June 12, 2019

Story by Karin Dienst, Office of Communications

Four Princeton University faculty members, including Ned Wingreen, the Howard A. Prior Professor in the Life Sciences and professor of molecular biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, received the President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement ceremonies Tuesday, June 4.  

The awards were established in 1991 through a gift by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and their departments each receive $3,000 for the purchase of new books.

A committee of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic administrators selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.

Ned Wingreen researches intracellular networks in bacteria — how bacteria sense their environments and adjust their behaviors accordingly. His teaching has focused on on biological dynamics and quantitative biology. Wingreen was instrumental in establishing the graduate Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology. Ned also teaches one of the required courses for the QCB Graduate Program, QCB515 Method and Logic in Quantitative Biology.  

A colleague noted that “Ned is repeatedly praised for his commitment to students as scholars and as people,” whose lab is “considered a hub and catalyst for interactions across fields. … [H]e is an extraordinary teacher, wholly devoted to mentorship, a passionate advocate for students, and a scholar of the highest caliber.”

Wingreen’s course “Method and Logic in Quantitative Biology” counts toward the Ph.D. in five academic areas. A former graduate student, now a professor herself, stated: “Teaching biology graduate students the importance of mathematical literacy can be a delicate subject, because historically, there is a widespread perception among this body of students (maybe in particular women) that math is hard and biology is the one place where one can excel in science without being good at math. By his unassuming, welcoming and enthusiastic teaching style, Ned completely changed this perception for me, and undoubtedly many other female (and male) students as well.”

Wingreen is known for his mentorship of students long into their careers. One faculty researcher who studied with Wingreen said much of his own “success in [the] academic setting can be attributed to Ned, and he views mentoring as a lifetime job.”

Wingreen’s colleagues also value him as a teacher. One member of the molecular biology department stated, “It is very rare to find such a caring, knowledgeable and generous mentor at this crucial career stage, and I am extremely grateful for having Ned fulfill that role.”

A faculty member who has long collaborated with Wingreen lauded his strengths as a tutor and how learning about quantitative methods from him “paid off.”