KAUST nanoscience program ranked among global best by US News

Nanofabrication Core Lab scientists deposit nanometer-thick films and characterize their properties. Photo: KAUST

​As part of its comprehensive analysis of US and global universities, US News & World Report has named King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) as one of the world's best in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Ranking 18th in the publication's Best Global Universities for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology list for 2022, KAUST has been recognized for its basic and applied research at micro and nano levels across a variety of disciplines – from chemistry to medical science.

"I was at a Core Lab strategy retreat when I learned the news," commented Kenneth Kennedy, Director of the Nanofabrication Core Lab at KAUST. "My initial reaction was not one of surprise, as I know we have amazing people, research capabilities, facilities and equipment. That said, I was immensely pleased to see KAUST gaining recognition on an international stage. Most of all I was pleased for our staff who have worked so hard for many years to achieve this."

Publishing prowess comes to the fore

When drilling down into the US News & World Report nanoscience and nanotechnology rankings, KAUST performed strongly across a range of metrics covering outreach efforts, publication success and international collaboration to give a score of 81.7 out of 100.

In particular, KAUST scored well in the area of citations of its publications. Here, it ranked 9th for “nanoscience and nanotechnology normalized citation impact”, and 16th in regard to the percentage of highly cited papers that are among the top 1% most cited.

What are the keys to such well-respected and cited research?

"We have something unique here at KAUST with our Core Labs," Kennedy answered. "The facilities are world class, with cutting-edge tools that are regularly reviewed and replaced when required. Crucially, our staff are highly experienced in their fields, and work collaboratively with faculty to support them and sustain advanced research across a wide range of disciplines. The close proximity and consistency between all the labs help researchers to seamlessly transition between them."

Behind KAUST’s world-class cleanroom and equipment, safety and facility specialists support and help advance KAUST research. Andrea BachofenEcht / KAUST

Core Labs, of which Kennedy’s nanofabrication is a part, is a system of multidisciplinary, interconnected laboratories that combine to form an integral part of the research ecosystem at KAUST. It delivers research support, training, collaboration and services to KAUST faculty, students and researchers, as well as external partners.

Motivation to continue pioneering

Another area in which KAUST’s nanoscience faculty scored well concerns collaboration with international partners and institutions.

Currently, Kennedy and the Nanofabrication Core Lab team are working with a global pioneer in the investigation of nanoscale patterning and etching of materials to produce flat, pin-head sized optics. The implications of the research could be sizeable, as these implements are typically used in next generation wearable tech displays such as smart glasses and smart watches.

Because of KAUST’s diverse skills base and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, it can stage the entire research process, offering a huge competitive advantage for the nanoscience lab, collaborators and Saudi Arabia more widely. And for Kennedy, the recognition from US News serves as a major motivator to continue pushing the nanotechnology boundaries.

“This area of science covers almost endless applications and devices with potential impacts on everyday lives and economies,” he said.

“Semiconductors is a huge global business, which currently has a very high profile in the media. We have to make sure we are positioned to address the need for going smaller, but must also be agile enough to move with rapid changes in research and materials. Increasingly, there are needs for integrating previously incompatible materials and devices to provide compactness and additional functionalities. This will be challenging, but we are not here to solve easy problems.”

About the US News rankings

In its annual university rankings, US News examines the world’s top universities, including the very best from the United States and more than 90 other countries. The overall global university rankings are measured on 13 indicators that measure academic research performance as well as global and regional reputations. The rankings also break down into specific disciplines such as nanoscience and nanotechnology.

2022 marked the eighth edition of the Best Global Universities list — a showcase of the world’s leading 1,750 institutions, with KAUST finishing inside the top 100 with an overall score of 70.9 out of 100.

Visit the US News & World Report website to learn more about how the global universities rankings are compiled: