Keynote Speakers

Ajay Royyuru

Ajay Royyuru leads Healthcare & Life Sciences research at IBM. His team is actively pursuing high-quality science, developing novel technologies and achieving translational insights across this industry, including areas of cancer, cardiac, neurological, mental health, immune system, and infectious diseases. Working with institutions around the world, he is engaged in research that will advance personalized, information-based medicine. His scientific interests and active projects include; genomics, protein science, systems biology, computational neuroscience, health informatics, miniaturizing for medical devices, and nano-biotechnology. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, Forbes, Scientific American, Nature Medicine, and Nature news articles.

Andre Nel

Andre Nel is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine and is Founder and Chief of the Division of Nanomedicine. Also, he is the Director of the University of California’s Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), a $48 million National Science Foundation (NSF) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded multidisciplinary and multi-institutional center for nanosafety implementation in the US. His research interests are: (i) Nanomedicine and Nanobiology, including nanomaterial therapeutic devices and the study of nanomaterial properties that lead to biocompatible and biohazardous interactions in humans and the environment; (ii) The role of air pollutants in asthma, with particular emphasis on the part of ultrafine particle-induced oxidative stress in the generation of airway inflammation and asthma. Dr. Nel serves as Associate Editor of ACS Nano, an internationally recognized journal.

Chad Mirkin

​Dr. Chad A. Mirkin is the Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University. He is a chemist and a world-renowned nanoscience expert, who has authored over 700 papers; he is an inventor on over 1,000 patents and applications worldwide (over 300 issued). Mirkin has been recognized for his accomplishments with over 120 national and international awards. These include the RUSNANOPRIZE, the Dan David Prize, the Wilhelm Exner Medal, the Sackler Prize in Convergence Research, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, and the ACS Award for Creative Invention.  He was a Member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST, Obama Administration), and one of fewer than 20 scientists, engineers, and medical doctors to be elected to all three US National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering).  He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Materials Research Society, the American Chemical Society, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He is the Founding Editor of the journal Small, and he has founded multiple companies, including AuraSense, Exicure, TERA-print, and CDJ Technologies. Mirkin holds a B.S. degree from Dickinson College and a Ph.D. degree from Penn State. He was an NSF Postdoc at MIT prior to becoming a Professor at Northwestern in 1991.

Chih-Ming Ho

Dr. Chih-Ming Ho received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He held the Ben Rich-Lockheed Martin Professor Chair until he retired in 2016 and currently is a UCLA Distinguished Research Professor. He served as UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor for Research from 2001 to 2005. His research interests include phenotypic personalized medicine (PPM), micro/nano fluidics, molecular sensors and turbulence. He was ranked by ISI as one of the top 250 most cited researchers in all engineering categories (2001-2014). Dr. Ho was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an Academician of Academia Sinica. He has received a Doctor of Engineering Honoris Causa from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Dr. Ho holds ten honorary professorships, including the Einstein Professor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Ho was elected as Fellow of AAAS, APS, AIMBE, AIAA and 3M-Nano Society

Elsa Sotiriadis

Elsa Sotiriadis is a scientist, former venture capital investor, futurist and science fiction writer (Elsa Solaris). She is interested in fixing the world by hacking the code of life. As a director at a VC firm, she helped invest in, build, and launch 25 pioneering biotech startups to transform industries across food, technology, health, and medicine. During her Ph.D. in Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, she worked on making DNA nanorobots to stop the growth of cancer cells. Today, as a ‘Bio-Futurist’ she helped an iconic tech company harness digital biology to innovate their flagship product. She has been featured in the BBC’s science fiction show ‘Forest 404’ and took part in a workshop on self-sustaining human life in space at NASA’s Ames Research Centre.

Francoise Baylis

Françoise Baylis is a University Research Professor at Dalhousie University. She is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Baylis was one of the organizers of, and a key participant in, the 2015 International Summit on Human Gene Editing. She is a member of the WHO expert advisory committee on Developing global standards for governance and oversight of Human Genome editing. Her most recent book is Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing.

