Vanderbei and Register recognized for outstanding service and mentorship

The School of Engineering and Applied Science has honored professors Richard Register and Robert Vanderbei with awards for excellence in service and mentoring, respectively. These annual awards were created this year by the engineering school to recognize faculty for some of their most important work beyond research and teaching, said Dean Andrea Goldsmith in announcing the awards.

Richard Register. Photo by David Kelly Crow

Richard Register, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) and director of the Princeton Materials Institute, is the recipient of the SEAS Faculty Distinguished Service Award.

In nominating Register for the award, CBE department chair Christos Maravelias wrote that he “has been an extraordinary University citizen,” serving the department, the engineering school and the University in multiple roles since joining Princeton in 1990.

Register has served as director of graduate studies for CBE, and as chair of the department from 2008 to 2016, a period that involved significant building renovations as well as faculty hiring and promotions. He was also acting chair during spring 2020, when he led the department’s COVID-19 response. He has been associate director and director of the National Science Foundation-supported Princeton Center for Complex Materials. Last year, Register was named director of the Princeton Materials Institute, a leading facility for imaging, analysis and fabrication that is expanding its capacity for research and regional partnerships.

He has served on more than a dozen University committees during his time at Princeton, and has been honored by the engineering school and the University for distinguished teaching and mentoring.

Register was extremely supportive in helping Maravelias adapt to his roles as director of graduate studies and now as department chair. Maravelias wrote that Register “consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the department” and “is always available and willing to help,” citing his active participation in faculty and graduate student recruiting and responsiveness to questions and requests.

Robert Vanderbei. Photo by David Kelly Crow

Robert Vanderbei, a professor of operations research and financial engineering (ORFE), is the recipient of the SEAS Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Vanderbei joined Princeton in 1990 after several years as a technical staff member at AT&T Bell Laboratories. He chaired the ORFE department from 2005 to 2012, and is currently the department’s director of undergraduate studies.

In supporting his nomination for the award, former Ph.D. students emphasized Vanderbei’s generosity and ongoing commitment to their success. “It has been the privilege of a lifetime to learn from Bob, to work with him, and to count him among my friends,” an advisee wrote.

Another former student expressed gratitude to Vanderbei for taking him on as a mentee at a “crucial crossroads” during his time as a graduate student. “Through him, I not only learned how to conduct good research and choose interesting problems, but also how to behave maturely as a scholar,” he wrote.

Others praised Vanderbei’s clear and engaging presentations and passion for interdisciplinary research. In his nomination letter, professor Amir Ali Ahmadi described Vanderbei’s support of his ideas, especially as a new professor, and wrote that “his unwavering support and constructive feedback have been invaluable to me” in designing courses, writing grant proposals, and especially in navigating the tenure process. “Bob has been a true advocate for my success,” Ahmadi wrote.


  • Richard A. Register

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