New Saudi varsity to offer world-class R&D, educational facilities

August 12th, 2008 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Aug 12 (IANS) Saudi Arabia’s new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), scheduled to open in September 2009, will offer world-class facilities to students, researchers and faculty and will be an international and graduate-level research university. KAUST said in a statement that it would focus on areas that are important to the future of Saudi Arabia, the region and the world, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The university, being set up at the initiative of Saudi Arabia’s ruler King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, would have courses and research covering areas as diverse as energy and environment, water desalination, industrial biotechnology and scientific computing.

The university’s core campus will be located on over 36 million square metres on the Red Sea coast near the coastal village of Thuwal, around 80 km north of Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, Jeddah.

In its statement, KAUST said that all classes in its campus would be conducted in English and it would create and support the highest standards of scholarship through merit-based opportunities for males and females from around the world.

As an independent university governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees and supported by a multi-billion dollar endowment, KAUST would converge the best minds - based strictly on merit - and create a collaborative community of passionate and talented researchers from around the world, it said.

It would act as a catalyst for research that applies science and technology to problems of human need, social advancement, and economic development in Saudi Arabia, across the region, and around the globe.

The university, the statement said, would initially set up four research centres based on importance to the existing industries in the country, development of future knowledge-based industries, the social and economic needs and the potential regional and international impact.

On e research institute would be devoted to resources, energy and environment, interdisciplinary fundamental and problem-driven research and graduate education in energy sources, systems and uses, environmental quality and improvement, water and coastal zone resources, water desalination, solar energy, clean combustion and catalysis.

A second such institute would be on biosciences and bioengineering fundamental and problem-driven research and graduate education in genomic and molecular biosciences important to regional and global agriculture, aquaculture, biodiversity, industrial bioprocesses, and human health, arid and coastal region plant genomics, marine molecular bioscience and Red Sea ecology.

The third institute would focus on materials science and engineering fundamental and problem-driven research and graduate education in materials including molecular engineering of application-specific materials and developments in nanotechnology to improve environmental quality and industrial processes, composite materials and membranes.

The fourth institute would be on applied mathematics and computational sciences and research and graduate education in applications of high-performance computing, new computer architectures, advanced computational techniques, and applied mathematics.

The university has also launched a Global Research Partnership (GRP), a research-funding program focused on discovery and innovation in areas of science and technology.

The GRP has three main programes, the KAUST statement said.

Under the ‘Centres and Centres-in-Development’ programme, KAUST is providing five-year grant support to university-based, multi-investigator centres, with industry participation possible.

In addition, three-year awards for KAUST ‘Centers-in-Development’ are being provided to smaller groups seeking to assemble the resources for a KAUST centre.

Under another programme called ‘Investigators’, the university is providing five-year grants to accomplished and promising individual scientists or engineers at leading university-based laboratories.

Each investigator is expected to spend a minimum of three weeks per year on the KAUST campus participating in research and academic life.

The third programme, ‘Research Fellows’, allows KAUST to provide three-year support to exceptional postdoctoral researchers.

The idea is that many of these researchers will spend time at and consider launching their faculty careers at KAUST.

The GRP, announced in April this year, gives grants to four inter-disciplinary scientific research centers that are engaged in path-breaking works in the areas of applied mathematics, molecular photovoltaic, nanomaterials and computational science, according to the statement.

The centres are at Cornell University, Stanford University and Texas A&M University in the US and Oxford University.

KAUST has also entered into a partnership with the US’s Library of Congress that will go into the history of science in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The library and KAUST will jointly convene an international advisory committee of leading scholars and curators to map out a strategy for identifying, selecting, digitizing, cataloging, annotating, and promoting scholarly research about manuscripts and other rare and unique materials relating to science in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and for including these materials in the World Digital Library (WDL) and other digital library projects, the KAUST statement said.

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