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Posted: May 1, 2008

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) announces inaugural Global Research Partnership (GRP) Center Grants

(Nanowerk News) King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's (KAUST) Global Research Partnership (GRP) today announced its grants to four interdisciplinary scientific research centers that are engaged in path-breaking work in the areas of applied mathematics, molecular photovoltaics, nanomaterials and computational science. The Centers are at Cornell University, the University of Oxford, Stanford University, and Texas A&M University.
"We chose these first KAUST GRP Centers from an exceptionally competitive pool of proposals, which represented some of the most talented research teams in the world," said President-designate Choon Fong Shih of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a new graduate-level university under development in Saudi Arabia. "Following a highly rigorous technical review process, we selected four very top-quality proposals that best complement KAUST's institutional priorities at this time in its development."
The GRP evaluated 41 initial applications submitted in late 2007. The four centers were selected from a pool of 17 finalist proposals. According to KAUST Interim Vice President for Research Mohamed Samaha, "The final 17 proposals were all from institutions that KAUST would like to have as partners and all of a quality we would be proud to be associated with. Given the exceptionally high quality of all of the final proposals, it was a challenge to pick the ones that best fit KAUST's vision, mission, and current needs."
Dr. Samaha added, "The addition of the Centers and Centers-in-Development expands on our growing network of world-class universities and private-sector research institutions that are working with KAUST on a wide range of scientific and technological questions. The KAUST research portfolio is becoming deeper and more diverse, and our footprint is becoming truly global."
The GRP also unveiled similar grants to Centers-in-Development, research groups developing new research and the interdisciplinary capacity to create a Center.
With the KAUST GRP Centers and other collaborations with institutions around the world, KAUST is establishing a foundation of talent and research capacity that will enable it to generate innovation and discovery that will benefit Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world. In addition, the Centers will work with partners from industry and other institutions, assist in setting up labs at KAUST, spend time on the KAUST campus, open classrooms to KAUST students via the Internet, conduct joint seminars, training and workshops for junior faculty, exchange faculty and students for teaching and learning opportunities, and participate in curriculum development.
"Global partnerships and collaborations are essential for any research university that aspires to be world class and to generate science and technologies that will truly improve the lives of people everywhere," said Dr. Frank Press, former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and advisor to the selection committee. "The GRP is KAUST's initial contribution to global scientific issues of particular importance to Saudi Arabia and the world."
The GRP grants will support four Centers:
  • Cornell University's KAUST Center for Research and Education, led by co-Principal Investigators Lynden A. Archer and Emmanuel P. Giannelis, will focus on applications and fundamental studies of novel organic-inorganic hybrid nanomaterials developed at Cornell. The Center will study these materials as new platforms for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, desalination of water, production of gas and oil, and solar energy conversion. Cornell will also support KAUST's design and operation of the KAUST Nanoscale Facility (KNF), drawing upon its long history of success with its own NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF), and provide advice on curriculum and faculty development at KAUST.
  • University of Oxford's Centre for Collaborative Applied Mathematics (OCCAM), led by Principal Investigator John Ockendon and six Co-Principal Investigators, will lead to the development of mathematical solutions to real-world problems, as diverse as modeling fluid-structure and acoustic-structure interactions and petroleum reservoir simulation (with applications in industry), modeling of plant and crop growth in stressed environments and vegetation-dune interactions (with applications in agriculture and land use policy). OCCAM will also enable a broad range of the basic and applied research lines at KAUST. OCCAM and its classes, lectures, and local and international network will be accessible through this collaboration. The Oxford Mathematical Institute's renowned "Industrial Study Group" methodology --which provides a direct link between academe and the problems faced by commercial enterprises--will be transferred to KAUST between now and 2010.
  • Stanford University's Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics, led by Michael McGehee and Peter Peumans as co-Principal Investigators, is structured as a global research program engaging five other universities, including KAUST in Saudi Arabia, to address the efficiency and reliability in the conversion of solar energy to electric energy via molecular photovoltaic collectors with elements made from refined petroleum (polymers). The program covers the full spectrum of basic and developmental research from the fundamental properties of the materials through the challenges of manufacturing and deployment of the new technology. The research carried out around the world will be integrated with the establishment of a research facility and field station at KAUST focused on the science and engineering of durability in solar cells. The Center director will take his sabbatical at KAUST, lending his teaching and research organizing skills. Also, through exchanges of students and postdoctoral researchers at each campus, Stanford will bring its expertise on solar materials to KAUST work at its most formative stage.
  • Texas A&M University's Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (IAMCS), led by Principal Investigator James Calvin, is designed to partner research and graduate education in applied mathematics and computational science at KAUST through joint development and pursuit of annual research themes, weekly seminars, and semi-annual and annual research working sessions. The Center will engage mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists on problems in the earth sciences, material sciences, and bio-sciences. Applications include reservoir modeling, thermoacoustic and photoacoustic imaging related to diagnosis of disease, models of gene expression, and imaging of complex data such as seismic data. As part of the Center activity, Texas A&M will launch and maintain graduate and postgraduate fellowships that allow graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to receive supervision, earn degrees, and/or contribute to research both at TAMU and at KAUST.
  • The selection of the Centers was based on criteria including scientific merit and quality of the proposed research, demonstrated research center capability, organizational plan for executing the research over five years, the ability to collaborate in a team environment, and the direct relevance and benefits of the proposed research to the mission areas of KAUST, including energy and environment, materials science and engineering, biosciences, and applied mathematics and computational science.
    Between five and seven supplementary reviewers evaluated and scored each KAUST GRP Center proposal in detail. A total of 65 international experts drawn from the community of academic and industrial researchers around the world contributed reviews.
    Source: KAUST