In 2007, Greg Olsen, a pioneer in the sensors industry and in space travel, was appointed the engineering school's first entrepreneur-in-residence.
"The position gives students and faculty members access to advice and ideas from a highly successful business founder and adds momentum to the growing number of entrepreneurial activities at the school," said H. Vincent Poor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Olsen's appointment is with Princeton's Keller Center, in collaboration with the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials.
Olsen said that a company he co-founded, Sensors Unlimited, benefited greatly during its early days from collaborations with Princeton's researchers in material science. "Sensors Unlimited got a lot of help from Princeton and there is a nice trade going on already between Princeton and entrepreneurship," Olsen said. "I just want to keep that going."
Sensors Unlimited developed optoelectronic devices such as sensitive near-infrared and shortwave-infrared cameras for NASA and other clients. In 2000, Sensors Unlimited was acquired by Finisar Corporation for approximately $600 million.
In 2005, Olsen went into space as one of the world's first private citizens to become a self-funded astronaut. He traveled on a Russian Soyuz rocket for a 10-day visit to the International Space Station. Since then he has been devoting much of his time exhorting American students to pursue careers in science and engineering. Olsen has hopes of returning to space sometime in the future.