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King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Announces Inaugural Global Research Partnership Investigator Winners

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia has named the winners of its Global Research Partnership (GRP) Investigator competition. Twelve international scientists—among them Dr. Yi Cui at Stanford (silicon nanowires for li-ion batteries) and Dr. Bruce Logan at Penn State (microbial fuel cells)—were selected as KAUST GRP investigators for the 2007 round of nominations, which featured more than 60 submissions from 38 of the world’s leading research universities.

GRP investigators receive five-year individual grants to investigate a wide range of research topics. As an example, Dr. Logan’s grant is for $10 million.

Each KAUST Investigator is expected to spend between three weeks and three months per year on the KAUST campus in Saudi Arabia participating in the research and academic life of the institution. Additional personnel exchanges including the Investigators or their research personnel will be arranged according to the needs of the collaborative work established with KAUST’s faculty.

Research topics include water desalination, renewable and sustainable next-generation energy sources, genomics of salt-tolerant plants, durable and environmentally friendly construction materials, hydrocarbon utility, low-cost solar cell efficiency, and disease immunization.

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will be an international, graduate-level research university, sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s reigning monarch. The university, intended to be a showcase for modernization, broke ground last October; it plans to open its doors to students in September 2009. The campus will start with an endowment in excess of $10 billion—one of the largest endowments in the world.

The initial set of GRP Investigators are:

  • Dr. Yi Cui – Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University. Dr. Cui, one of the Stanford researchers who showed the potential of silicon nanowires for improving li-ion energy capacity and cycle life (earlier post), will research “Advanced Electrical Energy Storage Using Nanowires” at KAUST.

  • Dr. Ahmed F. Ghoniem – Ronald C. Crane Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT. Professor Ghoniem’s research project at KAUST, “Advanced Energy Conversion Systems,” will focus on future clean technologies with a unique emphasis on integrating process, component, and systems level analyses, allowing for the optimization of modern energy systems for higher efficiency and lowest carbon emissions.

  • Dr. Nicholas Paul Harberd – Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. Dr. Harberd’s KAUST research, “Crop-plant Domestication in the Genome-Biology Era,” will focus on producing salt-tolerant bread wheat by using the latest advances in genomic science, DNA sequencing and computational tools, with major potential impact on agriculture in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

  • Dr. Nobuyasu Ito – Associate Professor, Department of Applied Physics, University of Tokyo. Dr. Ito’s KAUST research, the “Avogadro Challenge—Nanodynamics Study on Nonequilibrium Problems,” will leverage computational power to run simulations at the nano scale to predict bulk behavior.

  • Dr. William Koros – Professor and Roberto C. Goizueta Chair for Excellence in Chemical Engineering at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Koros’ KAUST research, “Advanced Membranes and Sorbents for More Sustainable Hydrocarbon Utilization,” will focus on creating new membranes and developing purification and separation tools for large-scale energy processes with a focus on environmental impact and sustainability. His work has the potential for directly influencing the sustainable use of hydrocarbons in an environmentally responsible manner.

  • Dr. Bruce Logan – Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State. (Earlier post.) Dr.Logan’s KAUST research, “Energy for a Sustainable Water Infrastructure and Agriculture,” aims to produce energy from wastewater treatment by recovering energy from organic matter in wastewater and agricultural wastes using microbial fuel cells, with that energy then used for water desalination. He has also developed a related technology that produces pure hydrogen from organic waste.

  • Dr. Peter A. Markowich – Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge. Dr. Markowich’s research, “Applied and Computational Differential Equations in Life Sciences, Nanoscience and Engineering,” will focus on the study of nonlinear partial differential equations. He will also explore numerical techniques and properties with wide applications to various research areas, including biology, physical processes, nanoscience, and modeling of engineering systems.

