princeton University.
Jason Wexler *15, Head of Research, Treau

Squishy Engineering: Using Soft Materials to Solve Hard Problems

Moderator: Sujit Datta, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University.

Emily Davidson, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University.
Antonio Perazzo, Senior Research Scientist, Novaflux Technologies.
Daniel Recht ’06, Global Business Development Lead, Formlabs.
Emre Turkoz *19, Research Scientist, ExxonMobil.
Judy Q. Yang, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, University of Minnesota.

Catalyzing Sustainability through Material Design

Moderator: Michele Sarazen, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University.
Paul Chirik, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry, Princeton University. 
Prasenjeet Ghosh, Global Process Research, Modeling, and Scale Up Director, ExxonMobil.
Elena Krieger *13, Director of Research, PSE Healthy Energy.
Barclay Satterfield *07, External Innovation Technology Manager at Eastman Chemical Company.

Engaging Alumni and Industry: Expanding Princeton’s Materials Community

Moderator: Craig Arnold, Director, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University.

Adam Hopkins ’05*12, CEO, Uniformity Labs.
Jason Kawasaki ‘09, Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cynthia Pierre ‘03, Senior Manager - Low Carbon Refining & Catalytic Processes, bp.
Lara Silverman ‘06, Senior Director of Research and Development, DiscGenics. 
Siavash Yazdanfar, Director of Applied Optical Physics, Corning Research & Development Corporation. 

This article originally appeared at the School of Engineering and Applied Science