Solutions through curiosity-driven and goal-oriented research

The academic divisions and research centers support the University's research mission by bringing together faculty members, researchers and graduate students from across the disciplines. Together, they leverage the interconnectedness of science and engineering and develop interdisciplinary approaches to fundamental and goal-oriented problems.

Our core labs are centrally organized​​, shared-user facilities that provide direct access to specialized research equipment operated by expert staff with advanced degrees in science and engineering. Core labs staff partner with researchers to collaborate on projects, fulfill service requests and train users to operate independently.

KAUST Research

Research in Academic Divisions

Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division (BESE)

To accomplish its mission and establish a knowledge and advanced technology platform, the BESE Division organizes its research around six focal areas: environmental systems; epigenetics; functional biology; genomics; imaging/structural biology; and marine science.

These research areas build on interdisciplinary competences that are essential for studying the mechanisms through which living organisms and their environments interact, providing opportunities for new technological developments to optimize such interactions to improve the quality of life.

Researchers in BESE focus on topics relevant to the effects of the environment on organisms, the sustainable production of food, the use of high-salinity or poor-quality water, the optimization of energy used in the production of water and food, and the study and preservation of marine and coastal environments.

Research in the BESE Division is driven by independent faculty labs and two Research Centers with which Faculty can affiliate to perform applied, goal-oriented research. Centers affiliated with the Division include:​
  • Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC)
In addition, from time to time, the Division undertakes additional exploratory and collaborative research initiatives, with current activity in the following areas: Desert Agriculture; Neuro-Inspired High-Performance Computing; and Nutrition, Metabolism, Adaptation and Epigenetics.​

Go to Division website

Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering Division (CEMSE)

Research in the CEMSE Division clusters into four main areas:

  • Electrical engineering, including the development of communication networks; CMOS integrated circuits; electronic and optics/photonics devices; micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS); various types of sensors, measurement and detection devices; as well as functional- and nano-materials. 
  • Mathematical analysis, including modeling and simulations with applications to physical, chemical, biological and environmental processes; materials science; oil exploration and reservoir management.
  • Computer science and big data, including bioinformatics; and visual and extreme computing.
  • Statistics and data science, including climate science, environmental statistics, and biostatistics.

Research in the CEMSE Division is driven by independent faculty labs and three Research Centers with which Faculty can affiliate to perform applied, goal-oriented research. Centers affiliated with the Division include:

  • Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC) 
  • Extreme Computing Research Center (ECRC) 
  • Visual Computing Center (VCC) 

In addition, from time to time, the Division undertakes special exploratory and collaborative research initiatives, currently in Sensors and Uncertainty Quantification.

Go to Division website

Physical Science and Engineering Division (PSE)

The mission of the Physical Science and Engineering Division is to create knowledge pertaining to matter at all scales (nano, meso, macro) and in all forms (from bulk to divided colloids to fluids) and to seek understanding of the interaction of matter with external stimuli to design new materials/technologies addressing the issues of our times.

Research in the Division includes areas such as theoretical physics and physical chemistry; catalysis and bioengineering; polymers and composites; energy production, storage and conversion; water purification and environmental protection; novel materials, nanodevices and systems; sensors and smart devices for the detection of pollutants and the purification of air, water, and food; earth sciences, mechanics and geomechanics; oil exploration and recovery; and CO2 sequestration.

Research in the PSE Division is driven by independent faculty labs and five Research Centers with which Faculty can affiliate to perform applied, goal-oriented research. Centers affiliated with the Division include:​
  • Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Research Center (AMPMC)
  • Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center (ANPERC)
  • Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC)
  • KAUST Catalysis Center (KCC)
  • KAUST Solar Center (KSC)

Go to Division website

Research Centers

Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center (AMPMC)

​The Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center (AMPMC) at KAUST develops novel materials and cutting-edge process technologies that provide solutions to challenges related to industrial separations with a particular focus on energy and water as well as environmental sustainability. Researchers in AMPMC develop membranes and porous materials for separations in the fields of natural gas and petrochemicals, carbon capture, and the production of potable as well as industrial water.

