Princeton partners with UNCF and Jackson State University to expand research and innovation

PACRI_v3FNL3-page-001JACKSON, Miss. – Princeton University is partnering with UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Jackson State University (JSU) and four other historically Black colleges and universities to launch a groundbreaking program designed to enable research collaborations between Princeton faculty and their peers at HBCUs.

In the initial phase, Princeton researchers and researchers from JSU, Howard University, Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), Spelman College and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) will co-lead research projects. These projects will be funded by Princeton University through its new Princeton Alliance for Collaborative Research and Innovation (PACRI).

“Participation in the alliance will likely afford JSU and other HBCUs opportunities to further diversify and expand their respective research capacities in STEM and non-STEM disciplines,” said Jackson State Vice President for Research and Economic Development Joseph A. Whittaker, Ph.D.. “I envision that the PACRI collaborations will be uniquely situated not only to solve challenging research problems but also to drive novel and emergent methodologies, as well as technologies and intellectual property that will serve as foundations on which to build and advance start-ups and inclusive economic development.”

Teams of Princeton-HBCU researchers are invited to submit proposals by June 30. The initiative’s aim is to fund multiple collaborative projects each year between Princeton and each partnering institution.

“Collaboration is a powerful force for new ideas and creativity in research and scholarship,” said Princeton’s Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. “By creating a mechanism that encourages faculty from Princeton and HBCUs to work together, we hope to spark the creation of new teams of researchers that bring together people with different perspectives, experiences and expertise. The potential to generate new knowledge and discoveries across a wide range of disciplines is very exciting,” Debenedetti said.

Echoing Debenedetti’s enthusiasm, Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley, the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and a co-leader of the PACRI program, said, “We highly value partnerships at Princeton, whether they are with other academic institutions, industry, governments, or nonprofits. We believe that these collaborations enable Princeton researchers and innovators to achieve things that we cannot achieve alone.”

Priestley explained that the new PACRI program is similar to other Princeton funding programs that foster collaborations unlikely to happen without the support. According to Priestley, these “innovation fund” programs are popular with Princeton faculty because they enable new partnerships and scholarship. “In some cases, researchers have been able to establish foundational work that could then attract greater funding. I am looking forward to seeing what will come out of these teams.”

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey is enthusiastic about this program that will build research ties between Princeton, located in her district, and HBCUs across the country, “I’m very excited about the potential of collaborative projects between Princeton University researchers and their HBCU partners,” said Watson Coleman. “Princeton University has long led the way in innovative research in STEM, social sciences, and the humanities. Collaboration with Howard University, Jackson State University, Prairie View A&M, Spelman College, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will no doubt produce extraordinary benefits to all collaborating institutions and the nation as a whole. Much of the output would likely never happen without these collaborative efforts. I applaud all the institutions involved and look forward to seeing all of what they achieve.”

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas also underlined the potential benefits to the nation. “As Chairwoman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I am excited about the work we are doing to chart a course for the future of innovation in this country. However, we cannot expect to address the enormous challenges we face if we don’t leverage all the STEM talent in this country,” Johnson said. “The nation’s HBCUs have long played an outsized role in preparing talented Black students for rewarding careers in science and technology fields. We must empower HBCUs to reach their full potential, both in their education mission and in advancing urgently needed research and technological innovations. The faculty partnerships supported through PACRI will pay dividends in expanding, enriching, and accelerating our scientific enterprise.”

Princeton worked with UNCF to help get the program off the ground, enlisting their assistance to identify partners in this inaugural year.

“UNCF is excited to support this groundbreaking initiative connecting Princeton University faculty and research faculty at HBCUs,” said Chad Womack, Ph.D., senior director of National STEM Programs and Initiatives, UNCF. “PACRI will provide much-needed funding to help establish sustainable research collaborations between Princeton and HBCU faculty across a variety of HBCU campuses. We’re proud to partner with the PACRI team at Princeton to support engagement with leadership and faculty and to assist in the selection of HBCU campuses and then proposals via the RFP process,” Womack continued. “We expect phenomenal proposals from HBCU research faculty and their Princeton partners, and look forward to helping to build research capacity at each of the esteemed HBCUs participating in PACRI.”

PACRI is one of several initiatives by Princeton’s Office of the Dean for Research aimed at expanding a more inclusive research, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Princeton and beyond. While this first phase of the Alliance focuses on HBCUs, Princeton anticipates expanding the effort to forge research collaborations with other Minority-Serving Institutions and women’s colleges.

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Media Contact: Alonda Thomas, Alonda.Thomas@jsums.edu