Five projects involving Princeton engineers are among ten research collaborations between Princeton University faculty and peers at historically Black colleges and universities selected to receive support through the Princeton Alliance for Collaborative Research and Innovation (PACRI).

These are the first projects to be given the nod by the groundbreaking alliance announced in May 2022.

Each of the collaborations will be co-led by a team of researchers from Princeton and one of five historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) partnering institutions: Howard University, Jackson State University, Prairie View A&M University, Spelman College and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Spanning the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and engineering, the projects take up some of the most difficult challenges of our day, from cybersecurity to climate change to public health and the social safety net. The projects also draw on the diverse expertise and perspectives of the research teams, pairing academics from different disciplines.

“We started the Princeton Alliance to generate trailblazing ideas from collaborators who otherwise might not have the opportunity to work together – and researchers from across Princeton and our HBCU partners responded,” said Tod Hamilton, professor of sociology and a faculty co-founder of the PACRI program.

Rodney Priestley, professor of chemical and biological engineering, also was a co-founder of PACRI during his tenure as Princeton’s vice dean for innovation. He now is dean of the Princeton Graduate School.  “An integral part of these projects is opportunities for student and faculty exchanges, which we see leading to innovative ideas with the possibility for shared intellectual property and even spinout companies,” Priestley said. “There could be many benefits for grad students just beginning their careers.”

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) partnered with Princeton to launch the program. “This initiative is helping to establish robust interactions between faculty at HBCUs and Princeton, and will open up the possibility of future research collaborations and partnerships,” said Chad Womack, vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.

The 10 projects kicked off in September. Each project will receive funding from Princeton University for two years, up to a maximum of $250,000 per project.

Projects involving Princeton engineers are highlighted below among the 10 below:

Howard University

Computational Modeling and Optimization of Microchannel Heat Sinks

Sonya Smith, Howard University, Mechanical Engineering
Howard Stone, Princeton University, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Improving the Health of Urban Minority Asthmatic Children Living in Public Housing

Meirong Liu, Howard University, School of Social Work
Janet Currie, Princeton University, Economics and the School of Public and International Affairs
Gloria E.Cain, Howard University, School of Social Work
Jae Eun Chung, Howard University, Strategic, Legal & Management Communication
Jiang Li, Howard University, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

A Framework to Better Understand Coastal Flooding in the Mid-Atlantic Region: How Groundwater May Play an Unseen Role in Climate Impacts to Estuarian Systems 

Meng Xia, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Natural Sciences
Reed Maxwell, Princeton University, Civil and Environmental Engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute

Dissecting Erysiphe Necator Infection Mechanisms and Vitis Host Responses to Improve Grapevine Powdery Mildew Resistance 

Sadanand Dhekney, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences
Jonathan Conway, Princeton University, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Jackson State University

Dielectric Performance of Polymer Nanocomposite Heterostructures for High Energy Storage Capacitors

Nihar Pradhan, Jackson State University, Chemistry, Physics and Atmospheric Sciences
Emily Davidson, Princeton University, Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Shifting Safety Net: The Role of Disability Insurance Programs in Household Budgets, Dynamics, and the Broader Community

Gloria Billingsley, Jackson State University, Public Policy & Administration
Kathryn Edin, Princeton University, Sociology and the School of Public and International Affairs
Chester Robinson, Jackson State University, Public Policy & Administration

Prairie View A&M University

Deepfakes Detection: Solutions for a Growing Cybersecurity Concern 

Yonghui Wang, Prairie View A&M University, Computer Science
Jia Deng, Princeton University, Computer Science 

Exploring Applications of Machine Learning for DNA Methylation Experiments with the Goal of Trait Discoveries
Noushin Ghaffari, Prairie View A&M University, Computer Science
Bridgett vonHoldt, Princeton University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Spelman College

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House: A Multimedia Performance 

Al-Yasha Ilhaam Williams, Spelman College, Philosophy and Religious Studies
Brian Herrera, Princeton University, Theater and Gender & Sexuality Studies
Chesney Snow, Princeton University, Theater and Music Theater
T. Lang, Spelman College, Dance Performance and Choreography
Aku Kadogo, Spelman College, Theater & Performance

The Heirloom Gardens Project

Kimberly Jackson, Spelman College, Food Studies Program
Hanna Garth, Princeton University, Anthropology
Tessa Lowinske Desmond, Princeton University, Effron Center for the Study of America
Whitney Barr, Spelman College, Food Studies Program


  • Howard Stone

  • Jia Deng

  • Emily Davidson

  • Reed Maxwell

  • Rodney Priestley

  • Jonathan Conway