Zachary Ruchman '10

JEFF BEZOS ’86, founder and chief executive officer of, has been selected as the speaker for this year’s Baccalaureate ceremony. Recommended by the senior-class officers for his achievements in commerce and the Internet, Bezos will address the graduates May 30 in the University Chapel.

Princeton’s chemical engineering department has changed its name to the Department of CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING. In a proposal approved by the faculty Dec. 7, department chairman Richard Register said that the addition “reflects both the current state of our department and the discipline, and our plans for the future.”

The faculty approved new guidelines that will allow undergraduates to choose the PASS/D/FAIL OPTION after they receive their midterm grades. Starting in the 2010­–11 academic year, undergraduates will begin all courses as A-through-F students but will be able to switch to P/D/F in the seventh, eighth, or ninth week of the semester. (The current system requires students to make P/D/F elections by the end of the fifth week.) Students who choose P/D/F no longer will have the option to rescind.  

The Pass/Fail option, introduced in 1965 and revised to Pass/D/Fail in 1988, remains popular: 58 percent of graduates in the Class of 2009 used three or more P/D/F elections. But availability has dwindled: In the spring of 1977, 90 percent of undergraduate classes offered the P/D/F option; last spring, fewer than half allowed the choice. The proposal passed by the faculty said that the changes aim to “alleviate concerns faculty members may have had about student engagement in their courses” and encourage professors to make more courses available for P/D/F.

Math professor ELON LINDENSTRAUSS has received the Fermat Prize for Mathematics Research for his work in number theory. The prize is awarded every two years for important research in fields that have been affected decisively by the work of 17th-century mathematician Pierre de Fermat. The prize includes an award of 20,000 euros (about $30,000).  

Postdoctoral research fellow Michael McElwain and an international team of colleagues directly observed a PLANET-LIKE OBJECT orbiting a star similar to the sun, according to a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters Nov. 18. The object, which could be either a large planet or a brown dwarf star, was the first major discovery made with the Hawaii-based Subaru Telescope’s High Contrast Instrument for Adaptive Optics. The search for extrasolar planets is a focal point of Princeton’s 10-year research collaboration with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which began in January 2009.