Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.


Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.

Benoit Cortet

The 218th session of the New Jersey legislature, which convened in January, faces enormous challenges, but already it has taken important steps that could benefit Rutgers. The new speaker of the General Assembly, Craig Coughlin, represents the 19th district, an area of Middlesex County near Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s location in the 17th district. It’s been more than 40 years since a speaker has come from Middlesex County. That one of the presiding officers in the legislature represents Middlesex County and understands what Rutgers is—and what Rutgers can be—is a positive sign for the university.

Among his first actions, the new speaker created a standing reference committee in the lower house: the Assembly Committee on Science, Innovation, and Technology. It will play a critical role in reestablishing New Jersey’s position as the global leader in the life sciences and in biopharma research and development. And the committee will help develop state strategies to encourage innovation, research, and discovery that will rely on Rutgers’ strengths and build on its potential.

In a letter to the new speaker, Rutgers president Robert Barchi wrote: “This is an important addition to the collection of assembly committees and could be a legislative engine that leads to comprehensive and cohesive state policies that can harness the enormous academic, research, and private-sector talent we have in New Jersey.”

President Barchi is right. New Jersey’s economic future will be defined by how well we meet the challenges of the new economy, by how successful we are at innovating, and by the progress we make at bringing new products, technologies, and medicines from the lab to the market.

The new assembly speaker’s commitment to making that happen is important for the state—and essential for Rutgers.