Task Force on the Natural Sciences

View All Task Forces


from President Christopher L. Eisgruber

Princeton University has a longstanding and well-deserved reputation for global excellence in the natural sciences. Despite the University's relatively small size, Princeton scientists have consistently been at the forefront of discovery, and its undergraduate and graduate teaching have been unsurpassed in quality. The University has ensured the high quality of its departments by investing at once boldly and judiciously: Princeton has concentrated its efforts on fields and research projects where it can perform superbly, and it has invested aggressively in those fields to ensure that its faculty, graduate students and undergraduates have the resources they need to succeed. Over the last decade, the University has continued this tradition in many ways, including but not limited to: rebuilding the Department of Chemistry, both figuratively and literally with the construction of the state-of-the-art Frick Laboratory; creating the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; constructing a new building for the Department of Psychology; launching the Center for Theoretical Science, building the High Performance Computing Research Center; and recruiting and retaining key faculty in all of the science departments.

Princeton will again have to choose wisely in the decade ahead, when it will confront new challenges and opportunities during a period when revenues may be more constrained than they have been in recent decades. I am accordingly asking this task force to assess the University's strengths and challenges in the natural sciences, and to comment on how best the University can support current fields and seize emerging opportunities. I hope that the task force will pay special attention to the University's role with regard to environmental science, which is of growing interest to our students and growing urgency to the world.

More specifically, I would like the committee to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the University's current strengths and weaknesses in the natural sciences?
  2. What are the University's advantages and disadvantages in the natural sciences by comparison to the world's other outstanding research universities?
  3. What fields or emerging trends most require the University's attention in the years ahead as it shapes its teaching and research programs? What areas in the natural sciences most require the University's attention as it contemplates new fundraising and investment opportunities?
  4. Does the University have the opportunity to redeploy existing resources in the natural sciences to increase its capacity to respond to evolving needs and challenges?
  5. How should the University define and evaluate the success of any new investments that it might make in the natural sciences?



  • Lars Hedin, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Faculty members

  • Elizabeth Gould, Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology; Professor of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; Chair, Department of Psychology
  • Yibin Kang, Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology
  • Tom Muir, Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965 Professor of Chemistry
  • Igor Rodnianski, Professor of Mathematics
  • David Spergel, Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation; Professor of Astrophysical Sciences; Chair, Department of Astrophysical Sciences
  • Christopher Tully, Professor of Physics; Associate Chair, Department of Physics
  • Bess Ward, William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences; Chair, Department of Geosciences

Staff members

  • Karla Ewalt, Associate Dean for Research, Office of the Dean for Research (secretary)