Princeton part of $40 million Simons Observatory

PRINCETON RESEARCHERS will have an integral role in the Simons Observatory, a new astronomy facility in South America recently established with a $38.4 million grant from the Simons Foundation. The observatory will investigate cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation to better understand the physics of the Big Bang, the nature of dark energy and dark matter, the properties of neutrinos, and the formation of structure in the universe.

The project is a collaboration between Princeton, the University of California-San Diego, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, all of which will provide financial support. The Heising-Simons Foundation will provide an additional $1.7 million of support. The observatory will be located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, a longtime site for astronomy and CMB research because of its elevation and near absence of precipitation.

The project manager for the Simons Observatory will be located at Princeton, and Princeton faculty also will oversee the development, design, testing and manufacture of many of the observatory’s camera components.

Suzanne Staggs, Princeton’s project lead for the observatory and the Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics, said the mission of the Simons Observatory builds on the University’s long history of advancing the understanding of the CMB. Princeton faculty members Lyman Page, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Physics and department chair, and David Spergel, the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation, also will participate in the Simons Observatory. –By Staff

Students explore sustainable building with bamboo

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LAST FALL, two undergraduates approached Sigrid Adriaenssens, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, about working together on their senior-thesis projects, from different angles.

Lu Lu, who is from Chongqing, China, wanted to work on sustainable construction with a focus on design and digital modeling. Russell Archer, who is from East Orange, New Jersey, wanted to physically test building materials. Adriaenssens served as the adviser for both students, who graduated in 2016.

With the help of a graduate student in Adriaenssens’ lab, the seniors identified a partner, the Administrative Department of Environmental Management (DAGMA), in Cali, Colombia. The students and the group collaborated on a project involving bamboo architecture and construction — the entrance canopy to a park to be used by schoolchildren.

Bamboo grows quickly and is lightweight but strong. It has been used as a building material for centuries, but little engineering analysis has been done on it. Lu focused on the structural form of the canopy, and Archer analyzed the effectiveness of the fishmouth joints used in the designs.

Last March, with funding from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, they traveled to Cali to meet with the DAGMA architects and engineers, share their results, and inform the design and construction of the bamboo canopy.

“I couldn’t have imagined I would be traveling to Colombia,” said Archer, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering. “I’m really impressed by the broadness of the entire project.”

“I really enjoyed this project because engineering is not only hard-core science — you calculate something but that’s it,” Lu said. “There’s a very strong social component.”

–By the Office of Communications

F. Duncan Haldane receives Nobel Prize in Physics

F. Duncan Haldane, Princeton’s Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” Considered key to finally realizing highly efficient and powerful quantum computers, topological materials exhibit unique properties, particularly great stability and efficient particle movement. Haldane shares the prize with David Thouless of the University of Washington and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.



Princeton Research Day highlights student and early-career work

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MORE THAN 150 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers presented their work at the first Princeton Research Day held May 5, 2016.

The event highlighted research from the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and the arts in formats including talks, poster presentations, performances, art exhibitions and digital presentations — all designed with the general public in mind.

“It’s a wonderful cross section of the research enterprise at Princeton,” said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, and professor of chemical and biological engineering.

In all, Princeton Research Day presented an important opportunity for undergraduates, said Dean of the College Jill Dolan, the Annan Professor in English and professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

“Princeton is one of the very few universities in the world where undergraduate students are encouraged to do the kind of original research that every single undergraduate on this campus does,” Dolan said. “So taking the opportunity at the end of the year to do a major public event in which students can present that work is groundbreaking.”

Princeton Research Day was a collaborative initiative between the offices of the dean of the college, dean of the faculty, dean of the graduate school and the dean for research. The second Princeton Research Day is scheduled for May 11, 2017. –By Michael Hotchkiss