Dr. Celeste Nelson to Join Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering Advisory Panel

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has appointed Dr. Celeste Nelson, a Chemical and Biological Engineer at Princeton University, to the Advisory Panel of the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering. Dr. Nelson is a 2008 Packard Fellow and joins the prestigious group of scientists and engineers responsible for selecting a class of Fellows each year from among a field of early-career scientists and engineers nominated by presidents of 50 universities.

“Dr. Nelson is making revolutionary discoveries to combat diseases including asthma and cancer while serving as a mentor and role model to her students and research team,” said Dr. Richard Alley, Chair of the Packard Fellows Advisory Panel. “She reminds us that brilliant scientists find inspiration all around them and encourage others to do the same, aiming to make our everyday lives better. I’m looking forward to her unique perspective joining our Advisory Panel.”

The Packard Fellowships are among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. After receiving the Packard Fellowship in 2008, Dr. Nelson went on to be recognized for multiple awards, including Technology Review’s TR35 (Innovators Under 35), Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Faculty Scholar Award, and the Blavatnik National Award Finalist for Young Scientists in Life Sciences (2017 and 2018).  She has spent the past fifteen years at Princeton University in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, where her lab focuses on how the final architecture of tissues and organs are determined. She studies how cells group together to create different organs in our bodies, and how these same cells can be destroyed by disease.

“The Packard Fellowship was extremely valuable for my research program, allowing me to take risks and move into entirely new directions that were, at the time, unconventional for engineers” said Dr. Nelson. “I look forward to helping the next generation follow their intuition and open new research areas that can solve some of society’s most challenging problems.”

After serving on the Advisory Panel from 2007 to 2021, Dr. Frances Arnold, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and 1989 Packard Fellow, will be stepping down from the panel so that she can focus more on her increasing responsibilities as co-chair of the President’s Council on Advisors on Science and Technology. During her tenure on the Advisory Panel, she guided the selection process to award 273 Packard Fellows and chaired the panel for eight years. Over this time, she also chaired the annual Packard Fellows Meetings and reunions, which fostered connection and collaboration among current and former Fellows.  

“Dr. Arnold has been core to the success of the Packard Foundation’s Fellows program,” said Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO of the Packard Foundation. “I’m grateful for her years of leadership and her continued commitment to science.  In her own very successful career, which she pursued with great dedication and constant inquiry and innovation, she has embodied what we hope for all our Packard Fellows.”

During this exciting time of transition, one remarkable female engineer and alumni Fellow is passing the baton to another, in the spirit of supporting future Fellows to take risks and explore new frontiers in their fields of study.