RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, January 14 /PRNewswire/ --

- National University of Singapore President is Widely Recognized Global Leader in Academic and Corporate Scientific Research

After an extensive international search among top academic research leaders, His Excellency Minister Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Board of Trustees, today aannounced that Professor Choo Fong Shih will be the Founding President of KAUST, the new world-class, graduate-level scientific research university now under development in Saudi Arabia. He is expected to assume his duties on December 1, 2008.

Currently the president of National University of Singapore (NUS), Professor Shih, 62, has broad expertise and experience in both academia and private industry as an eminent scientific researcher and educator. He is known internationally as a dynamic and visionary leader of a major research university.

H.E. Minister Al-Naimi noted that Professor Shih has played a critical role in enhancing scientific and technological capacity at NUS, making it one of the top research universities in Asia and the world.

H.E. Minister Al-Naimi also said, "Professor Shih is a man of purpose, conviction and cultural sensitivity. He has shown himself to be a 'builder of bridges' across peoples, disciplines, institutions and cultures. With his experience in building NUS as a global research university with an entrepreneurial dimension, Professor Shih has the vital attributes to facilitate the synergy between science and technology transfer. Working with the private sector, KAUST can be an engine of innovation and economic growth, providing greater opportunities to diversify the Saudi economy. We are confident that under his leadership KAUST will become a global center of scientific research that brings benefits to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond."

H.E. Minister Al-Naimi added, "The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has shared his vision for KAUST to be a new House of Wisdom, which will deliver 'its humane and noble message in an ideal environment, with the help of God and the minds and the ideas of enlightened people, who will participate in this educational mission without discrimination.' Professor Shih is the right person to fulfill this noble vision."

Professor Shih said that he was honored to meet the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz yesterday, and that he was grateful for the trust shown in selecting him to be part of the King's bold and noble vision for the Kingdom and the world at large.

Professor Frank Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University said: "The appointment of Professor Shih as the Founding President of KAUST represents a major step in the realization of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques' vision for creating a great new university of science and technology. A celebrated scientist, whose achievements have been widely recognized and honored, Professor Shih brings a wealth of international leadership experience in both the industrial and academic worlds. As a senior professor at Brown University, as a research group leader at General Electric, and as an extraordinarily entrepreneurial and successful president of National University of Singapore, Professor Shih has demonstrated an outstanding commitment and dedication to building successful alliances to promote the advancement of knowledge and to extend its benefits. He is superbly suited to lead this new institution and his appointment will be widely celebrated. The trustees and the university are to be congratulated on making an outstanding appointment."

Dr. Karen A. Holbrook, former President of The Ohio State University, added, "Professor Shih is a person of high energy, optimism and integrity, a perfect combination of personal assets for anyone with the task of building a project of such scope and complexity as KAUST. Knowing him personally, I can see readily how Professor Shih has accomplished so much in his career and most recently at National University of Singapore. His enthusiasm for the task at hand, his ability to instill confidence in others and his collegial approach of working collaboratively with everyone around him -- all this suggests to me that KAUST could not have picked a better person as its Founding President."

His Excellency Dr. Khalid Al-Sultan, rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), said, "I have come to know Professor Shih through his work as a member of KFUPM's International Advisory Council. We have also worked together as members of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's International Advisory Council. I believe that his participation on both councils reflects his distinguished academic career and his accomplishments as a scientist. In addition, I would like to point out his role in transforming the National University of Singapore. Under his leadership, it has rapidly become one the premier institutions in Asia and indeed in the world. In my opinion, KAUST could not have selected a better person to be the University's founding president."

During Professor Shih's tenure as president, NUS has been transformed from a respected teaching institution to a research-intensive university. It now stands in the top 50 universities worldwide, and has set a goal to build 10 great programs or departments in 10 years. NUS has successfully attracted top talents from world-class research universities. It has built strategic alliances with leading research universities around the world, and is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), and APRU World Institute (AWI). On June 13, 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between KAUST and NUS to collaborate on programs to advance scientific research, graduate education and technological development in fundamental and applied chemical sciences.

