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KAUST in Saudi Arabia announces its Global Research Partnership Investigators

Oil prices are at a record high, Middle East economies are flush with cash, but something is different! The new generation of Arab leaders have realized that (a) petro-dollars may not be there forever, (b) they cannot allow the ‘Dutch Disease’ to cripple their long-term growth, (c) their population is growing faster than their oil revenues , (d) they cannot continue to spend as a socialist welfare state, and (e) they need to link their economies to the value-add of energy inputs and not to the oil and gas prices in international markets.

Hence, you see a fast growth of economic zones and theme-cities, which in reality are just a creative way to create from scratch eco-systems that can cultivate, grow and sustain the technological and business innovations for the future. One important part of this city-creation is the renewed focus on education and research. As would be expected, these rich countries are reaching out to the very best of the best and luring their talents with money to help build local research institutions. This is happening Middle East wide, and I will hopefully find time to write a bit more on it later….but for now, I wanted to share the news from Green Car Congress that KAUST in Saudi Arabia has just announced its list of inaugural Global Research Partnership Investigators. A majority of research themes are clearly clean-tech oriented, and I am enthused by it. I have high hopes.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Announces Inaugural Global Research Partnership Investigator Winners
from Green Car Congress by Mike Millikin

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.