Champions of KAUST - London

On August 10, leadership from KAUST and Imperial College London gathered for a special evening ceremony organized by former KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau, KAUST Interim President Nadhmi Al-Nasr, Chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees H.E. Ali Al-Naimi and members of the KAUST Board of Trustees. The event was held to recognize the strategic role Imperial has played in advancing both education and research at KAUST.

Professor Alice P. Gast, president of Imperial College London, accepted the award on behalf of her colleagues and faculty, citing their "essential leadership and support at critical junctures." As a member of the KAUST Board of Trustees since 2009, Gast was also honored for her unwavering passion to the vision and mission of the University. The Champions of KAUST award honors individuals and institutions for outstanding contributions to the historic journey of the University.

“In 2008, when KAUST was still a vision, Imperial College London joined us to help bring the University into reality,” Chameau said. “Their support was instrumental in our recruitment of faculty, establishing our research agenda and designing our core lab facilities to be world-class.”

Researchers from the two institutions have co-authored 127 academic publications in various disciplines—most notably the material sciences, physics and chemistry. Chameau emphasized the crucial role that Imperial has played in research on a wide range of challenges faced by the Kingdom, including arid agriculture; improving the impact and cost of sustainable technology; harnessing alternative energy sources; and countering climate change.

“This collaboration has helped launch academic careers, has inspired new discoveries in our laboratories and has served as a platform to train the next generation of scientists and engineers from the Kingdom and the world,” Chameau said.  

In January of 2017, Dr. William (Bill) J. Koros, the Roberto C. Goizueta chair for excellence in chemical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar in membranes, was named the inaugural Champion of KAUST.
Before joining Imperial, Gast was the 13th president of Lehigh University. Previously she served as vice president for research, associate provost and the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It is an honor for Imperial and for me personally to be named a Champion of KAUST," Gast said to a group of around 200 attendees. "I believe that KAUST is a shining example of what can be accomplished when institutions and people focus on making discoveries and educating people to address the great challenges in the world."

Gast spoke at length about the success of research collaborations between Imperial and KAUST. She highlighted the work of Professors Jasmeen Merzaban, Alexandra Porter, and Mary Ryan for their recent breakthrough with zinc oxide nanoparticles that hold great promise in destroying breast cancer tumor cells. She also acknowledged a joint research endeavor to understand and predict the influence of dust on weather and air pollution and the resulting health and economic effects for the Middle East region.

"To be a Champion of KAUST is to be a champion of the power of education and knowledge...a champion of changing the world for the better," she said.

Gast also spoke about the development of young professionals as a result of the partnership. She noted Imperial-KAUST alumnus Dr. Bin Zou, a former postdoctoral fellow funded by KAUST, who is now a successful researcher and co-founder of LoMaRe Ltd., an Imperial spin-off that won the 2017 U.K.-China Entrepreneurship competition. She also mentioned Dr. Jing Pang, a KAUST-supported Ph.D. student and co-founder of Neuron Technology Ltd.

"Good relationships are mutually beneficial," Gast said. "This is true of the Imperial-KAUST partnership. Both universities are stronger because of what we have done together."

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