December 1, 2021

Entrepreneurs and Innovators Gather For PU Conference, December 1 & 2

By Donald Gilpin

With an emphasis on transforming research into information for the benefit of society, Princeton University will be hosting its second annual innovation and entrepreneurship conference online on December 1 and 2.

Engineers, scientists, humanists, social scientists, and business leaders will be gathering via Zoom to engage with each other in sharing discoveries and strategies for fostering innovation to make a difference in confronting some of the greatest challenges facing the world in 2021.

“Our support for innovation aligns with Princeton’s intertwined missions of research, education, and service,” said Princeton University Vice Dean for Innovation and Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Rodney Priestley. “The University’s informal motto is ‘In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.’ We want to ensure that discoveries made in our labs and working spaces can become solutions for humanity’s challenges, and one way to do that is through entrepreneurship, the creation of new ventures such as startup companies.”

He continued, “Through the Princeton Innovation initiative, we hope that our impact goes beyond Princeton as a university and extends to New Jersey, the broader Northeast region, the nation, and indeed the world.”

Highlights of the two-day virtual gathering, titled Engage 2021, which is free and open to everyone, will include a conversation with the inventor Marian Croak, Google vice president of engineering and a 1977 Princeton University graduate; presentations by an array of Princeton professors and others focusing on the growing innovation ecosystem in New Jersey and the tri-state area; and guidance on finding funding for research and entrepreneurship.

A showcase of University faculty experts will discuss their discoveries, such as a new technology to prevent smartphone theft, new anticancer therapies, personalized medicine, early detection of autism and other neurobehavioral conditions, clean and inexpensive lithium-ion battery recycling, electric bandages, and more.

Panelists from industry and from Princeton and other universities will discuss emerging technologies in decarbonized transportation, cancer research, quantum computing, wireless communications, and artificial intelligence in bioengineering.

“Our vision is for Princeton to be a catalyst for a diverse, inclusive, and human-centered high-tech hub for the entire tri-state region,” said Andrea Goldsmith, dean of Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, as quoted in a press release from the Princeton University Office of Engineering Communications.

Princeton University Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti noted that this event, which includes the 13th Celebrate Princeton Innovation showcase, will feature many Princeton faculty innovators, as well as a wide range of visiting participants. “The varied and inclusive programming and the presence of faculty, students, alumni, entrepreneurs, and industry and government representatives reflect the vitality of Princeton’s research, innovation, and entrepreneurship continuum,” he wrote in a November 29 email.

As part of the Engage 2021 event, Princeton University Chemistry Professor Mohammad Seyedsayamdost will receive the Dean for Research Award for Distinguished Innovation for the creation of a method for discovering new anti-infective agents, including that treat fungal infections. Seyedsayamdost, the cofounder of the startup Cryptyx Bioscience, will give a talk at the conference.

Engage 2021 will also feature a conversation between Goldsmith and Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education Director Naveen Verma on developments and opportunities for innovation in New Jersey; a keynote address by Edward Felten, the cofounder of blockchain technology startup Offchain Labs and a Princeton University professor emeritus of computer science and public affairs; a startup showcase of academic scientists and engineers raising venture funds for companies; and a panel discussion on the benefits of joining a startup accelerator, and how to choose the right accelerator and create a strong application.

“We are working to broaden access to entrepreneurial training to greater numbers of people, including to those from backgrounds that historically have been underrepresented in research and entrepreneurship,” said Priestley. “We’ve created a number of new programs, including a new National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps Northeast Hub, which you can learn more about at Engage 2021.”

Goldsmith, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and has founded two companies related to her expertise in wireless technology, added, “This conference will enable all of us to make a positive difference — engineers, scientists, humanists, social scientists, business leaders, and startup enablers — to engage with each other in fostering innovation that strengthens society.”

For further information and free registration for the conference, find “Engage 2021” at