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Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center (ANPERC)

ANPERC produces fundamental multidisciplinary research, disruptive technologies, and academic and engineering talent to address the world's pressing energy problems from a geo-engineering perspective. Research at ANPERC focuses on developing methods for increased hydrocarbon recovery with reduced environmental and economic costs related to reservoir access and production.

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Center for Desert Agriculture (CDA)

​With harvest losses by drought, salt and heat stresses amounting to approximately 60% of the world's total agricultural productivity, researchers in the Center for Desert Agriculture (CDA) seek to find ways to improve the ability of plants to withstand droughts and the hot and salty environment of the desert. CDA researchers use genetic, genomic and epigenetic approaches to engineer stress-tolerant plants and apply their results directly to crop plants in the field.

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Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC)

The challenges arising from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as pollution, global warming and climate change, are among the main concerns of researchers at KAUST's Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC). The activities of the Center span both fundamental and goal-oriented research in fuel formulation, fuel diversity and the control of emissions from internal combustion engines to turbines. CCRC utilizes both experimental and computational tools to develop predictive capabilities to design fuels that are more efficient and less polluting. Projects include the development of innovative combustion processes with cleaner-burning fuels coupled to advanced technologies for their sustainable use with emphasis on ease of production, energy efficiency, and abatement of airborne pollution.

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Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC)

​Research at KAUST's Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC) encompasses computational biology and bioinformatics with applications in the life sciences. Researchers at CBRC develop computationally driven methodologies, tools and resources to speed up the process of biological discovery. By developing methods to store, retrieve, organize and analyze vast amounts of data, the Center contributes to areas such as biotechnology and food, medicine, safety, and environmental protection.

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Extreme Computing Research Center (ECRC)

​The Extreme Computing Research Center (ECRC) creates algorithms and develops software to harness the exponentially increasing power of computer hardware for predictive simulation and to understand and exploit the deluge of digital scientific data produced at KAUST and beyond. Researchers at ECRC focus on computational simulation and developing algorithms and applications for emerging computing architectures.

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KAUST Catalysis Center (KCC)

The KAUST Catalysis Center follows a multi-disciplinary approach to catalytic technologies. KCC develops new catalytic processes across the chemical, petroleum and new energies industries with the aim of increasing resource and energy utilization while reducing waste and overall environmental footprints.

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KAUST Solar Center (KSC)

The KAUST Solar Center draws together experts in materials science, chemistry and physics to explore innovative solutions for the harvesting and conversion of solar energy. KSC researchers study the fundamental processes involved in the conversion of photons into electricity and exploit their findings to design and develop the state-of-the-art materials used at the core of energy-harvesting photovoltaic panels. In addition, the Center is involved in research and development studies aimed at minimizing the cost of photovoltaic panels while optimizing their performance in the sun-bathed but hot and dusty climatic conditions of the deserts of the Arabian peninsula.

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Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)

​KAUST's Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) is developing an integrated understanding of the various ecosystems of the Red Sea. In particular, emphasis is placed on coral reef ecosystems and their oceanographic context. Efforts are directed at gaining an understanding of the interplay between physical, chemical, biological, and geological factors as well as the stresses arising from natural and anthropogenic causes such as overfishing, coastal development, and global climate change. A main goal of the RSRC is to develop methods to sustain and conserve coral reef environments along the coast of the Red Sea.

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Visual Computing Center (VCC)

​Researchers at KAUST's Visual Computing Center (VCC) use multiscale modeling, multidimensional modeling and simulation techniques to develop methods to sense, model, simulate, process, understand and visualize all forms of visual information. VCC specifically develops novel applications for computational imaging and display, image and video understanding, geometric modeling and design, physical simulation and measurement and scientific visualization.

