President’s Blog: Government Support for STEM Research and Immigration

Feb. 8, 2022

America’s global leadership in science, technology, and innovation has benefited tremendously from our government’s willingness to invest boldly in research and from the influx of talented immigrants to this country.

Recent developments in Washington bring welcome news on both fronts.

On Friday, the House passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022, which provides a new and potentially transformative infusion of funding to support our country’s scientific and technical leadership.

I offer my thanks and congratulations to members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, including New Jersey’s Congressman Donald Norcross and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, for leading the way.

The COMPETES Act authorizes investment in several areas that are high priorities for Princeton University’s scientists and scholars, including fusion energy, quantum science, biological engineering, and energy storage.

The Act also authorizes important new research programs that would improve and accelerate the development of the plasma tools and sophisticated semiconductor equipment used in manufacturing chips.  These investments are critical to America’s future, and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is on the cutting edge of this work.

More hurdles remain before the COMPETES Act can have practical effect.  Lawmakers must resolve differences between the House legislation and its Senate counterpart.  Congress must also appropriate the funding required to support the new programs.

As the House and Senate produce a bill for President Biden’s signature, I urge Congress to carefully consider and remove any provisions in the legislation that would chill international collaboration or burden universities and faculty with unnecessary or overly broad regulations and reporting requirements.

America’s eminence in scientific research has always depended upon the ability of our researchers to collaborate productively with international partners and to attract new talent to this country.

January brought good news on that topic, too.  Last month, the White House announced significant actions to attract and retain international STEM students in the United States.

One policy change will add 22 new fields of study to the STEM Optional Practical Training program, which permits students on an F-1 visa to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete “practical training” with a U.S. employer.

The White House also announced new guidance that could increase the use and availability of O-1A visas for those with “extraordinary talent.”  And STEM students on J-1 visas will now be allowed to stay in the United States for 36 months after graduation for additional academic training.

Princeton has advocated forcefully for improvements to our visa system like those announced last month.  Talented students and scholars from around the world have energized and enhanced our University and our country for more than two centuries.  Attracting them will be equally important to American research and innovation now and in the future.

I am grateful to Congress and the Biden administration for their leadership on these issues, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that research, innovation, and education flourish in America.