Dean’s welcome 2023-24

If there is a theme that unites the stories in this issue, it is exploration. Research inherently involves travel to new places, whether metaphorically to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world, experimentally through technologies that penetrate realms not previously accessible to humans, or physically to a location on the globe suitable for answering the biggest questions.

Princeton University Dean for Research Peter Schiffer
Dean for Research Peter Schiffer. PHOTO BY SAMEER A. KHAN/FOTOBUDDY

The theme of journeys also applies to my own path as Princeton’s new Dean for Research. As a recently arrived faculty member at this storied institution, I am attuned to the ways that the University travels a unique trajectory as one of the nation’s oldest research institutions and one that is at the forefront of excursions into the unknown. It is an honor to serve Princeton’s research community, which is dedicated to working collaboratively across disciplines, developing the next generation of scholars and leaders, and sharing its findings with new audiences, all in the spirit of benefiting humanity.

Our investigations into the big questions — how our universe formed, who we are as humans, what we’ve learned from our history — are some of the broad issues covered in this year’s Discovery: Research at Princeton magazine. This issue is perfect for armchair travelers. Join Princeton researchers as they travel to a remote mountain telescope in Chile to look back in time at the origins of the universe (page 20), a Greek island to overturn centuries of accepted dogma about ancient architecture (page 36), and a 17th-century-era Philippine convent to reconstruct a Spanish-Empire library plundered by treasure hunters (page 14). Or join our researchers’ journeys of the mind, here on the Princeton campus, to unravel the universality of music as a common human experience (page 26) and to decipher the delicate structures of lungs across species, yielding insights that can inform future human therapeutics (page 30).

These research journeys are a sampling of the diversity of questions that our faculty and their teams address across the sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. We invite you to join us on these excursions through the pages of Discovery: Research at Princeton.

Peter Schiffer
Dean for Research
Professor of Physics