Princeton to hold Science and Engineering Expo, March 22

March 16, 2007 8:53 a.m.

Nearly a thousand New Jersey middle school students will be exposed to critically important social issues and cutting-edge technology at Princeton University's annual Science and Engineering Expo from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22. The event seeks to rekindle interest in science and engineering for faculty, staff and students on and off campus.

Hands-on activities and demonstrations for the visiting students will be held at four locations on campus: McDonnell Hall, Dillon Gym, Frick Laboratory and Icahn Laboratory. Dozens of presentations by Princeton researchers -- as well as experts from two national laboratories and several technology companies -- will illustrate the connections between the everyday world and the fields of biology, chemistry, environmental science, engineering and materials science.

Several presentations will expose students to some of the most pressing issues confronting the planet, while others will offer glimpses of tomorrow's state-of-the-art technology as it is being developed. All aim to entertain as well as educate. Examples include:

•    Researchers from the lab of Antoine Kahn, professor of electrical engineering, will create an organic electronics factory. Light-emitting devices made with organic compounds require far less power and are more flexible than traditional devices that are used in most of today's television and computer screens. They are being investigated worldwide for use in the electronics of the future.

•    Researchers from the Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment Center based at Princeton will share their cutting-edge work with lasers. Infrared light can be used to detect substances that are invisible to all other forms of light. Sensors made with infrared light-emitting lasers will revolutionize breath analysis, providing an instantaneous and non-invasive way to test for a host of medical problems, including diabetes, kidney and lung disease.  

•    Rick Register, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, will use a hands-on activity with slime to teach students about the properties of polymers. Register will connect the experiments to real-world applications of polymer technology, such as his work to design lens implants that can correct for age-related vision loss.

•    PLOrk, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra will perform. PLOrk's "electronic drum circles" already have drawn praise from the musical community, even attracting legendary tabla drum master Zakir Hussain to join them for performances. The innovative ensemble will demonstrate that laptop computers can be used for much more than instant messaging and word processing.

•    Bonnie Bassler, professor of molecular biology, and her lab group will explore how humans can fight disease if bacteria adapt to resist the assault of the best antibiotics. This growing issue is fast becoming a global health problem, and students can explore potential solutions from Bassler's lab.

•    Students at the expo will be allowed to view several zebrafish mutations under the microscope. Birth defects remain common across much of the planet, and one of the best allies in learning about the problem may be the tiny zebrafish. Because these fish share important traits with humans during their development, the transparent zebrafish embryos allow molecular biology professor Becky Burdine and her lab group to observe developmental mutations and explore their molecular cause. 

For information about the schedule of events, visit

Members of the media who want more information prior to the day of the event can also contact Chad Boutin at or (609) 258-5729.