  • Dr. Paulo Monteiro – Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Monteiro’s KAUST research, “Green Concrete and Sustainable Construction: A Multi-scale Approach,” will focus on new methods for making concrete that will reduce the cement and water required for its production, resulting in significantly lower environmental impact and as well as structures that are far more durable.

  • Dr. Bengt Nordén – Chair Professor of Physical Chemistry, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology. Dr. Nordén’s KAUST research, “Bio-inspired Molecular Nanotechnology,” will take a basic science approach to learning how some components in living cells work at the molecular level. He will apply this knowledge to design new materials and structures with unique properties, mainly built on DNA and membranes.

  • Dr. Edward Hartley Sargent – Professor and Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, University of Toronto. Dr. Sargent’s KAUST research, “Nanotechnology for Solar Energy,” will aim to create practical, low-cost, paint-on, high-efficiency, environmentally friendly solar cells using new understanding of nano-scale technology (quantum dots).

  • Dr. Brian Stoltz – Ethel Wilson Bowles and Robert Bowles Professor in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology. Dr. Stoltz’ KAUST research, “Selective Aerobic Catalytic Oxidation Chemistry,” aims to develop new tools in catalytic chemistry that will have a powerful influence on biology and human medicine as well as the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

  • Professor Anna Tramontano – Professor of Biochemistry, University of Rome, La Sapienza. Professor Tramontano’s KAUST research, “Systems View of Biological Organisms: Computational Approach,” will focus on understanding living organisms at the molecular level and on developing methods to accurately simulate how a disease can be controlled or prevented using different techniques.



I find it ironic that a University in Saudi Arabia would be funding these grants, but when you make an extra $500 million per day as a country on the rise in oil prices I think you could manage to fund it.

We do not fund these programs in the U.S. because people do not want to pay taxes, but they are willing to pay much more for oil and gasoline, which goes to these countries that fund the grants. Interesting....


Did you see the conditions of the grants?

Each KAUST Investigator is expected to spend between three weeks and three months per year on the KAUST campus in Saudi Arabia participating in the research and academic life of the institution. Additional personnel exchanges including the Investigators or their research personnel will be arranged according to the needs of the collaborative work established with KAUST’s faculty.
In other words, KSA is trying to control research and researchers in the rest of the world.


EP: It sounds more like an attempt to head-hunt some top researchers to jump-start their institution. Nothing sinister there. I don't know of any country that would pay researchers in other countries to do their research in that foreign country and keep the results there. I think they're just trying to figure out how to keep their grandchildren from having to ride camels.


That is the case. The Saudis got tired of sending their kids to Stanford and USC, so they want them to come to Saudi Arabia. This is not totally unlike China wanting technology for a company to locate a factory in China. This is intellectual capital and putting a future value on that is a bit more difficult.

The Saudis got tired of sending their kids to Stanford and USC, so they want them to come to Saudi Arabia.
Unless those kids got PhD's and went for post-docs before, this is not the same at all.  This is KSA wanting to keep its finger on certain areas of research.  Some of them are natural, but others such as renewable and sustainable next-generation energy sources and low-cost solar cell efficiency are easy ways to keep tabs on their competition or even head off advances before they become a threat.

I was speaking of a general trend to create institutions of higher learning in their own country. To get what they consider the best, they recruit talent to their country to teach and research. I do not think that they will control any science and if they want to learn, they just need to read the tech pubs.

yeah i dont think it anything sinister either. Have you seen the scholarships for students, they sound amazing! Its actually giving the smart students and researchers an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice instead of sit at home without a job after their undergraduate degrees.

Rafiqul Islam

I want to take Addmition to this University.
So inform me the method of addmition.


This will be the university of the best universities in the world and will attract students from all over the world Muslims and non Muslims, you you possess universities and we also
If your outlook on Arabs as reactionaries, you are mistaken We Arabs from
Riziat and founded the science of medicine and chemistry is better for us
You Dear Westerners live on our oil and when it opens State University is not a wicked Dear Klutz, but increase your civilization even Nstgmani

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