Michael Hecht

Head of College


Greetings, Forbesians!  I am currently in my 7th year as Head of Forbes College. The first 6 years were great fun, and I look forward to sharing the next few years with the class of 2020.

I’ve been at Princeton for 25 years, and have been affiliated with Forbes for almost the entire time. (Go, Forbes!)  When I’m not at Forbes (or in my residence next door), I have a "day job" as a Professor of Chemistry with affiliations in Molecular Biology and Genomics. (Yes, you can ask me about pre-med.)

I teach General Chemistry (CHM 201), which for many of you will be your first science course at Princeton.  In addition to teaching, I run a research lab, which includes postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and some terrific undergraduates. Last year, 3 Forbesians did their Senior Thesis research in my lab. (Go, Forbes!)  In the past, my lab worked on the molecular determinants of Alzheimer’s disease. These days most of our research focuses on Synthetic Biology.  We are motivated by a quote by Albert Eschenmoser, a famous Swiss chemist, who said, “The origin of life cannot be discovered; it has to be reinvented.”  So in a sense we are working on “Life Reinvented”.  (Yes, you can ask me about the philosophical and theological implications of this work.)

I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and have lived in various places, ranging from Anchorage to Jerusalem. I went to college at Cornell. Then, after dropping out of academia and living in Alaska for awhile, I did a PhD at MIT and postdoctoral studies at Duke Medical School.

My wife, Dr. Judy Swan, is Associate Director of the Princeton Writing Program. Our daughter, Shira, graduated Georgetown; and our son, Jonathan, graduated NYU. Many of you will also meet Caspian, our small dog and Forbes mascot.  Amazingly, Caspian is older (but far less accomplished) than most members of the class of ’20.

When I am not teaching, researching, or hanging out at Forbes, I enjoy traveling, backpacking, skiing, inline skating, and bicycling. (Ask me about some terrific 30-mile bike rides near Princeton and/or some great places to inline skate.)

One last thing. The title “Head of College” sounds intimidating. Actually I’m kind of scared of it myself. Don’t let fancy titles put you off. The title may be intimidating, but the person is not!  So if you see me in the dining hall, sit down and tell me your story. I look forward to meeting you!