For immediate release: April 24, 2001


Helen Carasso, Oxford University, 011-44-1865-280528 (from the U.S.)

Marilyn Marks, Princeton University, 609-258-3601

Oxford and Princeton universities announce plans for collaboration on research and student exchanges

Princeton, N.J. -- Oxford and Princeton universities today announced a major collaboration that will create new research partnerships, increase faculty and student exchanges, and provide opportunities to share resources required for cutting-edge, scientific ventures. The initiative builds on longstanding relationships between two universities renowned for leadership in research across the academic disciplines and for excellence in undergraduate education.

Research partnerships will be initiated in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in the natural sciences and engineering, where the need for specialized equipment is especially acute.

In addition to identifying and encouraging specific research partnerships, the universities are planning to establish a significant exchange of students, including undergraduates. The universities will make special efforts to include in this exchange students in the sciences, mathematics and engineering -- areas in which study abroad generally has been more difficult to arrange.

"Research and learning increasingly are global endeavors, involving collaboration among faculty members and students from around the world," said Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro. "This new program will create important new opportunities and synergies by drawing on the complementary strengths and perspectives of faculty and students at two of the world's leading universities."

Oxford University Vice Chancellor Colin Lucas said, "Our two universities are remarkably similar in goals and strengths, with shared traditions and priorities and many existing connections. We are confident that this agreement will help make both institutions even stronger."

The collaboration was approved by the trustees of Princeton University on April 21, and by the Council of the University of Oxford on April 23.

Leaders of the two universities noted that academic research today often requires access to costly or specialized equipment and facilities, and benefits from collaboration within and across disciplines.

Beginning in the 2001-02 academic year, a joint committee of the two universities will designate research projects that take advantage of complementary intellectual and physical resources available at Oxford and Princeton.

Twelve collaborative research projects provisionally have been identified, in fields spanning nanotechnology, astrophysics, genomics, and stone and art preservation. (A list of these projects appears at the end of this release.) Participating researchers will include some of the most senior scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.

University leaders believe the initiative will enhance research by bringing together scholars with different perspectives and approaches, and improve teaching by increasing interaction among undergraduate and graduate students from different cultures. The collaboration also will help maximize resources at both universities by defraying costs of shared facilities and opening access to additional sources of funding, including international foundations, multi-national corporations, American and British government and, possibly, European Union sources.

While the agreement marks a unique collaboration of significant scope, the connections between Oxford and Princeton already are extensive and growing. Numerous Princeton faculty members and research scientists have studied or spent time at Oxford, and vice versa. Active research collaborations between the two universities already are under way in English, history, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Princeton undergraduates now study regularly at Worcester and Hertford Colleges at Oxford, while Oxford graduate students frequently study at Princeton as Procter fellows.

Last year, Oxford and Princeton were among the founders of a $12 million Web-based learning venture that will provide on-line courses, interactive seminars, multi-media programs, topical Web sites with links to research information, and live and taped coverage of campus speakers and events.

Editors: A list of projects follows.

Research collaborations

Twelve research projects provisionally have been identified as part of the collaboration between Oxford and Princeton universities. Following are short descriptions of the projects. Researchers at the universities will be available to provide more information.

1. History of the book

Oxford: Ian Maclean
Princeton: Robert Darnton

Combining the resources of Oxford’s Bodleian Library and its many college libraries with collections of rare books at Princeton’s Firestone Library, scholars will tackle a variety of projects related to books and their history. Among the research topics are incunabula, the history of reading, the book trade, the social history of knowledge, the history of science and technology, and children’s literature. The project involves historians of the book across the humanities as well as library staff and other researchers, and draws upon the universities’ special strengths in this area in the early modern period (roughly 1450 to 1800). Scholars will develop exhibitions, common graduate courses and other activities.

2. Culture and religions of the Eastern Mediterranean

Oxford: Simon Price
Princeton: Fritz Graf

The role of culture and religions of the Eastern Mediterranean world is an extraordinarily rich and promising area of research, from the Bronze Age cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt and ancient Greece to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Its study requires the involvement of scholars in many disciplines including Near Eastern studies, church history, modern Greek history, Jewish and Islamic studies, ancient and Byzantine Greek, history and archeology. Renowned Oxford and Princeton scholars will explore the formation and characteristics of Greek identity inside a wider Mediterranean context, from the archaic period to the present day. Main areas of research include archaic and classical Greek religion, civic religions in the Greek East, interactions with Judaism, the development of eastern Christianity, and the rise of Islam.

3. Materials

Oxford: Brian Cantor
Princeton: Anthony Evans

Both Oxford and Princeton have world-leading materials processing, characterization and testing capabilities. This collaboration in materials science initially will focus on three areas: components for aerospace and automotive design; materials for photonic devices, which use light, instead of electric current, to transmit information; and materials and devices for use in biomedicine.

4. Astrophysics

Oxford: Joseph Silk
Princeton: Scott Tremaine

Researchers will work to develop ways to extract information from the deluge of data anticipated from such large-scale studies as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, designed to map more than 100 million objects across one-quarter of the sky, the VISTA survey of the whole southern sky in optical and infra-red wavebands, and the forthcoming MAP and Planck satellites, which will study the cosmic microwave background radiation at unprecedented resolution across the entire sky. Princeton is a major partner in both SDSS and MAP data analysis, and Oxford is a major partner in both VISTA and Planck data analysis. Through this collaboration, researchers hope to develop more powerful techniques for testing our basic cosmological paradigm, measuring the density and composition of the universe, and probing the physics of galaxy formation.

5. Bio-inorganic chemistry

Oxford: Malcolm Green
Princeton: John Groves

Results from this research collaboration could have important implications for a number of areas in biotechnology, including biosensors, the glucose sensor for diabetes, drugs and pharmaceuticals derived from naturally occurring proteins, potential fuel cell applications, and biomaterials that are compatible with the human body. This interdisciplinary project draws on researchers in bioinorganic chemistry, biophysics and metallobiochemistry, a discipline that investigates the role of metals such as iron, copper and manganese in biological chemistry.

6. Stone conservation

Oxford: Heather Viles
Princeton: George Scherer

In this collaboration, scholars will join together to study the deterioration of stone in ancient buildings and sculpture, and investigate ways to protect ancient structures and monuments from the damaging effects of weather and pollution. The project combines Princeton's expertise in understanding the underlying mechanisms causing the damage, with Oxford's experience in monitoring soiling, decay and micro-environmental conditions in urban and arid environments.

7. Mathematics

Oxford: John Ball
Princeton: Philip Holmes

Drawing on the strong programs in pure and applied mathematics at both universities, this project will investigate topics such as financial mathematics, applied probability, signal analysis, dynamical systems and applied analysis in materials science. The work could aid in the understanding of financial markets and institutions and could be applied to a variety of fields in industry and technology.

8. Environmental technology

Oxford: Christopher Knowles
Princeton: Peter Jaffe

Researchers in this collaboration will look for ways to harness plants and microorganisms to clean up environmental contamination. Techniques could be developed, for example, to promote the growth of bacteria that already live in contaminated soil and have the natural tendency to neutralize pollutants. Another possible project is the development of genetically altered plants that clean trace metal pollutants from the ground. The Princeton team has expertise in topics such as the chemical and biological cycles in groundwater and wetlands. The Oxford group has strengths in environmental molecular biology, genetic engineering and plant physiology.

9. Transmission of infectious diseases

Oxford: David Rogers
Princeton: Andrew Dobson

This project will investigate the effects that global climate change is likely to have on ecological systems, including the possibility that disease-causing organisms will expand their current geographical range and cause changing patterns of disease transmission in humans, domestic livestock and wildlife. The collaboration builds on strengths at both institutions in the population dynamics of infectious diseases.

10. Nanotechnology and semiconductor physics

Oxford: John Ryan
Princeton: Ravindra Bhatt

The information and computer revolution of the past half-century has been built on advances in the physics and technology of semiconductors. The Oxford-Princeton team will work to grow, pattern, probe and model semiconductors on nanometer-length scales to explore new avenues in semiconductor devices involving quantum mechanical

phenomena. Research in this area is expected to help pave the way to groundbreaking developments such as small, ultra-fast computers using both conventional and quantum logic, as well as systems combining semiconductor nanostructures with their biological counterparts.

11. Nanotechnology and chem-bio-engineering

Oxford: Peter Dobson
Princeton: William Russel

Research in this collaboration will proceed along two lines. First, scientists will develop advanced methods for nanofabrication -- that is, techniques for coaxing materials to assemble themselves into ultra-small structures with a wide range of commercial and research applications. Second, the researchers will develop techniques for guiding the evolution of fluorescent proteins, which could be used in ultra-small, optically controlled switches. Such switches would allow devices, such as computer disks, to store remarkable amounts of information in very small spaces.

12. Genomics and bioinformatics

Oxford: Kay Davies
Princeton: Shirley Tilghman

This research effort will seek a better understanding of how information is encoded in the genome and how it leads to both normal physiology and disease. The collaboration will take advantage of the universities’ complementary strengths: Princeton in understanding the fundamental properties and genetics of model organisms, such as bacteria; and Oxford in understanding the genetics of human disease. Both institutions also have considerable expertise in the emerging field of bioinformatics, which uses computers to extract information from the genome.