King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

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King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
KAUST Logo.svg
Motto"Through Inspiration, Discovery"
EstablishedSeptember 23, 2009
Endowment$20 billion[1]
ChairmanMohammed bin Salman
PresidentTony F. Chan
Postgraduates940 (2016)[2]
4700 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
, , ,
Coordinates: 22°18′45″N 39°06′38″E / 22.312602°N 39.11047°E / 22.312602; 39.11047
Campus3,600 hectares (8,900 acres)

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST; Arabic: جامعة الملك عبد الله للعلوم و التقنيةjāmiʿat al-malik ʿabd al-Lāh li-l-ʿulūm wa-t-teqniyya) is a private research university located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Founded in 2009, the university provides research and graduate training programs in English as the official language of instruction.

KAUST is the first mixed-gender university campus in Saudi Arabia.[3] In 2013, the university was among the 500 fastest growing research and citation records in the world.[4] In the 2016 Nature Index Rising Stars, the university ranked 19th in the world of the fastest rising universities for high quality research output.[5] In 2019 KAUST is ranked 8th fastest rising young universities (aged 50 and under) for their research output since 2015, as measured by fractional count (FC).[6]


In 2006, Ali Al-Naimi chaired a Saudi Aramco team to undertake the building and planning of the academics. Nadhmi Al-Nasr was chosen to lead the project. They employed the Washington Advisory Group's Frank H. T. Rhodes and Frank Press to design the academic structure, SRI International to develop the four research institutes, and the architectural firm of HOK for the campus master plan, which included wind towers and solar panels. The location of the campus at Thuwal included 16.4 sq km on land and 19.6 sq km of marine sanctuary offshore. Ground breaking took place in Oct. 2007, and 178 scholarships were awarded in Jan. 2008.[1]

KAUST officially opened on September 23, 2009 at an inauguration ceremony, where King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud gave a speech where he stated that places like the University that "embrace all people are the first line of defence against extremists". The University initially received a $10 billion endowment.[7][8] Upon opening, the University admitted 400 students from over 60 countries and 70 faculty. The campus is home to Shaheen, Asia's fastest supercomputer at the time of its commissioning.[9]


KAUST's campus with the campus mosque appearing on the left


Residential street with outdoor sculpture

The University's core campus, located on the Red Sea at Thuwal,[10] is sited on more than 36 square kilometres (14 sq mi), encompassing a marine sanctuary, museum, and research facility.[11]

KAUST is the first mixed-gender university campus in Saudi Arabia.[3] Saudi authorities hope the mixed-gender center will help modernize the Kingdom's deeply conservative society.[12] The religious police do not operate on-site. Women are allowed to mix freely with men and they are not required to wear veils in the coeducational classes.[13]

KAUST was Saudi Arabia's first LEED certified project and is the world's largest LEED Platinum campus.[14] Designed by international architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, 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.[15] The university library received the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for accomplishments in library architecture.[16]

Research and Technology Park[edit]

The Research and Technology Park occupies around 2.7 million square meters of space next to the academic campus. Current tenants include Saudi Aramco, Dow Chemical and SABIC.

Island Recreation Club (IRC)[edit]

Sunset from a swimming pool in the IRC

The Island Recreation Club is a facility on the Red Sea shoreline located in the center of the Safaa Island at KAUST. Within the facility is a male and female gym, swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts, 8 tennis courts, table tennis, pool, fitness and yoga studios, a rock climbing wall, and a cafe. [17]

KAUST Beacon[edit]

KAUST Beacon at night

The 60m high beacon is the focal point of KAUST that overlooks the Safaa Harbor and the Red Sea. The amorphous hexagonal design of the 187 blocks, weighing 18 tons each, constituting the beacon is inspired by the organic coral forms in the Red Sea.[18] The Beacon lights up at night to act as a lighthouse for boats in the Safaa Harbor. The beacon connects with the main purpose of the university which is "KAUST shall be a beacon for peace, hope and reconciliation, and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and the world",[19] as stated by the founder of the university King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Core Laboratories[edit]

The core lab facilities provide training and services to the KAUST research teams and their collaborators and partners. Many types of specialized equipment are located across the University core lab facilities. Staff Scientists train users and run the equipment. There are a total of 10 core lab facilities scattered throughout the campus.[20]

Analytical Chemistry Core Lab[edit]

The Analytical Chemistry Core Lab focuses on studying and analyzing organic and inorganic substances and is divided into four units. In the inorganic unit of the lab, scientists use instruments to analyze the elemental composition of different materials including polymers, biological tissues, and petroleum-derived products. The environmental unit specializes in testing and analyzing environmental samples. The tests performed in this unit include the determination of trace metals, total mercury, pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sediments, tissues, and water. The organic unit of the lab focuses on qualitative and quantitative analysis of organic samples. This includes determining the molecular mass of organic molecules, identifying organic environmental contaminants, and determining the molecular weight of polymers. In the surface analysis unit, scientists make measures of particle size, surface area, volume, surface energy, water vapor sorption. Scientists in this unit also study how different materials absorb, emit, and scatter electromagnetic radiation.[21]

Bioscience Core Lab[edit]

The Bioscience Core Lab specializes in genomic and proteomic studies and is split into three areas of study. The bioinformatics area specializes in data analysis, quality assessment, and data management. In the proteomics area, scientists use mass spectroscopy to analyze biological samples and protein contents of extracellular matrices of different biological tissues. The lab is also used for protein purification and the study of protein-protein interactions. The genomics area utilizes third-generation sequencing tools to generate long strands of DNA/RNA molecules. Scientists in the lab perform capillary sequencing, cell sorting, and nucleic acid quantification.[22]

Imaging and Characterization Core Lab[edit]

The Imaging and Characterization Core Lab works on electron microscopy, optical microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, and physical characterization. The core lab is composed of five functional areas. The optical microscopy lab specializes in cell culturing, tissue processing, 3D and 4D imaging, cell imaging, and porosity analysis. Scientists in the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) lab work on multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, and MRI for macroscopic imaging. The physical characterization lab works on physical property characterization using X-ray diffraction, electrical characterization, and Raman spectroscopy. The electron microscopy lab specializes in electron tomography, band structure and surface plasmon, electron crystallography, and SEM imaging. The surface science lab analyzes surface morphologies, chemical states, and chemical compositions with the help of second ion mass spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy.[23]

Campus laboratories with town buildings and mosque on the left

Nano Fabrication Core Lab[edit]

The Nano Fabrication Core Lab focuses on microelectronics, electronic materials, nanotechnology, biomedical and optical devices, and is divided into six areas of study. The metrology and bonding area specializes in thickness measurements, profilometry, 3D imaging, and thin film stress measurements. The etching area is equipped with plasma etching and ion beam etching equipment that are used to etch different types of materials including metals, semiconductors, and insulators. The microfluidics lab provides access to different fabrication techniques including thermal bonding of acrylic parts and surface activation of glass. The deposition and thermal diffusion lab works on thin films deposition and thermal diffusion over high temperatures to diffuse n-type and p-type doping semiconductors. The thin films lab studies the physical and chemical properties of films and their applications, which include optical and catalytic converters, magnetic sensors, and carbon nanotube transistors. Scientists in the lithography lab specialize in printing small patterns and devices on wafers that allow for fabrication on small chips. [24]

Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab[edit]

The coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab specializes in marine operations, oceanographic instrumentation, and wet lab experimentation in the Red Sea at Thuwal with six primary areas. The engineering team works on design, fabrication, and maintenance of sea electronics. The marine operations team works with local sailors for logistics and maintenance of vessels. In the wet lab, technicians provide expertise and equipment to support research on freshwater and marine organisms. The field support team works on collecting biological and environmental samples on land at sea by using remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles. Locating, planning, and executing research dives is done through the scientific diving team. The subsea simulation facility provides hydrostatic testing for scientific equipment at different depths, pressures, and temperatures.[25]

Supercomputing Core Lab[edit]

The Supercomputing Core Lab hosts the Shaheen supercomputer, which is used to support computational and engineering research. The supercomputer is open to the use of KAUST's academic community and also supports governmental and educational institutions throughout the country and abroad.[26]

University bodies[edit]


The following individuals have served as President of KAUST:


As of September 2017, KAUST has 1000 students in total and 1300 alumni.[31] The University hosted students from over 60 countries, 69% of students are international and 31% are from Saudi Arabia.[31] 80% of the postgraduate students are undertaking Ph.D. studies, whilst 20% are studying for an M.S.[31] KAUST's student population includes 37% female and 63% male. Its graduate student council was established in 2009, for voicing students' interests. Under the council there are four subcommittees: Academic and Research Committee, Graduate Life Committee, International Business Relations Committee and University Relations Committee.[32] Alumni of KAUST often end up working in industry (44%) whilst 56% are teaching or conducting research in global academic institutions. The top countries where alumni live, study and work are Saudi Arabia, the US, China, the U.K. and Canada.

Distinguished professors[edit]

  • Jean-Marie Basset - French chemist, Professor of Chemical Science at KAUST.
  • Jean Fréchet - French-American chemist, Professor of Chemical Science and Senior Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Economic Development.
  • Nina Federoff - American biologist, Professor Emerita.
  • Marc G. Genton - Professor of Statistics at KAUST
  • Takashi Gojoburi - Japanese molecular biologist, Professor of Bioscience and Associate Director of the Computational Bioscience Research Center.
  • David E. Keyes - Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science, Director of the Extreme Computing Research Center, and Senior Associate to the President

Research Centers[edit]

KAUST's research centers bring together faculty members, researchers and graduate students from various disciplines:[33]

Name Launch date Research area
Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC) 21 February 2014 Pollutant Control, Global warming, Usage, Climate change
Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center 6 March 2012 Membrane and absorption-based process research
Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center Upstream petroleum engineering
Computational Bioscience Research Center Computational biology, Bioinformatics
Extreme Computing Research Center Algorithms, Applications for emerging architectures
KAUST Catalysis Center 6 December 2010 Carbon dioxide chemistry, Photo-dissociation of water, bio-mass conversion, Fischer–Tropsch process
KAUST Solar Center Solar energy conversion, Solar cells, Photovoltaic systems
Red Sea Research Center 9 April 2011 Biosphere of the Red Sea, ecological conditions and ecological sustenance
Visual Computing Center 5 September 2009 Visual information processes
Water Desalination and Reuse Center 1 October 2010 Methods to improve water desalination processes
Saudi Aramco Research Center opening in 2019[34]

Academics and research[edit]

University rankings
Global – Overall
USNWR Global[35]97
Regional – Overall
USNWR Asia[36]9

The university organizes interdisciplinary collaborative research teams across three academic divisions Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE); Computer, Electrical, and Mathematical Science and Engineering (CEMSE); and Physical Science and Engineering (PSE). It offers two graduate programs: a Master of Science degree (18 months) and a Ph.D. program (3–4 years).[37]

Bioengineering(BioE)[38] Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (AMCS) [39] Applied Physics (AP)[40]
Bioscience (B)[41] Computer Science (CS) [42] Chemical Engineering (CE)[43]
Environmental Science and Engineering (EnSE)[44] Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) [45] Chemical Science (ChemS)[46]
Marine Science (MarS)[47] Statistics (STAT) [48] Earth Science and Engineering (ErSE)[49]
Plant Science (PS)[50] - Energy Resources and Petroleum Engineering (ERPE)[51]
- - Material Science and Engineering (MSE)[52]
- - Mechanical Engineering (ME)[53]

KAUST focuses on research that applies science and technology to problems of human need, social advancement, and economic development. The main research thrusts are Resources, Energy and Environment; Biosciences and Bioengineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Applied Mathematics and Computational Science.[33]

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.[33]


Admission to KAUST is merit-based. There is no formal GPA requirement (the average GPA of admitted students is 3.7 out of 4.0). Applicants are required to submit a TOEFL examination and demonstrate proficiency in English (except for applicants holding a degree from an accredited university in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada). Upon approval of the admissions committee, 2nd-tier applicants must complete an interview with the admissions board. Decision notifications are sent through March and April.[54]

The KAUST Fellowship is the general scholarship program of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. All admitted students receive the benefits of the KAUST Fellowship which supports students for the duration of their graduate studies. The Fellowship includes full tuition support, provides a monthly living allowance, covers housing and medical costs, and relocation support.[54]

Organization and administration[edit]

The leadership and administrative offices work together to pursue the University's mission to advance science and technology. The first president of the university was Shih Choon Fong.[27] On February 16, 2013, the executive committee of the board of trustees at KAUST appointed Jean-Lou Chameau, the former president of the California Institute of Technology, as the second President of KAUST.[28] Chameau retired in August 2017[29] and was replaced by Nadhmi Al-Nasr as interim president.

