Benziger, surface science expert who revitalized curriculum, transfers to emeritus status

Written by
Office of Communications
July 28, 2020

Jay Benziger, professor of chemical and biological engineering, was among ten Princeton University faculty members transferred to emeritus status in recent action by the Board of Trustees.

Benziger has advanced the study of surface science, as well as other research areas including fuel cell behavior and fuel cell performance. Another longstanding effort of his research has been the large-scale production of ultra-pure organic liquids, which are employed as the scintillators in the detection of solar neutrinos, including the Princeton-led Borexino experiment, installed beneath Gran Sasso mountain in Italy.

Benziger joined the Princeton faculty in 1979. His contributions to Princeton’s teaching program are far-reaching and include the revitalization of the core laboratory course in chemical engineering, broadening the experiments, and with a focus on critical data analysis and presentation that served undergraduates well as a foundation for their theses. He taught this course on and off throughout his 41 years on the Princeton faculty. He also played an integral role in the development of the courses in ethics and technology, energy technologies in the 21st century, an entry-level course in the Program in Sustainable Energy, and several laboratory modules for “Introduction to Engineering.” He was an active adviser to student groups participating in the engineering “Community Project Studio” courses since their inception.

As departmental representative for chemical engineering, he led the reorganization of the undergraduate curriculum into essentially the form it has today, including the incorporation of biology and the introduction of six elective “tracks,” or areas of focus.

Benziger received his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College, his master’s from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.