A gift from Gilbert Omenn ’61 and Martha Darling *70 will fund a new bioengineering institute at Princeton and support research and education in engineering and the life sciences, the University announced in July. The Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute will be located in the new Environmental Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Science complex on Ivy Lane, which is scheduled to open in 2025.
“Place is important — to have a home is important — so that’s obviously an appealing aspect of [the new institute],” Omenn told PAW. “But the bulk of what we’re interested in is the impact of the people.”
Bioengineering at Princeton draws on the expertise of its core faculty and affiliates from more than a half-dozen engineering and science departments. It was highlighted in the engineering school’s recent strategic planning effort as a “high-impact research area” in which the University aims to take a leading role.
“Place is important — to have a home is important — so that’s obviously an appealing aspect of [the new institute]. But the bulk of what we’re interested in is the impact of the people.”
— Gilbert Omenn ’61
Omenn and Darling, who are married, said they are particularly excited about the innovative research of Professor Cliff Brangwynne, the inaugural director of Princeton’s Bioengineering Initiative. Brangwynne, in a University announcement, said the gift “will have a major impact on Princeton students and faculty for generations to come.”
Omenn is a physician and researcher at the University of Michigan who studied biology at Princeton and graduated in three years, getting a head start on his medical degree at Harvard. He later earned a Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Washington.
Darling was among the first women to earn a master’s in public affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). Her career has included policy work at the state and national levels and a senior leadership role at Boeing.
Princeton, Darling said, is particularly good at “cultivating continuing alumni involvement — and making it welcome.” By staying connected with the University through advisory committees, Darling and Omenn have developed friendships with professors, deans, and presidents, and those personal ties have informed their giving. Their prior gifts include support of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative at SPIA; an annual lecture in science, technology, and public policy; and a fund for research in grand challenges of bioengineering.
The University did not disclose the amount of the bioengineering institute gift.