George Gokel

George Gokel is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biology in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Professor Gokel’s early work was in the area of phase transfer catalysis, and he co-authored the first monograph in that field in 1978. He invented the compounds known as “lariat ethers.”  During the past ten years, Professor Gokel has pioneered the development of synthetic cation channels that function in phospholipid bilayer membranes. His research work has produced more than 300 papers and a dozen patents. He has authored, co-authored, or edited fifteen books. 

Hanadi Sleiman

Hanadi Sleiman is a Professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in DNA Nanoscience at McGill University. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and was a CNRS postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn’s laboratory at the Université Louis Pasteur. Her research group focuses on using molecule DNA as a template to assemble nanostructured materials. Sleiman is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2016), Associate Editor of J. Am. Chem. Soc., and Editorial Advisory Board member of J. Am. Chem. Soc., Chem., J. Org. Chem., and ChemBioChem. She received the McGill Principal’s Prize (2002) and the Leo Yaffe Award (2005) for Excellence in Teaching.

Ian Campbell

Ian Campbell is the Interim Executive Chair for Innovate UK. The Executive Chair of Innovate UK is the operational head of the organisation, as it continues its leading role in driving the UK’s technology and innovation strategy. Previously he was Director - Ageing Society, Health & Nutrition and Director - Health and Life Sciences. Dr. Campbell has extensive entrepreneurial and business experience in the healthcare sector. Before Innovate UK, Ian was CEO of Arquer Diagnostics, which focuses on bladder and prostate cancer diagnosis. Before this, he spent 15 years in a variety of executive management roles within the health and life science sector.

Jonathan Sessler

Jonathan Sessler is a professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin. He is notable for his pioneering work on expanded porphyrins and their applications to biology and medicine. He is a co-founder of Pharmacyclics, Inc., a company that works with expanded porphyrins, and Anionics, Inc., which develops anion recognition chemistry. Pharmacyclics was sold to AbbVie for $21 billion in 2015.

Kimoon Kim

Kimoon Kim is a university distinguished a professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and the director of the Center for Self-assembly and Complexity (CSC), Institute for Basic Science (IBS). He received his Ph.D. from Standford University and studied chemistry at Seoul National University. His research focuses on developing novel functional materials and devices based on supramolecular chemistry. In particular, his group has been working on a wide variety of functional materials based on cucurbiturils, a family of pumpkin-shaped macrocyclic molecules, organic or metal-organic porous materials, and self-assembled nanostructured polymer materials. His work has been recognized by several awards, including Izatt-Christensen Award (2012).

Mark Kendall

Mark Kendall is an Australian biomedical engineer and innovator. He is an Entrepreneurial Professor of the Australian National University. His field of research is the delivery of immunotherapeutics to the skin without the use of a needle or syringe.

Natasha McEnroe

Natasha McEnroe is the Keeper of Medicine at the Science Museum in  London. Her previous post was Director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, before this, she was Museum Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, and Curator of the Galton Collection at University College London.  She has been Curator of Dr. Johnson’s House in London’s Fleet Street and has also worked for the National Trust and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Natasha was co-editor of The Hospital in the Oatfield – The Art of Nursing in the First World War (2014); The Tyranny of Treatment: Samuel Johnson, His Friends and Georgian Medicine (2003); and editor of Medicine: An Imperfect Science(2019) and co-editor of The Medicine Cabinet(2019). Her research interests focus on 18th and 19th-century medical humanities. Natasha is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Barbers.

Nicholas Peppas

Nicholas Peppas works on a multidisciplinary approach of blending modern molecular and cellular biology with engineering principles to design the next-generation of medical systems and devices for patient treatment.  He is the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Pediatrics, at the University of Texas at Austin. His work focuses on nanomedicine, biomaterials, drug delivery, bionanotechnology and polymer physics. He has 1,600 publications with 128,000 citations and H=166. Peppas holds a Dipl. Eng. from the NTU of Athens (1971), an Sc.D. from MIT (1973), and honorary doctorates from the Universities of Ghent, Parma, Athens, Patras, Ljubljana, Thessaloniki, Santiago de Compostela, and the National Technical University of Athens. Also, he is an Honorary Professor at Sichuan University, Beihang University, PLA Hospital and Medical School, and Peking Medical Union College in China. 

