Author Archives: Abby Greene

If you’ve found yourself losing sleep this summer, spending long, agonizing hours wondering what your beloved Princeton is doing with itself in your absence, read on.

Sherry Davis (left) and lab partner Gail Turner-Graham swab their cheek cells for analysis.

Sherry Davis (left) and lab partner Gail Turner-Graham swab their cheek cells for analysis in Princeton's Schultz Lab.

Contrary to popular belief, Princeton doesn’t exist in a September-to-May time warp. Princeton lives on! In a big way. And no, I’m not just talking about the hordes of high school athletes that descend on campus. Or the tech camp attendees who get, ahem, air-conditioned housing.

In fact, for anyone who went to sleep-away camp and wondered why the lobsters and sushi and chocolate fondue fountains only got rolled out on visiting day, this will make sense: summertime is Princeton’s visiting day. (Minus the A/C for non-tech-camp individuals and the constant fire alarms triggered by “careless cooking”). Construction, summer theater, festivals and fairs in town, weddings…campus is definitely alive and well.

And the learning continues! Click here to read about a 2-week, hands-on molecular biology outreach program for secondary school science teachers from all over the world.

Not really advisable. Read on for healthier options. (image source: http://voices.mysanantonio.com)

Not really advisable. Read on for healthier options. (image source: http://voices.mysanantonio.com)

Ok, so we’re less than 48 hours away from, well, you know, and you’re feeling a little concerned. Well, perhaps anxious. Or maybe you’re just downright freaking out. But never fear! While the “you’re not alone” argument can only go so far, our friends over in Cambridge have come out with a far more practical panacea to calm the masses (and no, it’s not one of those free, magical, online essay machines–we do have an Honor Code, guys).

The Barker Underground, the official blog of the Harvard Writing Center, has plenty of tips and tricks that come in handy for the frenzied student writing final papers. So if you don’t have time to make an appointment with Princeton’s own Writing Center (and let’s face it, who does at this point?), you may want to check out some of the tips that Harvard has to offer.

For example, you may find yourself in a situation suited by the post entitled “The Nuclear Option: How to Write a Paper the Night Before It’s Due” by Sam Berman-Cooper (an 8-tip checklist for writing a paper in 12 hours that includes a comprehensive schedule, complete with naps and snack time), or perhaps by the one called “How to Critique an Author Who’s Smarter than You” by Emily Hogin (a list of dos and don’ts for analyzing secondary sources).

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How would you like the Prospect 12 to chauffeur you around? (image source: http://pave.princeton.edu)

How would you like the Prospect 12 to chauffeur you around? (image source: http://pave.princeton.edu)

Farewell, days when driving meant a texting hiatus and an inappropriate time to put both hands in the air when dancing to your favorite tunes. If you’ve ever wished your car could just, you know, drive itself, you may soon be in luck. The Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (PAVE) group is, by their estimation, less than a month away from creating the first car to get its own driver’s license.

PAVE was born in 2004 when several students in Alain Kornhauser’s transportation class watched the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge and became convinced, after watching each of the vehicles fail by the 7.5 mile mark on a 150-mile course, that they could construct a competitive autonomous vehicle.

The group entered their vehicle, Prospect 11, in the 2005 DARPA competition, placing 10th out of 23 vehicle finalists. But they didn’t stop there. After acquiring a vehicle donation from Ford, PAVE began work on the Prospect 12 for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, and then continued work on this vehicle, placing third out of 47 teams and winning the title of “rookie of the year” in the 2008 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition.

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Our deepest aspirations... (source: idp05.wordpress.com)

Our deepest aspirations... (source: idp05.wordpress.com)

In HuffPo’s revelatory list of the nine preppiest colleges in the country posted on Wednesday, Princeton was rated—wait for it, wait for it—number two. If the only part of this tidbit that shocks you is the fact that Princeton was number two, you’re probably not alone.

So here’s the question I know you’re all asking: how did we miss the gold? Did the judges miscount Princeton’s population of seersucker shorts, pastel sundresses, and Docksiders? Perhaps not. In fact, HuffPo quotes James Axtell’s book The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present, in which he called the “boat shoe” a “numinous symbol of Princeton.” And apparently, also according to Axtell, Princeton students even speak their own language: “Princeton patois.”

Hargadon Hall: the epitome of preppy? (image source: www.huffingtonpost.com)

Hargadon Hall: The epitome of preppy? Well, according to HuffPo, it is... (image source: huffingtonpost.com)

The gold went to Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College, which The Preppy Handbook apparently calls “The finishing school for Southern gentlemen.” The list also included Duke, noted for its “prep band” amongst other preppy organizations; Trinity College, which HuffPo noted has been called the “epicenter of preppy partying in the Northeast” (should we take offense to that one, Princeton?); SMU, a choice HuffPo supports by citing the school’s line of Tag Heuer watches and soon-to-be George W. Bush Presidential Center; and Connecticut College, nicknamed, um, Abercrombie U.

