Paul Gauthier

Ever wonder what goes on inside the classrooms and laboratories of Princeton University’s Gothic buildings? There is no better chance to find out than at the yearly Research Day event, in which Princeton’s undergraduate and graduate researchers give presentations on their work.

Research Day will be held Thursday, May 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Frist Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Dozens of presentations cover astrophysics to neural networks to religious bias in Indian online news. Many are of interest to the business and technology communities, or curiosity seekers who want to hear what some of the best scientific and humanities minds in the country are working on.

Money matters. A session on money, held at 10 a.m., discusses some far out ideas, including a presentation by senior Bhaskar Roberts on an idea for a new kind of money based on quantum physics.

At the event program describes it:

“Money is hard, but not impossible, to counterfeit. With the right printer, we can print fake dollars that look real. However, the no-cloning theorem of quantum physics could let us create money that is impossible to counterfeit. In this project, we studied several proposed schemes for uncounterfeitable (quantum) money, found security flaws in one of them and proposed a scheme of our own.

“The schemes are built around a quantum superposition. Like Schro­dinger’s Cat, which is both alive and dead, the superposition is a bitstring that simultaneously has many values. If we measure the bitstring (read its value), the superposition collapses to a single value, and information about the other values is lost. Intuitively, the superposition is impossible to copy because we would need to read the bitstring in order to copy it.

“Any quantum money scheme needs a verification algorithm, a method to distinguish valid and counterfeit money without destroying valid money. Recently, several schemes have been proposed for public key quantum money, which anyone can verify using only public information. None of the public key schemes have been proven secure. It is difficult to show that the trapdoor, the public information used to verify a purported state, cannot be used to produce counterfeit states.

“We found several successful attacks on [Zha17]’s quantum money construction and suggest ways to make the construction secure. One attack counterfeits quantum lightning states by exploiting the verification algorithm’s trapdoor. In future and ongoing work, we design new constructions that may be secure.”

Life and Death. Also at 10 a.m. on May 9, Isla Xi Han, a graduate student in architecture, will propose a new “Contemporary Urban Death Ritual” for grieving the departed in cities where there is no more room for graveyards.

“Death rituals play a significant role in civilizations. It directs community members through a grieving process to find a sense of ‘closure’ and carries the monumental quality of memorizing and ‘critical reasoning.’ However, due to population growth and rising real estate price, most American metropolitans are facing conflicts between expanding needs for memorialization and shrinking urban cemetery spaces.

“Compared with mid-19th century, where early urban cemeteries occupied central blocks and Garden Cemetery Movement introduced romanticized memorials and landscape designs, contemporary American cities are running out of space for burial, not to mention other problems like cemetery gentrification and lack of maintenance.

“Although there are successful cemetery adaptation models like Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY, where graveyards and burial vaults are integrated into contemporary civic life through programs in public performances and music concerts, the larger problem remains unsolved due to the massive annual death population in a city like New York and the fundamental dilemma between limited physical space and infinite memories.

“Engaging with digital revolution, this design project tackles the issue of urban death by reconfiguring death dimensions through two layers: the physical transformation of bodies and the digital storage of memories. Taking the typical 4-3/8”x4-3/8” New York subway tiles as design canvas and the abandoned underground City Hall Loop in Manhattan as site, this project proposes a hyperspace where bodies are transformed into digital information surfaces (tiles) from which memories can be scanned and read on mobile devices in subway stations as a form of everyday monumentality.”

Feeding the Masses. Cities are the topic of an 11 a.m. session. Geosciences postdoctoral fellow Paul Gauthier will present research on whether vertical farms can feed the world. Gauthier, who specializes in plant physiology, is also a founder of the Princeton Vertical Farming Project. The project, which partners with an undergraduate eating club, Terrace, to provide greens and herbs, uses a form of farming that grows layers plants hydroponically, using artificial light, which saves both space and water. Visit verticalfarming.prince­

“In the context of global food safety, the global population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 with 80 percent living in urban areas. To feed this growing population, current crop yields must increase by 60 percent even though the total amount of land available for agriculture is not expanding. It is then critical to find new solutions to meet food demands and relieve pressure on traditional agriculture.

“In the past five years, vertical farming has caught the attention of industrial, federal, and private investors and is now presented as a key player in meeting food demand. However, many have claimed that vertical farming is the solution for the future and that it can feed the world. Using insights from Princeton Vertical Farming Project and some current analysis of the vertical farming industry as well as the potential market development in the context of climate change, the feasibility of vertical farming feeding the world will be presented. Vertical farming will be discussed in the context of food security, environmental sustainability, profitability and community development.”

Buildings that build and rebuild themselves. At an “elevator pitch” session, junior Zoe Zeitler will discuss research into building systems that assemble themselves, replicate themselves, and repair themselves:

“For my thesis I want to research self-assembly systems for architecture in order to contribute to the development of extremely low-energy and low-material construction methods. Beyond self-assembling, these systems may even be self-replicating and self-repairing — all on a passive basis. This means that no energy input is required to the system beyond its construction. Such systems are adaptive on the basis of their design, without human input beyond their construction. I will 3D CAD such a system and test the resulting model digitally, before beginning to prototype.

“The first system of this kind that I encountered was built by a Princeton graduate, Doris Kim Sung. Sung built an adaptive facade of bimetal to optimize heat and light flow through a building. The missing link to actualized environmental impact is the assessment of how best to integrate such modules into building design, and in what way to implement them for maximal energy savings. Adaptability is one of the key strengths of these modular innovations. And yet their specificity in the setting of a building and a site determines their effectiveness.”

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