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Rumored Rutgers, Princeton partnership has long legacy

Rutgers and Princeton have collaborated on projects in the past such as the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, which has made strides in the areas of precision medicine and immunotherapy.  – Photo by Photo by Flickr | The Daily Targum

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi announced that he and his team have been working with their counterparts at Princeton University to explore further opportunities for collaboration in his Report to the University Senate on Sept. 21.

“This year we have been exploring greater collaboration with Princeton, which has a world-class reputation and many areas of shared research interest, including not only cancer research but also drug discovery, brain research, computing, and biomedical data science, ” Barchi said.

Barchi and his research vice presidents have been meeting with Princeton President Chris Eisgruber to discuss collaborations between the two colleges that are mutually rewarding, he said. 

One example of an ongoing collaboration between Rutgers and Princeton is the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (RCINJ).

“For nearly a decade, CINJ researchers have benefited from close collaboration with colleagues at Princeton University, working side by side to make important advances in areas such as precision medicine and immunotherapy,” Barchi wrote. 

RCINJ is a partnership between Rutgers, Princeton and the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton that brings together the top cancer researchers and doctors throughout the state, according to the RCINJ website.  

Princeton became a formal scientific collaborator at RCINJ in 2010, after years of engaging in individual research relationships in the areas of molecular biology and bioengineering. Princeton’s Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Core Facility and the Flow Cytometry Resource Facility are currently affiliated with RCINJ, said S. David Kimball, Interim Senior Vice President of Research and Economic Development at Rutgers University in an interview.

Other current collaborations include the Rutgers-Princeton Center for Cognitive Computational Neuropsychiatry (CCNP), which aims to advance the expertise in Princeton’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute and in Rutgers’ departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Computer Science. CCNP also works to advance expertise with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and the Rutgers Brain Health Institute. 

CCNP has the goal to connect the understanding of mental illness with the understanding of the human brain. 

Another collaboration is the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS)-Princeton University M.D./Ph.D. Program, which allows candidates to complete their M.D. training at Rutgers RWJMS and attain their M.D. or Ph.D. training at either Rutgers or Princeton University. 

The New Jersey Research Asset Database – Research with New Jersey is another collaboration between Rutgers and Princeton that also includes research assets from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Rowan University and the Stevens Institute of Technology. 

According to a peer-reviewed article from the Association of American Colleges & Universities titled, it is not uncommon for faculty members to seek collaboration with colleagues outside of their own institution. They may do this for various reasons, including pooling resources and partaking in research projects that institutions would not be able to engage in by themselves. 

In this case, Rutgers and Princeton are both top research institutions with well-funded departments, access to state-of-the-art technology, with outstanding and prolific faculties who consistently rank at the top of various fields, particularly STEM. But, Princeton does not have a medical school, which incentivizes its faculty and researchers to reach out to Rutgers and seek out collaboration, especially in the field of biomedicine. Relevant also is the amount of resources that Rutgers University allocated to research and development in comparison to other institutions in the state.

“For perspective, Rutgers University has far greater research expenditures than all of the other institutions of higher education in New Jersey combined, including Princeton — (Rutgers research expenditures were) $655 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and $712 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Together with Princeton, our combined research expenditures were $961 million in Fiscal Year 2017 and would be greater than $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2017. The point is, there is a massive research enterprise in central New Jersey and collaboration with Princeton is a natural and logical outcome,” Kimball said.

Princeton has been instrumental in supporting RCINJ’s accreditation and Rutgers’ application for the prestigious Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), which automatically elevates the university into a higher playing field, Kimball said. 

The Association of American Colleges article stated that greater cooperation between universities can lead to increases in numbers of publications and the implementation of new and revised courses, as well as curriculum enhancements, not to mention new professional networks, all which can lead to a more vibrant and enhanced academic environment that will benefit both students and faculty.

“I personally support it,” said Adeel Ahmed, a School of Arts and Science senior and a Senator-at-Large at Rutgers University’s Student Assembly (RUSA). “I think there is a lot of exchange of ideas that way by having more inclusion of students in different areas. I do believe, though, that collaboration should be to the extent of prestige.”

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