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Note from PEI’s Director

As the flurry of the spring semester winds down with term papers written, exams taken, and graduations and reunions commemorated, it is a time for celebration, reflection, and new beginnings.


At the Princeton Environmental Institute’s Class Day celebration June 4, Stephen Pacala congratulates Maddy Case ’12, who was awarded both the T.A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize and the University’s Gregory T. Pope ’80 Prize for Science Writing. Photo: Frank Wojciechowski

During the 2012 Class Day ceremonies, PEI was proud to award ENV Certificates to 47 graduating seniors hailing from 17 departments across campus. Four seniors received prizes for their leadership and outstanding work and two juniors earned the Becky Colvin ’95 Memorial Award. In this issue of PEI News, we also share news from last year’s two Colvin winners about how they put these funds to good use in support of their senior thesis research.

At Discovery Day, featured in One Picture on page 12, over 55 seniors from 14 different departments showcased their work in PEI’s first annual poster session celebrating undergraduate senior thesis research. Thirty-three faculty advisors were engaged in these projects addressing issues of energy, climate, animal health and behavior, land use and conservation, soil and water, ocean and tropical ecosystem health, and the relationship between the environment, people, and place.

In our in-depth article beginning on page 4, we summarize the highlights of thirty plus years of research undertaken by the Energy Systems Analysis Group (ESAG) aimed at improving the world’s energy future. Among their many projects, ESAG recently participated in a major new report “The Global Energy Assessment” to be published this fall by Cambridge University Press. A very popular course, American Environmental History, taught by long-time PEI affiliated faculty, Frank and Deborah Popper, is described in a class snapshot on page 8. And, we catch up with Lars Hedin about his climate research in the tropics (pages 10-11).

In May, we were privileged to host Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, as the 2012 Taplin Environmental Lecturer. In her remarks, Dr. Lubchenco shared valuable insights into different aspects of NOAA’s history and mission along with her vision and appeal for more “use-inspired science” (pages 14-15).

As we turn the page toward summer, 97 undergraduate students are heading off to pursue internships on campus and around the world. Another 37 rising seniors are launching field research projects that will inform their senior theses. It would not be possible to sustain this level of activity without the steadfast support of and encouragement from those who believe in PEI’s mission as the interdisciplinary center of environmental research, education, and outreach at Princeton. We look forward, with anticipation, to the start of the new fall semester when we will hear the students’ stories first-hand and witness the discoveries emerging from their research.