Two Princeton Engineering students will be honored on Alumni Day: Graduate student Zachary Teed has won a prestigious Jacobus Fellowship, and undergrad Claire Wayner was named a winner of the 2022 Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize.
The Jacobus Fellowships support the students’ final year of study at Princeton and are awarded to one Ph.D. student in each of the four divisions (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering) whose work has exhibited the highest scholarly excellence.
The Pyne Honor Prize, established in 1921, is awarded to the senior who has most clearly manifested excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership. Previous recipients include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the late Princeton President Emeritus Robert F. Goheen.
The winners will be honored at Alumni Day ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 19, at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Zachary Teed, a doctoral student in computer science who came to Princeton in 2018, spent the first year of his graduate studies at the University of Michigan with his adviser, Jia Deng, who is now an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Washington University of Saint Louis.
His dissertation, “Optimization Inspired Neural Networks for 3D Vision,” focuses on the fundamental problem of recovering 3D information from video. Current systems for 3D perception are not equipped to handle the challenges of arbitrary, unconstrained video. However, continued improvements in 3D computer vision have the potential to transform digital cameras into universal and reliable 3D sensors.
“I want to get this technology to a state where a lot of people are able to use it,” Teed said. “As I see it right now, these systems aren’t reliable enough to be used in safety-critical applications. What I’m most excited about is trying to improve the accuracy and robustness of these systems so they can be used safely in a lot of applications.”
Teed’s research already has improved the ability of computers to “see” and understand 3D environments in real time — what is known as computer vision. Among its potential applications are autonomous driving, robotics and filmmaking.
His paper, “Recurrent All-Pairs Field Transforms for Optical Flow,” on which he was first author and which he co-authored with Deng, won Best Paper Award at the 2020 European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), a prestigious publication venue for computer vision research.
After graduation, Teed plans to work as an autonomy engineer for Skydio. The company builds autonomous drones that can create 3D scans of large-scale structures such as bridges, buildings and power plants. The drones are also used by filmmakers to capture footage without needing to manually fly a drone.
“The best research work one can hope to do should be interesting, original and effective,” Deng said. “What’s amazing about Zach’s work in that it excels in all three dimensions. His approach is very innovative. At the same time, it works extremely well with real industry impact. That impact is immediate and widespread. Such a combination is very, very rare.”
Teed has served as an assistant in instruction for the Princeton undergraduate course “Advanced Computer Vision” and as a student coordinator for PIXL Talks. He is a member of the Princeton Running Club.
Wayner, from Baltimore, Maryland, is a civil and environmental engineering concentrator pursuing certificates in environmental studies and sustainable energy.
She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi, a two-time recipient of Princeton’s Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and a recipient of the George B. Wood Sophomore Legacy Prize. She has also received the Truman Scholarship for public service and the Udall Scholarship for environmental leadership.
“Through her academic work, public service and leadership activities, and by observing Claire in class, it is clear to me that she is the best of Princeton University,” said Gabriel Vecchi, professor of geosciences and director of the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI).
Wayner’s time at Princeton has been dedicated to what she calls “solutions-oriented sustainability.”
“I apply this approach to both my academic and extracurricular work because humanity is in a dire position due to climate change, and I see my life’s work as trying to fix that,” she said. “This is why I chose to major in environmental engineering: because I love the solutions-based mindset that we engineers use to study and attempt to heal our planet. This is why for the past three years I’ve been doing research as part of Princeton’s Net-Zero America Project: because I want my research to be as focused as possible on what can be done.”
For her senior thesis, Wayner is conducting research related to the implementation of bioenergy as a sustainable, low-carbon energy resource as part of the Net-Zero America project. Her research contributes to the goal of mapping out detailed routes for the United States’ transition to a carbon-neutral future.
Her senior thesis adviser, Jesse Jenkins, said Wayner is “brilliant, mature and dedicated to using her talents to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable energy system.” Jenkins is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and co-leads the ZERO Lab where Wayner has conducted research since 2020.
Wayner’s research experience also includes internships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory through the Princeton Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program.
On campus, she has been a leader of many environmental organizations, having served as president of the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, worked as an EcoRep for the Office of Sustainability, and established the Undergraduate Student Government’s first sustainability committee. A keen outdoor enthusiast, she is the co-founder of the Princeton Birding Society, the captain of the Princeton Climbing Team and an Outdoor Action trip leader.
She has also volunteered in Peru through Engineers Without Borders, written for the Daily Princetonian as an opinion columnist, and is currently a dormitory assistant in Spelman Hall and a BSE interactor, providing support to undergraduates considering engineering majors. She is a member of Forbes College.
“In everything she has been involved with, she is a quiet force that has helped Princeton be better,” said Outdoor Action Director Rick Curtis. “It is people like Claire who give me confidence that we can take on the global challenges that we face.”
After graduating, Wayner will be working on clean energy policy development at RMI, an environmental nonprofit in Boulder, Colorado. She looks forward to continuing to be an advocate for sustainability and to “drawing on the lessons of collaboration and persistence that my time at Princeton has taught me.”
For a full list of winners of the Jacobus Fellowship, click here. For the full story on the Pyne Prize, click here.