Rene Frydman

Rene Frydman is part of the Faculty of Medicine at University Paris XI and is the Head of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics of Antoine Beclere Hospital. Formerly, Professor Frydman held several national positions including Member of the National Committee of Human Rights, Member of the National Committee of Ethics for the Sciences of Life and Health, or Counselor of the Minister of Research. He received the honor of Chevalier of the French Order Of Merit and is an Officer of the French Legion d’Honneur. His particular areas of interest are in biomedical ethics - he was active in the preparation of the law on bioethics - and Gynecology and Obstetrics, including infertility and high-risk pregnancy. His work in infertility led in 1982 to the first baby born as a result of in vitro fertilization in France.

Rifat Atun

Rifat Atun is a professor of Global Health Systems at Harvard University and the Faculty Chair of the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program. Professor Atun's research focuses on health system transformation and innovation. Previously, he served as a member of the Executive Management Team of the Global Fund as Director of Strategy, Performance, and Evaluation where he chaired the panel that oversaw annual investments of ~US$3-4 billion. He was also a Professor of International Health Management at Imperial College London. Prof. Rifat has published over 350 papers in leading journals and has advised more than 30 governments on health policy and health system reform and has worked with the World Bank, WHO and leading organizations such as Medtronic, Novartis, Roche, and Merck & Co.

Shuji Nakamura

Shuji Nakamura is the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics for Development of efficient blue LEDs. He developed his original Two-Flow MOCVD and that invention was the most significant breakthrough in his life and his InGaN-based research. Shuji Nakamura obtained a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tokushima, Japan. He worked for Nichia Ltd. Shuji has been a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2000. Professor Nakamura is a co-founder of Soraa Inc. which sells full-spectrum LED lightings.

Performers, Artists and musicians

Mavis Pan

Mavis Pan is a composer, pianist, singer, and conductor, who presents a blend of East and West. Her travels throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States have gathered flavors of a multitude of cultures, now blended into her compositions, which range from popular to avant-garde, from ballad to art song, from solo instrumental to full orchestra. Born in Taiwan, Mavis emigrated to the USA when she was seventeen and majored in jazz piano performance at New York University, continuing her studies at Columbia University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Music and Music Education and at Brooklyn Conservatory, where she earned a Masters in Musical Composition.

Tim Blais

Tim Blais is a Canadian science communicator. He explains scientific topics via writing and performing a capella parodies of popular music which he records and posts on his YouTube channel, A Capella Science

Tom Pringle

Tom Pringle is an internationally renowned pioneer of educational science performance and immersive training programs (Bright Sparks Communication Training). He has been delivering science performance, talks, training & events for education, theatre, TV & corporate clients - worldwide since 1995.
He has delivered over 2,000 keynotes, workshops and performances to about half a million people at over 500 venues internationally. Best known for his regular performances on Brainiac he has made hundreds of TV appearances for BBC, Discovery, Sky, ITV, Disney and many others. He has trained thousands of academics, science communicators, school teachers, and technicians on how to present complex ideas engagingly and understandably. He writes occasional articles for journal Primary Science. He owns two Guinness World Records and one bicycle and no car.

Ulysses Owens

A drummer who “take[s] a back seat to no one” (The New York Times), performer, producer and educator, Ulysses Owens Jr. goes the limit in the jazz world and beyond. Owens also gained special attention for his performances on the GRAMMY award-winning albums with Kurt Elling, and Christian McBride. As an educator he is the co-creator of his online jazz drum video course, “Finding Your Beat,”with Open Studio Network. He recently was asked by Hal Leonard Publishing, to write his first book, “Jazz Brushes for the Modern Drummer: An Essential Guide to the Art of Keeping Time.” His second book “The Musicians Career Guide: Turning Your Talent into Sustained Success,” will be released by Skyhorse Publishers, January 2021. Owens family founded Don’t Miss a Beat, Inc., a non-profit organization empowering young people through a blend of musical, artistic, academic, and civic engagement programming.


