Peter Schiffer named Princeton’s next dean for research

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
June 2, 2023

Peter Schiffer, a professor of applied physics and physics at Yale University and the director for strategic projects at Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has been named Princeton’s next dean for research. His appointment will take effect Aug. 28.

Schiffer will succeed Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering, who will continue as dean for research through Aug. 27.

“I am honored and excited,” said Schiffer, who will also join the Department of Physics as a professor. “Princeton is a spectacular institution with extraordinarily strong faculty and leadership.”

Schiffer added, “My personal research background is in a multidisciplinary area of physics, and I’ve interacted substantially with scholars across the academic spectrum through my administrative roles. I’m looking forward to engaging with new colleagues across the humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering.”

 “I am delighted that Peter Schiffer will be Princeton’s next dean for research,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “He brings to the office a rare combination of administrative skill, deep knowledge of research policy, and a steadfast commitment to the scholarly values that define this University. He will be an outstanding leader for our research enterprise and a worthy successor to Pablo Debenedetti.”

The dean for research works closely with the provost and other University leaders to develop and support Princeton’s dynamic research community.

“Peter Schiffer is a seasoned administrator, a distinguished scholar and a national leader in serving the larger research community,” said Provost Jennifer Rexford. “He brings a wealth of experience from his administrative roles at several top research universities. I look forward to working closely with Peter to support the vibrant research enterprise we have here at Princeton.”

Schiffer earned his B.S. from Yale in 1988 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1993, both in physics. He did postdoctoral research at AT&T Bell Laboratories before joining academia. In addition to Yale, he has taught at the University of Notre Dame, Penn State and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has also held administrative roles throughout his career, serving as the associate vice president for research at Penn State, vice chancellor for research at UIUC and vice provost for research at Yale.

“I’ve seen that successful leadership in academia requires taking a lot of different viewpoints into account,” Schiffer said. “You have so many smart people among the staff and among the faculty. People work at universities because we believe in the mission of higher education: the training of students and the production and dissemination of knowledge.”

He continued: “The other thing I’ve noticed over the years is the impact that all universities have on the economy, both the national economy and the local economy. Research educates students, and researchers create startup companies and work with local companies. Universities really are economic engines.”

Schiffer’s own research focuses on fundamental condensed matter physics. He has published extensively, co-authoring more than 200 papers.

Among his many awards, he is the winner of an Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the Army Research Office, and an Alfred. P. Sloan Research Fellowship. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Since 2020, he has also served as a senior fellow with the Association of American Universities.

Schiffer is relocating to Princeton with his wife, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, a Sterling Professor of Chemistry at Yale and a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton’s Class of 1988, who will join the chemistry faculty as a full professor in January 2024. Hammes-Schiffer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

They have two sons, Zachary and Benjamin, both Princeton alumni. Zachary received his B.S.E. in chemical and biological engineering in 2016, and Benjamin received his B.S.E. in Operations Research and Financial Engineering in 2020.

“Having my sons at Princeton gave me tremendous appreciation for just what a great university Princeton is, how well the students are treated and how well they are educated,” Schiffer said. “And, of course, I’ve known Princeton physicists since the beginning of my research career. I’m very excited to become a part of the community.”