Engineering After Princeton: Harari and Toppin on innovation

Catherine Toppin, who majored in electrical engineering and graduated in 2002, is interviewed on video by Michael Wood (right), who graduated in 2008 with a major in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

What makes a successful inventor?

Michael E. Wood ’08 explores this question in two recent additions to his library of video profiles of prominent Princeton Engineering graduates. 

Catherine Toppin ’02, a patent attorney with the Boston firm of Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge, offers her legal perspective, seeing the protection of inventors as a cornerstone of American democracy and innovation. 

Harari-screen-shot.jpgEli Harari earned a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton in 1973 and is now the founder and chief executive of SanDisk Corp., maker of flash memory cards.

Eli Harari *73, the CEO of SanDisk Corporation, talks about the importance of catching the wave when it comes to innovation. He points out that although the physics underlying flash memory grew out of core research he did at Princeton in the 1970s, the technology didn’t gain a viable consumer toehold until the Internet came of age in the late 1990s. 

A prolific inventor who holds more than 130 patents, Harari also drives home the distinction between invention and entrepreneurship. “Ideas are great but ideas are a dime a dozen,” Harari says. “Taking that one idea that is going to change the world and actually changing the world—that is what the entrepreneur does.”

Other Princeton Engineering alumni profiled in the video library by Michael Wood, who is pursuing an M.F.A. in film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, are Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos ’86, Smule co-founder Ge Wang *08, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson *86, Presbyterian/Weill Cornell COO Laura Forese ’83, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt ’76. Watch all the videos online: