King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

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King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
جامعة الملك عبد الله للعلوم والتقنية
KAUST Logo.svg
Motto "Through Inspiration, Discovery"
Established 5 September 2009
Type Public
Endowment US$20 billion[1]
President Jean-Lou Chameau
Undergraduates None
Postgraduates 1200[2]
Location Thuwal, Makkah Province, Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 22°18′45″N 39°06′38″E / 22.312602°N 39.11047°E / 22.312602; 39.11047
Campus 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres)
Colours Green, yellow, orange, blue

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Arabic: جامعة الملك عبد الله للعلوم و التقنية - كاوستǧāmiʿat al-malik ʿabd al-Lāh li-l-ʿulūm wa-t-teqniyya – KAUST) is a public research university located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. KAUST was built and is operated by Saudi Aramco. It has the third largest endowment of any university in the world following Harvard and Yale, respectively. KAUST is often referred as a new "House of Wisdom" and an "Arab MIT." KAUST has attracted top-notch faculty from all over the world, especially from countries such as USA, Germany, China, Japan, and Italy. The high diversity among the faculty is also reflected by the student body, with more than 60 nations represented on campus. This multicultural environment, in which creativity and teamwork is much valued, fosters great knowledge exchange and innovation.[3]

With the aim of rekindling science in the Islamic world, KAUST was founded in 2009 and focuses exclusively on graduate education and research, using English as the official language of instruction. It offers programs in Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering; Computer, Electrical, and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering; and Physical Sciences and Engineering. The University achieved significant progress in a very short time and is currently among one of the world's most productive universities in terms of research. It was recently announced that KAUST has one of the fastest growing research and citation records in the world right now.[4] As of 2014, QS World University Rankings rated KAUST's research record as 99.9%, which is higher than that of the University of Tokyo (88.6%), Yale University (92.2%), University of Oxford (96.6%), University of California, Berkeley (96.6%), the University of Michigan (97.2%), University of Cambridge (97.9%) and Princeton University (99.5%).[5]


KAUST officially opened on 23 September 2009, in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud invited more than 3,000 distinguished Saudi and international guests, including heads of state and Nobel laureates, to join him for the KAUST inauguration ceremony on Saudi National Day. During the inauguration, King Abdullah awarded the senior management staff the highest rank of King Abdulaziz's medal of honor and appreciation, the minister of petroleum getting the platinum. Although Saudi authorities did not mention the financial side of the honor, it is widely known that the king awarded them a great cash bonus and many valuable gifts, as this is the tradition in Saudi Arabia.[6]

The university launched an inauguration website to allow people from around the world to participate in the event. This website featured a live event webcast, and information about the university's research agenda, lab facilities, faculty, students, and community.[6]

Scientific research and discoveries[edit]

Since its inception, KAUST has actively carried out studies, research and discoveries.

  • KAUST researchers have discovered that human saliva has the potential to power fuel cells.[7]
  • The development of NOMADD, the worlds's first solar cell robot cleaner which can be directly fitted onto, and moves across the solar cells itself. This development eliminates the need for external mechanical robots to clean solar cells. NOMADD is designed to be a durable, waterless cleaning robot that "crawls" from one solar panel to another, saving thousands of man hours and countless more litres of water.[8]
  • Examining the properties essential for quantum dot solar cells.[9]
  • Newly developed sensor-based technologies. Prototype technologies showcased were flood detection microsensors, traffic flow transmitters (part of an integrated system for monitoring flooding and traffic flow), flexible silicon for electronic devices, inkjet-printable tracking tags and smart thermal patches.[10]
  • The world's first fully flexible silicon-based computer. The research paper outlined the groundbreaking research in silicon-based electronics inspired by the human brain.[11]
  • Block copolymer research with an interest in self-assembly. Researchers found a simple way to fabricate microspheres through block copolymer self-assembly. The particles they found are able to act as pH-responsive gates and have a highly porous infrastructure, which allows them to have ultrahigh protein sorption capacity. It was the first time this simple strategy to fabricate micrometer-sized spheres with complexed porous order and gated nanopores by BCP self-assembly had been reported.[12]
  • The development of a crystallization process of organic molecules that has potentially wide-ranging applications in the electronics, pharmaceutical and food industries. The research and production of "strained organic semiconductors," a type of organic semiconductor, may lead to the creation of high performance, low-cost, flexible and transparent electronic devices and displays on large area substrates.[13]
  • Dr. Peter Markowich publishes a paper on the mathematics behind the 2014 FIFA World Cup and explains how it equates to life and why the FIFA World Cup is "a random process with a drift."[14]
  • KAUST scientists have produced a promising Li ion battery anode using tin oxide, which has much higher theoretical storage capacity compared to the current commercial Li ion battery anodes.[15]
  • Successfully explaining energy storage with electron tomography. In particular, explaining the mechanism underpinning the charge storage process in a common supercapacitor material and its behavior during the charge/discharge cycling.[16]
  • In a collaborative effort aimed at exploring ways to reduce the problems of hunger, malnutrition and water scarcity, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visited KAUST in June 2014. Bill Gates acknowledged that KAUST is at the forefront of scientific efforts to address some of humanity's pressing challenges.[17]
  • Research which can lead to the cultivation and genomic investigation of pioneer halophilic methanogens in some of the most extreme and remote environments on Earth.[18]
  • Researchers at KAUST are working on developing novel porous organic polymer with enhanced CO2 adsorption properties that could help reduce emissions.[19]
  • Successfully designing thermosensitive liposomes that would allow for a more controlled release of drug delivery, especially in cancer therapy.[20]


Campus laboratories with town buildings and mosque on the left
Residential street with outdoor sculpture

KAUST’s core campus, located on the Red Sea at Thuwal, is sited on more than 36 square kilometres (14 sq mi), encompassing a marine sanctuary and research facility.[21]

KAUST is the first mixed-gender university campus in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities hope the mixed-gender center will help modernize the kingdom's deeply conservative society.[22] The religious police do not operate on-site. Women are allowed to mix freely with men and to drive on campus, and they are not required to wear veils in the coeducational classes.[23]

Hubs of community activity, include Discovery Square, multiple gym facilities, libraries, and coffee shops. Discovery Square features a movie theater, a grocery store, and several restaurants (offering, American fast food, Indian food, Pizza and Ice cream). The gym facilities include exercise equipment, free weights, racquet sports, bowling, and rock climbing.

KAUST was Saudi Arabia's first LEED certified project and is the world's largest LEED Platinum campus.[24] Designed by international architecture firm HOK, it was also chosen by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) as one of the 2010 Top Ten Green Projects.[25]


Research institutions in the Kingdom and the region will link to the university’s supercomputer and other laboratory facilities through the 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) Saudi Arabian Advanced Research and Education Network (SAREN).[26]

Academics and research[edit]

KAUST organizes interdisciplinary collaborative research teams of faculty and students, across three academic divisions Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering; Computer, Electrical, and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering; and Physical Sciences and Engineering. KAUST offers two graduate programs: a Master of Science degree (18 months) and a Ph.D. program (3–4 years) involving original research that culminates in a dissertation.[27]

Degrees are offered in 11 fields of study:

  • Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (AMCS)
  • Bioscience (B)
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE)
  • Chemical Science (ChemS)
  • Computer Science (CS)
  • Earth Science and Engineering (ErSE)
  • Electrical Engineering (EE)
  • Environmental Science and Engineering (EnSE)
  • Marine Science (MarS)
  • Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)
  • Mechanical Engineering (ME)

KAUST focuses on research that applies science and technology to problems of human need, social advancement, and economic development.[26] Four strategic research thrusts build KAUST’s research agenda: Resources, Energy and Environment; Biosciences and Bioengineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Applied Mathematics and Computational Science.[26]

To support these thrusts, KAUST established multidisciplinary Research Centers focused on catalysis, clean combustion, computational bioscience, geometric modeling and scientific visualization, membranes, desert agriculture, Red Sea science and engineering, solar and alternative energy science and engineering, and water desalination and reuse.[26]


KAUST has one of the world's lowest acceptance rates, each year about 200-250 students are accepted out of a pool of 5000-8000 applicants. KAUST focuses on the applicant's research experience, research interests, undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, and statement of purpose. Though GRE scores are not mandatory for admission, a good GRE score has a positive impact on an application. Since the language of instruction at KAUST is English, a minimum TOEFL score of 79 is required for admission.

Master's Program[edit]

The M.S. degree at KAUST is a 36-credit program that is designed such that most students who enter the program with suitable prior training will finish in three semesters plus the intervening summer. Degree requirements are divided into three sections: (1) Core Curriculum; (2) Elective Curriculum; and (3) Research/Capstone Experience.

Core Curriculum (9-15 credits): This portion of the degree program is designed to provide a student with the background needed to establish a solid foundation in the discipline over and above undergraduate studies. Elective Curriculum (9-15 credits): This portion of the degree program is designed to allow each student to tailor his/her educational experience to meet individual research and educational objectives. Depending upon the program and the objectives, this may be met by added coursework or by additional research experience. Research/Capstone Experience (12 credits): The details of this portion of the degree program are also uniquely determined by the student and his/her advisor and will involve a combination of research and other capstone experiences that build on the knowledge gained in coursework. At least thirty-six (36) degree credits must be completed in graduate-level courses and research projects. These courses should be 200-level or above and must be approved by the program advisor.

Thesis Requirements[edit]

Thesis: The M.S. thesis reports on original research conducted under the supervision an affiliated faculty member within the chosen degree program. A list of affiliated faculty for each degree program can be found at Thesis format requirements are described in the KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.

Committee: Each student must form a thesis committee, which is tasked with reading and evaluating the results of the thesis research. In addition to the faculty member supervising the research, who will be the committee chair, the committee must have at least two additional members. The choice of those members should be made in consultation with the student's supervisor. Committee members need not be from within the student's degree program, but at least two of the three members must be full-time KAUST faculty members. Once a committee has been proposed, the student is required to complete the Thesis Committee Form and submit it to the Program Chair and Dean for approval. At the discretion of the degree program, students may be required to present a public seminar discussing their research as part of the evaluation process. For a list of eligible faculty advisors, see:

Students may select a KAUST faculty member from another program to act as a research advisor (for either thesis or directed research), but must provide a one- page description of the research and an explanation of how such research would be relevant to the degree program. Upon approval by the program and the Dean, the faculty member would be allowed to act as an affiliated faculty member and advisor for the student.

PhD Program[edit]

Qualification and advancement to candidacy are contingent upon: (i) passing Ph.D. coursework, (ii) designating a research advisor, and (iii) writing and orally defending a research proposal. Individual degree programs may, at their discretion, also require a comprehensive examination (probing coursework and knowledge of other relevant subject areas). Possible outcomes include pass, failure with complete retake, failures with partial retake, and failure with no retake. The maximum allotted time for advancement to candidacy for a student entering with an MS degree is two years; three years for the B.S. degree entry option.

Organization and administration[edit]

The previous university executive director of facilities and community services was Waleed Al-Bedaiwi. Above Ali Al-Naimi Minister of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia.

The board of trustees, under the leadership of its chairman, Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi comprises international leaders in academia, science, finance, industry, and public life.[28]

In accordance with the university’s charter, members of this fully independent, self-perpetuating body oversee the university’s activities and monitor its progress and development. The 20-member board appoints the president of KAUST and approves the appointment of senior administrators and faculty members. It is responsible for approving rules that regulate academic, financial, and administrative affairs at the University, and for providing support to the officers who manage day-to-day operations.[28]

The first president of the university was Choon Fong Shih.[29] On 16 February 2013, the executive committee of the board of trustees at KAUST voted unanimously to appoint Jean-Lou Chameau, the former president of California Institute of Technology, as the new President of KAUST.[30]

Since KAUST was opened for students coming from across the world, it has established various self-directed organizations. Due to the diversity of the community, different cultures are mixed and merged. Its graduate student council was established in 2009, aiming at promoting the voice and interests of KAUST graduate students to university administration, faculty, staff, community, and industry. Under the council there are four subcommittees: Academic and Research Committee, Graduate Life Committee, International Business Relations Committee and University Relations Committee.[31]


KAUST has between 700 and 1000 students. The PhD student population is growing steadily as of 2011. The student population comes from over 60 nationalities from all continents. The largest single national representation is from China with India in second place. Saudi Arabia is the third most prevalent nationality of the student make up.

MS students admitted on the Discovery Scholarship receive free housing and health care, as well as a standard stipend of US $20,000 annually. The stipend for PhD studies is US $25,000 annually before passing the qualification and $30,000 annually after qualification. Students are eligible for repatriation flights to their home country once per year as an additional benefit.

Building Design Information[edit]

  • Size: 4 million square feet; 2.1 million square foot laboratory; 5.2 million square foot campus
  • Owner: Aramco, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
  • Architect, Lab Planner, Lead MEP Engineer, Interiors: HOK
  • Architect of Record: Oger International, Paris
  • MEP (Fire Protection): R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, Boston
  • MEP (Energy Modeling): Affiliated Engineers Inc., Seattle
  • Structural Engineer: HOK and Walter P. Moore, Houston
  • Environmental Consultant: RWDI, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  • Civil Engineer: LJA Engineering, Houston
  • Landscape Architect: HOK Planning Group, Atlanta
  • Lighting Design and Consulting: HOK and Pivotal Lighting Design, Seattle

Awarded Lab of the Year for 2011 by R&D Magazine


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  22. ^ Slackman, Michael (18 November 2009). "A Saudi Gamble to See if Seeds of Change Will Grow". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  23. ^ BBC - Saudis open hi-tech science oasis
  24. ^ World's largest LEED-Platinum project finds place in Top Ten Green Projects
  25. ^ AIA’s Top Ten Green Architecture Projects of 2010
  26. ^ a b c d e "KAUST Research". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. 
  27. ^ "KAUST Academics". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. 
  28. ^ a b "KAUST Board of Trustees". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  29. ^ Selingo, Jeff (22 April 2011). "Saudi Arabia’s Elite New University Pursues ‘High-Risk Research for a High Return’". The Chronicle. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  30. ^ "KAUST appoints new president". Asharq Alawsat. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
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