Wednesday, December 9, 2009

September 23--Saudi National Day/ Inauguration of KAUST

By Chiara

Happy Saudi National Day to all!

Saudi National Day celebrates the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the Al-Saud, by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, known as Ibn Saud, in 1932.

September 23, 2009 is a very special Saudi National Day because it has been chosen as the day for the inauguration of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

This remarkable research institution was built in a scant 2-3 years.

It has drawn top academics from around the world as faculty members and directors. The President, Professor Choon Fong Shih, is an Engineering Professor from Singapore, known for turning its national university into a first class research facility. He is also the first foreign president of an academic institution in Saudi Arabia, a sign of research maturity and foresight. In academics hiring the best and drawing the best students internationally is what advances the substantive work and the earned prestige of a university or research institute.

Billions of dollars have been spent on the research facility and the top equipment in the world. As its name implies KAUST focuses on applied sciences like engineering and technological development. Departments include: Biosciences, Bioengineering, Chemistry, Computational Sciences, and in keeping with its location 80km north of Jeddah on the Red Sea, Marine Biology.

Coral under the Red Sea in Thuwal

KAUST is not only a step forward in finding ways to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy, it is a living proof of the marriage within Islam of faith and science, and an echo of the Golden Age of Arabian science, technology, and as usually happens, the arts along with them.

Another noteworthy aspect of KAUST is that it is co-educational. Women are included as students, again with the focus on the best internationally, and as an integrated part of the faculty which numbers 4 women Assistant Professors: Dr Niveen Khashab (cross-appointed, Chemical Science, and Environmental Science and Engineering--sans hijab in photo), a Lebanese woman trained in Lebanon then the US; Dr Meriem Kirati (Computer Science--no photo), an Algerian trained in Algeria then France; Dr Jasmeen Mersaban (Biochemistry--also sans hijab in photo), trained in Canada; and, Dr Iman Roqan (Materials Science and Engineering), a Saudi trained in Saudi Arabia and Scotland.

Mabruk and Kudos!!

More information at the KAUST website;
And from: The Associated Press: Saudi to launch elite science, tech university;
Arab News: KAUST: History in the Making;
Reuters India: Saudi Arabia launches first mixed-gender university

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