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Tigers trek to New York, Silicon Valley over Spring Break

A group of students smile in a group photo in front of a green backdrop.
The NY Tigertrek participants smile for a group photo.
Courtesy of Abhi Vellore

Over spring break, two groups traveled to Silicon Valley and New York City through the AI TigerTrek and New York TigerTrek, respectively, both sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. TigerTrek is a series of trips over academic breaks which gives students the opportunity to have intimate conversations with creatives and entrepreneurs in various industries. The AI TigerTrek comes at a time of growing focus on artificial intelligence (AI) at the University and beyond.

AI TigerTrek


In its second annual trip, the AI TigerTrek program brought 15 students to Silicon Valley to expose participants to opportunities in research with artificial intelligence. “A lot of [AI research at Princeton] is reading papers and presenting material, but it is a little bit disjointed from what’s going on in AI. We were interested in getting people a more direct view into what kind of research and what kind of applications were going on,” Michael Tang ’24, one of the co-directors of the AI TigerTrek, told the ‘Prince’ in an interview.

The AI TigerTrek trip comes after the University and Governor Phil Murphy announced plans to establish a hub for artificial intelligence (AI) activity in New Jersey in collaboration with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). 

President Christopher Eisgruber '83, who in a Dec. interview with the ‘Prince’ shared his excitement over the AI hub and AI research, chose a book about AI for the Class of 2028 pre-read. The book, “The Worlds I See” by Fei-Fei Li ’99, is about Li’s experience as a researcher in AI and the future of AI.

When reviewing applications, Tang and his co-directors noted the range of the applicants' familiarities with AI research.

“We ended up having some people with a very strong background in biology, or theoretical computer science, or chemistry,” Tang said. One of the speakers Tang brought on, Jared Kaplan, came from a physics background before co-founding Anthropic, an AI safety and research company. Tang noted the growing involvement of AI in other subjects as well as the trip members’ enthusiasm to explore those intersections after participating in the trip.

Eduardo Fernandez ’24, a Computer Science major, was interested in participating in the TigerTrek after learning about machine learning during his gap year. “I know from friends who went last year that [the program] invited influential big-name speakers, and it would be fun to go to California as well,” he said in an interview with the 'Prince.'


During the trip, students met with an upwards of 15 speakers. Each day had a theme, such as self-driving car companies, and at the end of the day, participants debriefed and presented contextual information about the following day’s speakers.

In particular, Tang spoke about the group’s excitement to hear from Jascha Sohl-Dickstein, the inventor of diffusion models. Similar to Tusk, Sohl-Dickstein had a diverse set of experiences, including working on the Mars Rover project, working at Google Brain, and eventually moving to Anthropic.

“A lot of our members were interested in deep learning theory. And we were trying to understand whether deep learning theory was a feasible approach to understanding what makes deep learning so effective. And [Sohl-Dickstein] has been doing work adjacent to that,” he added.

In addition to hearing from accomplished professionals, students also met with student groups from Machine Learning @ Berkeley. One of the goals of the program was to foster links between campuses with different perspectives on machine learning and AI research. “There’s a lot of interesting perspectives beyond just trying to get people to meet each other and exchange ideas. In the long term, AI is really a global phenomenon. And we’d love to see future collaborations between people across different schools,” Tang said.

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Tang encourages anyone excited about or interested in TigerTrek to apply next year or get involved with AI@Princeton, which collaborates with the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club to host this TigerTrek program. “There’s going to be a lot of exciting initiatives and a lot of stuff in store.”

New York TigerTrek

The New York TigerTrek, which transitioned from a one-day trip to a week-long trip in 2017, brought 20 Princeton students to New York City over Spring Break for “a week of intimate, off-the-record conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, and game changers,” according to the NY TigerTrek site.

“[New York City] holds a lot of value to the entrepreneurship scene with a lot of tech companies as well as venture capitalist firms,” Abhi Vellore ’25, one of the co-directors of this year’s trip, said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. He also noted the wide range of industries that call New York City home, citing the diversity as another reason why the TigerTrek offered such a rewarding experience.

Vellore and Dane Utley ’26, the other co-director for the NY TigerTrek, had been planning this year’s iteration of the NY TigerTrek since October of last year. They decided on the theme for the trip: “Passions in Professions.” They chose participants with a wide outlook of class years and majors, ranging from Anthropology to Economics to Molecular Biology.

During the trip, the group met with around two to three speakers each day. Vellore, having attended the NY TigerTrek last year, wanted to make this year’s trip more receptive for different majors.

“We tried to forge a path that was really like one person per industry to hit a lot of different subjects that may not necessarily relate to entrepreneurship but is still exciting in its own way,” he said. 

Vellore also searched for speakers who did not have a straightforward career path in order to show that “it’s okay to not know what you want to do right out of Princeton.” 

One of the most notable speakers during the trip was Bradley Tusk, the founder of Tusk Ventures, a venture capital firm in New York. Tusk brought with him a wide range of experiences: he worked in the Department of Parks in New York, assisted with Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral campaign, and served as Chuck Schumer’s head of communication. Vellore noted that while it was hard to relate to Tusk due to his unique career path, his message resonated with the group.

“[Tusk] gave us this message, which is if you want to do something impactful with your life, know what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. For him, he had a law degree and could have gone to a big law firm, but he realized that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to have an impact on the ground. And his message was framed around this concept of continuously learning and taking more risks,” Vellore said.

After the conversations, the group would engage in team activities, such as a ferry ride or visiting Central Park. This helped connect the educational aspect of the TigerTrek to the relationship-building aspect of a spring break trip.

Justin Tam is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

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