On 1 May 2018, the board of trustees announced the selection of Tony F. Chan as the third president starting on 1 September 2018.[30]

The board of trustees is headed by the former Saudi oil minister and OPEC leader Ali Al-Naimi. Several current and former ministers serve on the board of trustees, like Al-Naimi's successor Khalid A. Al-Falih, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Mansour bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Mishaal bin Abdullah Al Saud. The president and CEO of Saudi Aramco Amin H. Nasser and the former president of the Islamic Development Bank Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Madani are among the Saudi board members. The international board members are the CEO of McKinsey & Company Dominic Barton and Charles M. Vest (MIT), Shirley M. Tilghman (Princeton), Frank H.T. Rhodes (Cornell), Alice P. Gast (Imperial College), Tony Chan (HKUST), and Nam Pyo Suh (KAIST).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Al-Naimi, Ali (2016). Out of the Desert. Great Britain: Portfolio Penguin. pp. 250–258. ISBN 9780241279250.
  2. ^ "Quick Facts" (PDF). King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b Ulf Laessing; Asma Alsharif (23 September 2009). "Saudi Arabia opens first mixed-gender university". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  4. ^ Charles McPhedran (15 October 2013). "How Saudi Universities Rose in the Global Rankings". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Top 100 institutions 2016". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Top 10 fastest rising universities aged 50 and under". Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  7. ^ Kelly McEvers (16 November 2009). "Ambitious New University Opens In Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  8. ^ "The King's Speech at KAUST Inauguration Ceremony". 23 September 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ Siraj Wahab (23 September 2009). "KAUST: History in the making". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Map".
  11. ^ "KAUST general FAQs". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  12. ^ Slackman, Michael (18 November 2009). "A Saudi Gamble to See if Seeds of Change Will Grow". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Saudis open hi-tech science oasis". 23 September 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Largest LEED Platinum project in the world". Construction Week Online Middle East. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  15. ^ "2010 AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects". ArchDaily. 2010-04-22. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  16. ^ KAUST Library - 2011 AIA / ALA Library Building Awards
  17. ^ "Island Recreation Club | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  18. ^ "KAUST Beacon". Robert Bird Group. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  19. ^ "King Abdullah University of Science & Technology". Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  20. ^ "Core Labs and Major Facilities". Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  21. ^ "Analytical Chemistry Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  22. ^ "Bioscience Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  23. ^ "Imaging and Characterization Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  24. ^ "Nanofabrication Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  25. ^ "Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  26. ^ "Supercomputing Core Lab". KAUST-CoreLabs. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  27. ^ a b 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.
  28. ^ a b "KAUST appoints new president". Asharq Alawsat. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  29. ^ a b Ellie Bothwell (1 June 2017). "Jean-Lou Chameau: the leader with the Midas touch". Times Higher Education.
  30. ^ a b Ellie Bothwell (1 May 2018). "Tony Chan appointed as next KAUST president: HKUST head to lead Saudi Arabian university from September". Times Higher Education.
  31. ^ a b c "KAUST Alumni". Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  32. ^ "Graduate Council".
  33. ^ a b c "Solutions through curiosity-driven and goal-oriented research". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  34. ^ "Groundbreaking ceremony held for new Saudi Aramco research center at KAUST". 19 December 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  35. ^ "US News Best Global Universities Rankings 2022". Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  36. ^ "US News Best Global Universities in Asia 2022". Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  37. ^ "KAUST Academics". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
  38. ^ "BIOENGINEERING | Study | Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  39. ^ "KAUST AMCS". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
  40. ^ "Applied Physics Program | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  41. ^ "Bioscience | Study | Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  42. ^ "KAUST CS". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
  43. ^ "Chemical Engineering Program | Chemical Engineering | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  44. ^ "Environmental Science and Engineering | Study | Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  45. ^ "KAUST ECE". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
  46. ^ "ChemS Program | Chemical Science | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  47. ^ "Marine Science | Study | Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  48. ^ "KAUST STAT". King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
  49. ^ "EARTH SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  50. ^ "Plant Science | Study | Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  51. ^ "EARTH SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  52. ^ "MATERIAL SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  53. ^ "Mechanical Engineering Program | Mechanical Engineering | Physical Science & Engineering". Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  54. ^ a b "Admissions FAQs". Retrieved 9 June 2018.