The Lewis-Sigler Institute at Princeton University was established with a mandate to create innovative research and teaching programs at the interface of modern biology and the more quantitative sciences. One impetus came from the need to deal with the explosion of information based on the genomic sequences of the human and all major experimental organisms. The other major impetus came from the realization that the most interesting and difficult problems in the quantitative disciplines, especially physics, chemistry and computer science, frequently lie in biological phenomena and applications.
The Institute was founded by Shirley Tilghman, who subsequently became president of the university, and is now led by Director David Botstein, Evnin Professor of Genomics, whose research interests are in genetics and genomics. The Institute was endowed through a generous gift from Peter B. Lewis, class of 1955, to honor his dear friend and Princeton roommate, Paul B. Sigler, class of 1955. It is housed in a striking building designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects of New York. The construction of the building was funded by a gift from Carl Icahn, class of 1957.
Intellectually, the Institute is very diverse: resident faculty include members of the Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering and Molecular Biology Departments. There are also many non-resident affiliated faculty, most of whom are participants in teaching programs led by the Institute. The Institute has a unique endowment that supports exceptional early career experimental scientists and theorists (recent Ph.D.s) as Lewis-Sigler Fellows. The fellowship funds their independent research at the Institute for five years, during which time the Fellows participate in the design and execution of the Institute's innovative teaching programs.
Several curricular innovations have been initiated at Princeton under Institute leadership. A new Graduate Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology (QCB) was established in 2003, and in 2009 became a full-fledged degree-granting Ph.D. program, with an NIH Training Grant, covering the fields of genomics, computational biology, systems biology, biophysics, quantitative genetics, molecular evolution, and microbial interactions. The QCB Program includes 70 faculty from 12 different departments.
At the undergraduate level, the Integrated Science Curriculum prepares students for majors in any of several departments, currently including Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Molecular Biology. The curriculum also leads to a new Certificate Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology.
One of the goals of the Lewis-Sigler Institute is to provide a focus for Princeton-wide interdisciplinary research programs and to provide research infrastructure (see Resources page) for them. A Center of Excellence in Quantitative Biology was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in 2003. One of only five in the nation, it focuses on the application of genome-scale technologies, mathematical modeling, and modern molecular imaging.