Artist collaborations awarded Dean for Research Innovation funding

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
June 8, 2020

Dancers with net, various poses

Research collaborations between artists and scientists or engineers

This fund encourages collaborations between faculty scholars in the arts and those in the natural sciences or engineering to promote synergistic innovations, allowing experts in seemingly unrelated fields to unify and expand their respective knowledge in ways that benefit both disciplines.

NODES-Net tOpology and Dance Exploration Systems

Sigrid Adriaenssens and Rebecca LazierCombining dance and structural engineering, Rebecca Lazier, senior lecturer in dance in the Lewis Center for the Arts, and Sigrid Adriaenssens, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, will collaborate on a new project involving the movements of dancers as a strategy to explore nets as resilient building facades and impact barriers. Nets are attractive for uses that require flexibility to withstand waves, winds and earthquakes, but they stiffen with usage, making for potentially disastrous outcomes. This project aims to create choreographic works that generate a new understanding of how nets turn rigid when loaded and soften when unloaded. At the same time, dancers will explore the interaction between net and human. The net will be a full collaborative partner in the dance rather than a setting or a prop, enabling creativity that moves beyond how people have used nets previously.

The project involves first designing and fabricating different types of nets and then hosting intensive research sessions with dancers in Princeton's Lewis Center for the Arts. The team will experiment with choreography and collect movement in a digital framework gathered from reflective beads mounted on the nets. The project will include collaboration with Adam Finkelstein, professor of computer science, to transform these data into insights on net structure and properties. The project will include a public performance.


Eduardo Cadava, Fazal Sheikh, Mark Zondlo and John HigginsA team of artists, scientists and engineers led by Eduardo Cadava, professor of English, John Higgins, associate professor of geosciences, and Mark Zondlo, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, will embark on a field measurement and outreach project centered on environmental justice issues in the Red Rock Wilderness surrounding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah. The project, which builds on work by artist and photographer Fazal Sheikh, the 2018-19 Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities and current artist-in-residence at the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), will document the effects of extractive industries such as mining on public and Native lands. Expected outcomes include collaborations with indigenous communities and native engineers and scientists, methane and water testing, geological research, an interactive mapping system and website, and online syllabi. The project will contribute to an exhibition at the Smart Art Museum and the Yale University Gallery of Art.

Mexican Hat Uranium Disposal Cell (left), Evaporation ponds and fracking installations (right)

The team includes Michael Celia, the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of PEI; Peter Jaffe, the William L. Knapp '47 Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering; Zia Mian, research scientist at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security; and Emily Wild, Princeton's chemistry, geosciences and environmental studies librarian.