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Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC)

​Fresh water supplies across the globe are decreasing while, at the same time, production of potable water in desert and drought-ridden regions is extremely energy intensive. Researchers in the KAUST Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC) focus on the development of new and optimized methods for low-energy water desalination and water reuse. The capabilities of WDRC extend from the laboratory scale to larger pilots with a view to transition the technologies to large-scale water production. While much activity is centered on membrane-based technologies, the goal of WDRC is to extend knowledge to other scalable approaches such as those involving the use of solar or waste heat as an energy source.

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Core Labs and Major Facilities

Analytical Chemistry

The Analytical Chemistry Core Lab provides expert analytical services to the KAUST research community on a wide range of advanced analytical instruments. The 1000-square-meter facility includes a chromatography/mass spectroscopy lab, a trace metals analysis lab, a wet chemistry lab, a surface analysis lab and a molecular spectroscopy lab. ​

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The Bioscience Core Lab specializes in genomics, proteomics, FACS and high-throughput screening using state-of-the-art equipment and analysis. The lab enables researchers and industry partners to conduct next-generation genetic analysis and synthesis of cellular materials as well as protein identification and characterization. ​

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Coastal and Marine Resources

The Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab specializes in marine operations, oceanographic instrumentation and wet lab experimentation. It features equipment and manpower support for scientific cruises, field sampling, instrument operations, scientific diving, and other research needs in marine and coastal environments. This lab operates and maintains small boats and a research vessel for oceanographic research and modern wet lab facilities for aquarium experiments and aquatic simulations. ​

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The Greenhouse Core Lab supports all plant-based research conducted at KAUST. The greenhouse is a 1600-square-meter facility that includes a head house and individually climate-controlled growth rooms. The facility enables researchers to control and study plant growth using specialized growth rooms and innovative agricultural equipment.​

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Imaging and Characterization

The Imaging and Characterization Core Lab specializes in spectroscopy and microscopy for material and device research to learn about the structure and composition of samples. It includes facilities for electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, physical characterization, surface science and optical microscopy. The facility enables researchers to view samples at a scale ranging from millimeter to sub angstrom, providing a wide spectrum of imaging and characterization capabilities.​

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The Nanofabrication Core Lab supports research in the fields of microelectronics, electronic materials, nanotechnology, MEMS, biomedical and optical devices requiring a low-density particle environment. The Nanofabrication Core Lab is equipped with a 2,000-square-meter cleanroom consisting of both class 100 and class 1000 areas. It is fully equipped with a wide range of tools at the forefront of nanotechnology, providing a high level of versatility and support for nanofabrication. The Nanofabrication Core Lab also includes a thin film lab, which provides tools to support and enhance the thin film deposition process. ​

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The Supercomputing Core Lab supports KAUST faculty, students and collaborators in their advanced use of high performance computing hardware and software. This facility is the Middle East's top performing supercomputer, Shaheen II, a Cray XC40 supercomputer. The lab focuses on the application of high performance computing solutions using cutting-edge systems and methodologies, offering world-class HPC and data resources in a manner that stimulates research and development. ​

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Visualization enables intuition and curiosity, which together spark discovery. The Visualization Core Lab uses the latest visualization methodologies to help faculty members explore, analyze, and present extreme amounts of data generated from key research investments, including the electron microscopes and the Shaheen II supercomputer. Expertise in the Visualization Core Lab is anchored in data analysis and visualization, both key elements of the scientific process, enabling researchers to evaluate their results and to ask new questions that could lead to novel discoveries.

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The Workshops Core Lab provides advanced design, equipment and manufacturing to assist in the fabrication of customized experimental tools and equipment for KAUST users and industrial partners. The facility features workshops and staff specializing in engineering and design utilizing CAD software, advanced machine shop technology, scientific glass blowing, welding, woodworking, electronics and metrology.​

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Faculty Research Areas

Research Support ​