Seven innovative projects have been awarded support through Princeton University’s Dean for Research innovation funds. Now in its second year, the program enables faculty members to pursue bold new ideas, said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. He noted that the funds were awarded following a process of anonymous peer review by a faculty committee. “Through this funding program, Princeton is providing a mechanism to support promising exploratory research,” he said.
Three projects in the natural sciences will receive $200,000 each over two years and will explore original, early-stage ideas that could serve as the basis of a larger research initiative. In the humanities, two projects will receive $50,000 each to encourage innovation as well as scholarship on enduring questions in the humanities. In addition, two collaborations with biomedical engineering and neuroscience companies will receive $100,000 each for the first year; Princeton will match each company’s contribution of up to $75,000 in the second year.
Garnet Chan, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Chemistry, and Gregory Scholes, the William S. Tod Professor of Chemistry, will study how atomic particles interact at the quantum level in order to discover new chemical reactions. This new way of thinking about chemical reactions could lead to advances in energy, medicine and industry. Their approach also could help answer open questions in chemistry: For example, researchers lack a detailed understanding of the mechanism behind certain naturally occurring chemical reactions, such as the splitting of water molecules during photosynthesis. The combination of Chan’s recent theoretical work and Scholes’ experimental methods will enable progress in understanding how quantum effects that involve cooperation among electrons can lead to new reaction chemistry.