Professor Shih said, "I am deeply grateful to His Excellency Minister Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi for this great honor and responsibility as the Founding President of KAUST. With His Excellency's support, I look forward to helping build KAUST into a global knowledge enterprise, whose discoveries in science and technology will bring benefits in your lives, your children's and their children's also."

To the wider scientific community around the world, Professor Shih said, "I am excited about building a university of global standing, adopting best practices and appointing global talents, encompassing all faiths and cultures. KAUST represents a paradigm shift -- an intellectual and organizational innovation -- to conduct high impact research unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries, to create a new ecosystem for research unfettered by organizational strictures, and to build meaningful partnerships across communities, cultures and continents. All for the larger purpose of serving humanity by finding scientific and technological solutions to the problems facing the Kingdom, the region, and the world."

Biographical Summary

Professor Choon Fong Shih received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1973. Thereafter, he led the Fracture Research Group at the General Electric Corporate Research Lab in the United States. In 1981, he joined Brown University.

Professor Shih has made significant contributions in nonlinear fracture mechanics and computational methods for fracture analyses. With approximately 150 publications in leading scientific journals, Professor Shih is listed by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) among the world's most highly cited engineering researchers. Among his honors are the Swedlow Award and the George Irwin Medal, both awarded by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Professor Shih is a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (www.nae.edu) and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (www.amacad.org). He was the inaugural recipient from Asia Pacific for the Chief Executive Leadership Award presented by the Council for Advancement and Support for Education. He has been awarded the French decoration "Chevalier" in the Order of the "Legion d'Honneur."

Professor Shih has been a consultant to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, among others. He is a member of the MIT Corporation Visiting Committee for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

After 30 years in the United States, Professor Shih returned to Singapore in 1996 as the founding director of Singapore's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering with concurrent appointment as the deputy vice-chancellor of the National University of Singapore (NUS) from the following year. He is the founding president of the Materials Research Society of Singapore, which is affiliated with the International Union of Materials Research Societies.

In 2000, Professor Shih became president and vice-chancellor of NUS. In this capacity, Shih has actively promoted NUS' global profile. He was a key driver for the formation of the International Alliance of Research Universities (www.iaruni.org), an alliance of ten of the world's leading research universities spanning four continents. He is the chairman emeritus of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of 37 leading research universities modeled after the premier Association of American Universities (AAU). Professor Shih chairs the Governing Board of the APRU World Institute (www.apru.org/awi), an institute of advanced studies seeking to address scientific, social and economic issues of global importance.

Professor Shih has also served on a number of national level committees in Singapore. He is the chairman of the Singapore-MIT Alliance Governing Board as well as an executive committee member of the Economic Development Board. He is a founding member of the Singapore International Foundation. He is also a board member of the National Research Foundation (www.nrf.gov.sg). Shih also served on the Economic Review Committee tasked to develop wide-ranging strategies for re-making Singapore.


King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is being built in Saudi Arabia as an international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom, the region and around the globe. As an independent, merit-based institution, KAUST will employ many of the best practices from leading research universities and enable top researchers from around the globe and across all cultures to work together to solve challenging scientific and technological issues. The KAUST global research and education network will support diverse talents, both on its campus and at other premier universities and research institutions, through collaborative research agreements, grants, and student scholarship programs. The core campus, located on more than 36 square kilometers on the Red Sea at Thuwal, is set to open in September 2009. For more information about KAUST, visit http://www.kaust.edu.sa

Web site: http://www.kaust.edu.sa http://www.nrf.gov.sg http://www.iaruni.org http://www.amacad.org http://www.nae.edu

Jamil Al-Dandany of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology + 966-50-480-3736, jamil.dandany@kaust.edu.sa