Former president honored by Harvard

Former KAUST President Professor Choon Fong Shih was presented with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Centennial Medal by Harvard University in May. File photo.

-By David Murphy, KAUST News

Former KAUST President Professor Choon Fong Shih was recently presented with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Centennial Medal by Harvard University. Shih, who received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard in 1973, was presented with the award on May 23 along with three former distinguished Harvard alumni—Beth Adelson, Guido Goldman and Harold Luft.

The medal recognizes the enduring contributions made by the aforementioned researchers to knowledge, to their colleagues, to their discipline and to society as a whole. The Centennial Medal, the highest distinction of the GSAS, was first awarded in 1989 and honors two to four Harvard alumni annually on the day preceding Harvard's commencement ceremony.

Significant research contributions

Shih has made significant contributions in nonlinear fracture mechanics and computational methods for fracture analyses. He has about 150 publications in leading scientific journals to his credit and is among the highly cited researchers in the world for the category of engineering compiled by the Institute for Scientific Information. Shih has also served as a consultant to the National Aeronautics Space AdministrationOak Ridge National Laboratory and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

According to Harvard University, his advisor at Harvard, Professor John Hutchinson, notes that Shih's work in characterizing fracture resistance was critically important for nuclear reactors and other industrial applications.

"It was a key problem at the time because there was great concern about the safety of nuclear power plants, and that was at the heart of it," Hutchinson said. "He did some very important work in that period, and it's work that's still used."

Shih assumed his duties as the founding president of KAUST on December 1, 2008. Prior to KAUST, he served as the vice-chancellor and president of the National University of Singapore from 2000 to 2008. Prior to both, Shih led the Fracture Research and Development group at the GE Corporate Research Lab in the U.S. and held a faculty position at Brown University.

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