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His reputation is safe.  (image source: Library of Congress)

His reputation is safe. (image source: Library of Congress)

For all you Tigers losing sleep over the fading aura of our campus’ favorite U.S. president, fear no more! Woodrow Wilson is back on top.

Well, almost top. Ninth only to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Abraham Lincoln, George W. Bush, FDR, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and — no, I could not make this up — Andrew Johnson (arguably one of the most forgettable presidents in the history of the United States, though Time magazine might disagree). The category? Greatest influence on the nation’s education system.

A recent article published on TeachHUB.com and filed under the heading Grants for Education, William B. C. Roberts (two middle initials perhaps meant to evoke familiar fuzzy memories of alphabet-learning?) ranked the top twelve U.S. presidents, “for better or for worse,” based on their influence on education. Woodrow Wilson, whose influence on the education system was apparently exemplified by his desire to do away with Princeton’s eating clubs (and a successful endeavor that was…), is also remembered for what may be considered the first higher education federal aid package, a move that ended the system of exclusively state- and locally-funded schools in the country.

Other presidential accomplishments of note included, according to Roberts, Nixon’s 1972 Education Amendments, Ford’s Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, FDR’s GI Bill of 1944, and, yes, Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (Roberts notes that many scholars consider it as yet too soon to judge the effectiveness of this one).

The bottom line? Woodrow Wilson made the cut, so we can all heave a great, big, collective “phew.” And here’s to William, for reminding us all that Woodrow Wilson really is, well, the man.

(image source: www.en.wikipedia.org)

(image source: www.en.wikipedia.org)

As all of you enjoyed this sunny Easter weekend, I know exactly what you were thinking about: the weather, bunnies, dyed eggs, and…solar panels? If you found yourself squinting up at the sun and saying, “Wow, if only we could find a cheaper way to harness all that energy,” you weren’t alone. Enter a brand new technique developed by the lab of Princeton’s own Yueh-Lin Loo, associate professor of chemical engineering, that promises the ability to harness solar energy at a cost low enough to allow for viable solar energy programs.

Loo’s lab developed a power-conducting plastic that could very well replace the expensive indium tin-oxide previously used in the construction of solar panels. These polymers are by no means new to the engineering scene, but past attempts to manipulate and process them have compromised their ability to conduct electricity.

“We have figured out how to avoid this trade-off. We can shape the plastics into a useful form while maintaining high conductivity,” said Loo.

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PavelThe military and international policy work currently so relevant to the United States on several fronts must be dominated by personality and interagency collaboration, National Security Council Director for Defense Policy Barry Pavel told the audience of students, faculty, and community members gathered in Princeton’s Dodds Auditorium on Monday, Mar. 21.

“Boundaries matter, but personalities matter more,” Pavel said. “You want to structure your organizational boundaries in a way that maximizes your advantages and minimizes your disadvantages, and so you have to work across the seam.”

Read more in the Woodrow Wilson School News.

image source: http://wws.princeton.edu/news/Pavel_PublicLecture/

The Red Wiggler on a compost bin, in case you were wondering what to look for. (image source: www.en.wikipedia.org)

The Red Wiggler on a compost bin, in case you were wondering what to look for. (image source: www.en.wikipedia.org)

Once upon a time, a 19-year-old Princeton student had a crazy idea: why not harvest worm poop, liquefy it, and package it in re-used soda bottles?

In 2001, while visiting some friends in Montreal over the Fall Break of his freshman year, Tom Szaky watched as his friends fed scraps of food to red wiggler worms in a composting bin. And suddenly it hit him – feeding organic waste to worms and using the results as fertilizer would be a perfect business model to submit to the Princeton Business Plan Contest.

And the rest is history. Szaky placed fifth in the contest, but he didn’t stop there. Soon he had emptied his savings account to invest in a worm gin, and he and his friend Jon Beyer were spending their days shoveling rotting food waste from the dining halls to deliver to the wigglers. Meanwhile, Szaky was camping out on the floor of a friend’s dorm room and eating what he could find in his dining hall adventures. His venture was saved by the contributions of Suman Sinha, a venture capitalist who saw promise in Szaky and his worm gin, and 20 Nassau St. became, um, home to worms and rotting food. Or at least to their administrative affairs. (Did they tell you that when you signed the lease, Ma Chérie Boutique?)

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Your time has passed, my friend. (image source: http://en.wikipedia.org)
Your time has passed, my friend. (image source: wikipedia.org)

So we all stopped believing in ghosts and witches around the time that we didn’t receive our Hogwarts letters of admission (and don’t pretend you didn’t check the mailbox every day for a year). And we’re all pretty sure that it’s impossible to predict the future, that paranormal investigation is a load of hooey, and that even the Princeton psychic can’t save our love lives.

