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First 10 research proposals chosen for Princeton-HBCU collaboration initiative

<h6>Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

On Nov. 1, Princeton announced the first 10 research projects that will receive funding and support from the new Princeton Alliance for Collaborative Research and Innovation (PACRI). 

PACRI is intended to increase connections between Princeton and the five HBCUs in the program. The five HBCUs include: Howard University, Jackson State, Prairie View A&M University, Spelman College, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 


Ordinarily, cross-university collaboration can be challenging for professors, and PACRI addresses some of the obstacles. Professor Brian Herrera of the Lewis Center for the Arts (LCA) explained that research in the humanities, such as projects starting in the LCA, are extremely resource intensive, emphasizing that “We need that external investment, especially in the arts and humanities.” 

PACRI will support each of the aforementioned partnerships for up to to a total cost of $250,000 for two years per project. 

Dr. Nihar Pradhan, a professor of chemistry, physics, and atmospheric sciences at Jackson State, is working alongside Dr. Emily Davidson, a chemical and biological engineering professor at Princeton, on a project called “Dielectric Performance of Polymer Nanocomposite Heterostructures for High Energy Storage Capacitors.” 

Pradhan and Davidson’s project aims to improve battery storage capacity and efficiency, which is critical for many green energy initiatives. Pradhan explained that self-driving cars, for example, need more efficient and higher-storage batteries in order to drive longer distances. “One of the main goals is green energy technology.” He used examples such as electric cars and electric bikes, and the need for them to have long-lasting, reliable batteries.  

Herrera will work with Al-Yasha Ilhaam Williams, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Spelman College. Their project, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House: A Multimedia Performance,” will take the form of an installation at Spelman’s new fine arts center in Atlanta. 

Professor Meirong Liu of the Howard University School of Social Work, along with other Howard professors Gloria E. Cain, Jae Eun Chung, and Jiang Li, will work with Princeton Professor of Economics and Public Affairs Janet Currie to collect data relevant to policies around asthma in public housing. 


Liu said her team wants to investigate “the reasons for lack of knowledge and actions from both caregivers, landlords” and find best practices to “address the asthma health disparity.”. 

Liu expressed her opinion on how this project connects junior faculty with senior faculty alongside Princeton with HBCUs. She said, “If there was no grant opportunity, we wouldn’t have this connection.” 

Though Liu, Pradhan, and Herrera’s projects are still in their initial stages, students at Princeton and the collaborating HBCUs may have the opportunity to participate in these projects in the near future.  

Chas Brown is a member of the Class of 2026 and is a news contributor. Please direct all corrections to corrections at

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