Princeton University Department of Chemistry

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Princeton University Department of Chemistry
Frick Chemistry Laboratory (new).jpg
Frick Chemistry Laboratory, home to the Department of Chemistry
Parent institution
Princeton University
DeanTom Muir
Academic staff
60 professors, researchers, and staff[1]
Students250 undergraduate and graduate students[1]
Location, ,
United States

The Princeton University Department of Chemistry is an academic department at Princeton University. Founded in 1795, it is one of the oldest departments of chemistry in the country and is consistently funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.[2][3] In 2010, the department moved to its new location, the Frick Chemistry Laboratory. The department oversees the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral programs in chemistry, as well as a number of research centers and initiatives at the university.


John Maclean, Sr. was Princeton's first professor of chemistry. Educated at the University of Glasgow beginning at the age of thirteen, Maclean was a licensed physician and surgeon by the age of 20. He arrived to the United States in the spring of 1795 and began working at Princeton.[4] President Samuel Stanhope Smith invited Maclean to Princeton to deliver chemistry lectures and was subsequently appointed Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science. He helped to establish the first undergraduate chemistry laboratory in the United States.[5] In 1797, Maclean published Two Lectures on Combustion which altered the field going into the eighteenth century. Notably, his son, John Maclean, Jr., became the tenth president of Princeton University.

American botanist and chemist John Torrey was one of Maclean's successors, lecturing students in chemistry and natural history from 1830 to 1854.[5]

Frick Chemistry Laboratory[edit]

Frick Chemistry Laboratory
Paul Housberg - Frick Chemistry Lab 2.jpg
Interior glass wall designed by Paul Housberg

In 1916, Pittsburgh steelmaker Henry Clay Frick expressed interests in working with Dean Andrew Fleming West of the Graduate School and President John Grier Hibben to create a chemical laboratory. Architectural blueprints were subsequently made with an estimated cost of $1 million. The Laboratory was officially built in 1929.[6] Designed by architect Charles Z. Klauder, the original design consisted of laboratories, lecture rooms, and faculty offices. An extension to the building was completed in 1964, doubling the research space. Additional funding for expansion was supplemented by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.[6] A new building for the Department of Chemistry opened in 2010. The 265,000-square-foot laboratory has a skylit atrium, pedestrian bridges, naturally lit interior spaces, and an in-building café.[7] A 250-seat auditorium was named was former Professor of Chemistry Edward C. Taylor. The area is also one of the most environmentally sustainable places on campus, featuring rainwater harvesting, photovoltaic solar panels, HVAC systems and controls, and cascading airflow from office areas to laboratories.[8]

The Frick Chemistry Laboratory oversees six main areas of research are:


The department collaborates with a number of centers and institutes on campus where students, researchers, and faculty can work on interdisciplinary projects. These institutes include the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. The department also houses an array of facilities and resources for research, including a nuclear magnetic resonance facility, mass spectrometry lab, crystallography lab, glassblowing shop, Merck Catalysis Center, small molecule screening center, and an ultrafast laser spectroscopy facility.[9]

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment[edit]

The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment opened in 2015 with a $100 million gift from Princeton alumnus and benefactor Gerhard “Gerry” R. Andlinger. He envisioned a research center that sought to identify multi-faceted solutions to "the world's most daunting energy and environmental problems."[10] The core research areas of the center include environment, transportation, and infrastructure; electricity production, transmission, and storage; fuels and chemical; and environmental sensing and remediation.[11] There are also a number of partnerships with faculty and researchers at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute.[12] In addition to overseeing undergraduate and graduate courses, the center is responsible for Princeton's Program in Sustainable Energy, a certificate program that introduces students to fundamental concepts within the field and provides laboratory experience.[13] The center's founding director was Emily A. Carter, Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The current director of the Center is Yueh-Lin Loo, who specializes in nanotransfer printing.

Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering[edit]

The Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering is an interdisciplinary institute that runs Princeton's initiatives in the field of computational science. Founded in 2002, it includes a number of faculty and researchers at the university and oversees the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL).[14] The center also oversees the Graduate Certificate in Computational and Information Science.[15]

Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials[edit]

The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM) is an interdisciplinary research center focused on materials science. It emphasizes collaboration between academia and industry in order solve real-world problems. PRISM oversees the university's Micro/Nanofabrication Lab and the Imaging Analysis center.[16] The center offers an undergraduate Certificate in Materials, allowing students to take courses in a number of related departments, as well as a graduate joint-PhD program.[17] Its current director is Craig B. Arnold, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, PhD, Harvard, 2000.

Princeton Center for Theoretical Science[edit]

The Princeton Center for Theoretical Science is one of the world's leading research institutes in theoretical natural sciences. It is home to a selective and prestigious post-doctoral fellowship program.[18] The current director is Paul Steinhardt, Princeton's Albert Einstein Professor in Science.



The undergraduate program in chemistry prepares students for careers in medicine, teaching, research, and other areas. Students are provided a flexible program schedule and are able to concentrate in a number of fields of interest, ranging from molecular biology to nanotechnology.[19] The department also offers a Professional Certification in Chemistry, which is sponsored by the American Chemical Society, as well as a Chemistry Outreach Program, which provides hands-on experiences to students interested in increasing interest in science in the local community.[20]


Graduate students in the department of chemistry pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and specialize in a specific area of research. Past graduates of the program have continued on to a number of careers in academia, government, and the private sector.[21] A number of on-campus organizations further assist students with their personal development, such as the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), Princeton Theoretical Chemistry Club (PTCC), and Female Researchers in Chemistry (FRIC).[22]


The department is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world for the study of chemistry. Both U.S. News and World Report College Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings rank the department within the top ten.[23][24]

Notable Faculty[edit]

The current Chair of the Department of Chemistry is Tom Muir, Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965. The Muir lab focuses on organic chemistry and biochemistry, specifically investigating the physiochemical basis of protein function.[25] Professor Muir received a B.Sc. (Honors) in Chemistry in 1989 and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1993, both from the University of Edinburgh. He then completed postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute and Rockefeller University prior to arriving at Princeton. He is on the editorial board of numerous academic journals and has previously consulted chemical firms such as Amgen and Merck.[26]

Other notable faculty at Princeton include:


  1. ^ a b "Chemistry lab carries Frick name; move-in begins". Princeton University.
  2. ^ "NSF awards forge partnerships between minority-serving institutions and leading research facilities". National Science Foundation.
  3. ^ "CARROW RECEIVES NIH MAXIMIZING INVESTIGATORS' RESEARCH AWARD". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  4. ^ "John Maclean, Sr". A Princeton Companion.
  5. ^ a b "Chemistry". A Princeton Companion.
  6. ^ a b "Frick Chemical Laboratory". A Princeton Companion.
  7. ^ "New Chemistry Building reflects its environment". Princeton University.
  8. ^ "Frick Chemistry Laboratory". Princeton University Facilities.
  9. ^ "Research Facilities". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  10. ^ "The world Gerry Andlinger wanted". Princeton University News.
  11. ^ "Research". Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
  12. ^ "Partnership". Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
  13. ^ "Program in Sustainable Energy". Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
  14. ^ "About PICSciE". Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering.
  15. ^ "Graduate Certificate in Computational and Information Science". Princeton Research Computing.
  16. ^ "PRINCETON INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF MATERIALS". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  17. ^ "Joint PhD Degree Program". Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials.
  18. ^ "Welcome to the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science". Princeton Center for Theoretical Science.
  19. ^ "Undergraduate Program". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  20. ^ "Department of Chemistry". Princeton University: Undergraduate Announcement.
  21. ^ "Graduate Program". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  22. ^ "Campus Life". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  23. ^ "World University Rankings 2018". Times Higher Education.
  24. ^ "Chemistry Rankings". U.S. News and World Report.
  25. ^ "Tom Muir". Princeton University Department of Chemistry.
  26. ^ "Tom Muir CV" (PDF). Princeton University Department of Chemistry.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°20′57″N 74°39′13″W / 40.34914°N 74.65362°W / 40.34914; -74.65362