But it seems that there are professors right here at Princeton who are challenging some of those very assumptions through their work on the Global Consciousness Project, an endeavor spearheaded by engineering anomalies researcher Dr. Roger Nelson.

The project is centered around a small black box located in a library in Edinburgh that, through the process of churning out random numbers, appears to reflect global human sentiments and to predict tragedies such as the September 11 attacks and the tsunami that ravaged Asia last December.

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Do you think they'd be proud?

Do you think they'd be proud?

Hey Princeton, think you’re learning useful things in those history classes? Think again, says the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). The institute administered civic engagement quizzes in 2007 and 2008 to individuals across the country (click here to try your hand at the quiz). Reaching a grand total of 16,508 adults and students at 50 colleges, the ISI returned some startling statistics.

Take, for example, this one: the average score of a senior on the civics knowledge test was a 54.2%. Or maybe this one: 30% of office holders didn’t know that “life, liberty, and happiness” are the inalienable rights to which the Declaration of Independence refers. Or how about this one: 51% of Americans were unable to name the three branches of government. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

But to those of you who suspect that Princeton might be the exception to the rule, here’s the kicker: college seniors across the U.S. showed an average 4-point improvement since freshman year. But Princeton? Not so much. Freshmen at Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and Duke scored better than seniors on the exam.

Hold on, what fine print told us that we were actually going to be unlearning while at Princeton? Because I certainly didn’t see it. Interesting, though, that the ISI website makes it a tad difficult to locate the average scores that yielded this discrepancy…

From these results, the ISI has determined the following:

Universities are becoming round the clock factories churning out poorly instructed liberals with little civic knowledge and even less faith and less devotion to principles of liberty than those Americans who didn’t go to college…what a formal education at one of America’s university [sic] does so effectively, however, is engender doubt in the American way of life, incubate irreverence for the pillars of liberty upon which the nation was built, and perhaps most disturbingly, sap the faith in God and the institutions of religious worship.

(Insert fist pumping here).

I guess this doesn’t bode well for the Woodrow Wilson School.

(image source: www.flickr.com)

(image source: www.rugby.com, originally Life magazine)

(image source: www.rugby.com, originally: Life magazine)

Two weeks ago, we were sledding down Mt. Whitman on dining hall trays, and in two weeks we’ll be basking in the warm glow of Spring Break. For some of us, that means flying to exotic locales where we can sip (?) margaritas. Or, just lying spread-eagled on the couch until everything you crammed in for midterms evaporates.

But the much-loved week of break was, according to Christian Chensvold of Ivy-Style.com, conceived in 1935. The year saw the first “Rugby Week,” during which rugby team members from Princeton, Yale, and Harvard flew down to Bermuda’s sandy shores at the behest of the Bermuda Athletic Association (who knew?).

A 1948 Life magazine article called Rugby Week “one continuous party for 500 U.S. collegians,” probably a testament to the amount of actual rugby-playing that got done. But hey, the 1948 equivalent of MTV’s “Spring Break 2010” had to be a little wild, right?

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vday2010-logo-webClearly, Valentine’s Day means a lot to Princeton. Every lamppost on campus is plastered with some sort of valentine paraphernalia, Frist was filled with tables selling “condomgrams” and valentine messages delivered with truffles, the art museum responded to the day with its “Failed Love” event on Thursday of this week, the U-Store and C-Store stocked flowers and balloons especially for the holiday, and the package room was inundated with flower-recipients on Saturday. Let’s not kid ourselves, Princeton; school shut down twice in one week—once for a record-breaking snowstorm and once for love.

Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. Princeton does, after all, have a bit of a reputation. I mean, maybe we should think about Valentine’s Day as a long-term investment. Better pick out nice flowers, guys, because if you want to join the ranks of married alumni, this may just seal the deal. So don’t drop the ball on this one, or you may find yourself on that three-year-long waiting list for a university Chapel marriage.

But in all seriousness, there is a piece of Valentine’s Day that tends to get lost in all this admirable passion. Each year since Eve Ensler conceived of it in 1998, V-Day is celebrated all over the world, a day that recognizes the inextricable connections among valentines (no surprise there), vaginas, and victory. No, this is not the sort of Valentine’s Day victory with which many Princetonians are familiar (the “Yes! Finally scored a date who doesn’t mind that I wear pocket protectors and that I’m not a legacy or an athlete!” kind of victory), but rather a victory that promises to liberate women all over the world from an all-too-common cycle of sexual violence and slavery. A victory that entails raised awareness about such issues as female genital mutilation, legal mandates that deny women basic rights, and rape as a government-endorsed military tactic. A victory that is becoming less and less elusive as the world begins to stop and listen to the provocative calls of the movement.

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