Applying ecosystems lessons to human-made systems

In the Christian Science Monitor, Professor Simon Levin poses the question: What can Mother Nature teach us about managing financial systems?

Like ecosystems, financial markets are complex evolving systems from which unexpected bubbles, crashes, and other surprising behaviors can emerge. Building resilient financial systems may require policymakers to take cues from biology.

More from the story:

Just as an ecosystem ecologist is focused on the cycling of crucial elements like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, so too might a “financial ecologist” focus on the sustainable cycling of crucial elements like capital, labor, and financial innovation.

Read the piece by Levin, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, here.

Keller Center team takes on home cooking

Mei Chai Zheng, graduate student in Electrical Engineering, pitches the Robolution food preparation and cooking device at Demo Day in New York in early August. Click on the photo for more information.

Mei Chai Zheng, graduate student in Electrical Engineering, pitches the Robolution food preparation and cooking device at Demo Day in New York in early August. Click on the photo for more information.

The Keller Center’s eLab Summer Accelerator Program is a 10-week launch pad for student startups that connects teams to fellow entrepreneurs, assigned mentors, and training sessions and workshops. The program culminates with two Demo Days, at which they share their plans with a broad audience. Read more here and here.

University features FRS 138 course in story & video

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 5.07.07 PMDelighted to share the link to a terrific story and our video short on Science, Society & Dinner, the course that debuted in Spring 2016 as FRS 138!

From the course description:
“Science, Society, & Dinner is a collaborative, experiential forum for discussing, analyzing and interpreting the complex connections between our food systems, food choices, culture, and human and environment health. Through a series of guest lectures from professors across campus, the course will explore the biochemistry and biophysics of cooking; the environmental biology and ecology of modern food systems; and the limitations of science when divorced from the humanities. The course also will address food literacy, the relationship between food and culture, and the ethics of agricultural production and consumption.
Your time in this seminar will consist of three main activities: weekly hands-on cooking lessons from a five-star chef; a matching series of interdisciplinary lectures that look behind the plate; and outrageously delicious meals that students prepare for each other and eat together….”

Reunions 2016: If you eat, this panel is for you!

Please join us for our Reunions Weekend panel, Princeton Entrepreneurs: Designing the Future for Food, on Friday, May 27, from 10:30 to noon, in Frist Campus Center 302.

The panel – free & open to the public – will be moderated by Tim Searchinger, co-founder of Princeton Studies Food. Gordon Douglas MD ‘55 and co-founder, Princeton Studies Food, will introduce the panel and the panelists and briefly discuss the work of our council.

The panel will be organized around panelists’ actions that are connected to recommendations in Searchinger’s latest World Resources Institute report, “Shifting Diets for a More Sustainable Food Future.”

Click here for more information about Reunions 2016.

Here’s our updated Future for Food panel biographies:

Timothy Searchinger, Princeton Studies Food co-founder, is a research scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School STEP program and a lecturer in the Princeton Environmental Institute. His work combines ecology, agronomy and economics to explore ways of meeting global food needs while reducing climate change and impacts on ecosystems. His academic work is best known for papers exploring the land use and greenhouse gas emissions of bioenergy. He is a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, for which he serves as technical director of “Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Sustainably Feed More than 9 Billion People by 2050.” Reach him at

Gordon Douglas MD ’55, Princeton Studies Food co-founder, is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and is director of three biotech companies: Vical, Inc. Novadigm, and Protein Sciences. He was president of the Merck Vaccine Division, responsible for the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of Merck’s vaccine products, from 1989 until 1999. Previously, he was an infectious disease specialist with research interests in respiratory viral infections, vaccines, and antivirals at Weill Cornell Medical College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. MD, Cornell University Medical College; National Academy of Medicine. Reach him at

David Benzaquen is the founder and CEO of PlantBased Solutions, a mission-driven, marketing and management consulting agency for plant-based consumer packaged product companies. In addition to helping launch and grow plant-based brands, PlantBased Solutions manages a syndicate of angel and venture capital investors interested in plant-based business opportunities. David is an advisor at various food incubators and accelerators, including The Brooklyn FoodWorks and Food-X. He is a contributing writer to the New Food Economy and New Hope Natural Media’s IdeaXchange. Bachelor’s, American University; Master’s, The New School. Reach him at

Reuwai Mount Hanewald ’94, her parents, Pam and Gary Mount (’66) and sister, Tannwen Mount (’98) own and operate Terhune Orchards, where they grow 40 types of fruits and vegetables on 200 acres in Princeton. The farm also includes a bakery, vineyard and winery, greenhouses, pick your own, barn yard, and farm market. Terhune Orchards receives 700,000 visitors a year and is known for its organic and innovative farming and successful marketing practices. She recently returned to the farm full time after 20 years as a science department chair and secondary school teacher at schools in the United States, Central America and West Africa. Reach her at

Alexander Lorestani ’15 is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gelzen. Gelzen is a synthetic biology company that engineers and manufactures proteins for use in food and cosmetic products. Prior to his work at Gelzen, Alexander was an MD/PhD candidate at the Rutgers University-Princeton University Physician-Scientist Training Program. He studied medicine at Rutgers University and microbiology at Princeton University. Alexander’s focus was on infectious diseases, specifically antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Before becoming an MD/PhD candidate, Alex studied cell biology as an undergraduate at Boston College. Alex has a passion for translating discoveries forged through high-quality basic research into tools that can be used to improve the lives of others. Reach him at

Shana Weber is founding director of Princeton’s Office of Sustainability, which opened its doors in 2006. She comes to the sustainability field with a background in ecology, climate science research, teaching and communications. Current research interests periodically take her to the mountains of the American West, but the bulk of her work focuses on helping Princeton University become an exemplar of sustainable practices, campus-as-lab research, and education. Weber also serves as President of the NJ Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, and administrative sponsor for the NE Campus Sustainability Consortium. Reach her at shanaw@Princeton.EDU

Dietary shifts for environmental sustainability

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Tim Searchinger

Tim Searchinger

“Creating a Sustainable Food Future (installment 11) shows that for people who consume high amounts of meat and dairy, shifting to diets with a greater share of plant-based foods could significantly reduce agriculture’s pressure on the environment.” Read more at the WRI and download the PDF from the link below. Thanks to author Timothy Searchinger, research scholar, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy and lecturer for Princeton Environmental Institute and World Resources Institute fellow. Don’t miss the Protein Scorecard, which ranks foods from lowest (plant-based foods) to highest impact (beef), as well as the Shift Wheel, which harnesses proven marketing and behavior change strategies to help move billions of people to more sustainable diets.

Salts of the earth: A tasting at PU Farmers’ Market

IMG_0022SSD poster copyPlease join students of FRS 138: Science, Society & Dinner for a salt tasting and talk about food systems study at the Princeton University Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, April 20, from 12:30 to 1:30.

Market-goers will sample Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse grass-fed butter slathered atop slices of the Rustic Loaf, with two to three varieties of salt from Savory Spice Shop in downtown Princeton.

Students will be available to discuss their experience of the class, now in its first semester as a Freshman Seminar.

Students also will have readings available for perusal from the course list, many of which are on the shelf at Labyrinth Bookstore, or online there, including Kitchen LiteracyJust Food, and On Food and Cooking. Not on the reading list, but germane: Salt: A World History.IMG_6253 (1)IMG_6897