Abdul-Hamid Emwas

Abdul-Hamid Emwas, is a staff scientist at Imaging and Characterization Core Lab, KAUST. Dr. Emwas received a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and his M.Sc. in Biophysical Chemistry, from the University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway. He graduated earlier with B.Sc. (Chemistry), from the University of Bir-Zeit, Bir-Zeit, Palestine. His research interest is in developing new NMR and EPR approaches for protein and DNA structural analysis. Currently, Dr. Emwas’ research focus is on developing, optimizing and standardizing novel NMR metabolomics approaches that can be used as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for human diseases.

Aida Rivera

Aida Rivera is a licensed professional engineer, educator, and co-founder of d.heritage2tech. She has over 20 years of experience in risk analysis modeling, project management, structural, civil, earthquake, and mechanical engineering. Aida earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering from Stanford University followed by postgraduate research in Mechanical Engineering at Monash University in Australia.


Ali Alfrshuti

Ali Alfrshuti is a Prototyping Technician at the Prototyping Core Lab at KAUST.

Ali Raza

Ali Raza is a Software Developer in the Bio-Ontology Research Group at Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC).   He has 7+ years of professional experience in the design and development of distributed and semantic web systems. He also has 5 years of experience working with Healthcare IT systems. He is interested in applications of data sciences including standard data models, data interoperability and data analytics.

Arwa Raies

Arwa Raies is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in the United Kingdom. She works with the Open Targets consortium, a large-scale, public-private partnership between several research institutions and pharmaceutical companies. Arwa graduated from KAUST with a Ph.D. in Computer Science. She earned her Master's and Bachelor's in Computer Science from KAUST and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, respectively. At KAUST, Dr. Raies was a member of the Computational Bioscience Research Center. She has led research projects in the domains of machine learning, natural language processing, and computational toxicology. Her research interests broadly concern bioinformatics, cheminformatics, data mining, and health care.

Benjamin Stevens

Ben Stevens is Head of Digital and Social Media at KAUST, devising and leading content strategy across KAUST’s primary social media channels. He also co-hosts Sciencetown, the KAUST podcast, with Nicholas Demille. Before moving to KAUST, he worked in communications for both UCL and King's College London and spent five years as an agency Senior Editor, creating websites and print publications for blue-chip and third sector clients. He has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of York and began his career as a broadcast journalist at the BBC and in the commercial radio sector.


Christian Doonan

Christian Doonan received his Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne and then undertook Post Doctoral research at UCLA. He is now Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials. Selected awards: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, Chemical Society of Japan International Lectureship award, Japan-Australia Emerging Leaders Award. His research interests include applications of porous materials for heterogeneous catalysis and biotechnology. In particular, the encapsulation of biomacromolecules to enhance their stability in conditions required for commercial biocatalysis and non-cryogenic storage and transport.

Christian Serre

Christian Serre got his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the University of Versailles in 1999 and did a Post-doc fellowship in Princeton. He became a CNRS researcher in 2001 at Institut Lavoisier de Versailles in France (ILV) and then research director in 2008. In 2016, he created at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris and ESPCI - within the frame of the Paris Science Letters (PSL) University - a new laboratory entirely dedicated to porous solids and their applications. Christian is a highly cited scientist since 2010 with more than 330 publications (h factor > 90) and 20 patents. He has received numerous awards, such as the CNRS Bronze medal and the Berthelot Medal and Prix Fondé de l’état from the French Academy of Sciences.

Claus-Michael Lehr

Claus-Michael Lehr is a Professor at Saarland University as well as co-founder and head of the department Drug Delivery at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS).  Lehr has also been the co-founder of Across Barriers GmbH and acts as CEO of PharmBioTec GmbH, a not-for-profit contract research subsidiary of Saarland University. The research theme of his team is non-invasive drug delivery across biological barriers, in particular, the epithelia of the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and the lungs. Recently, this has expanded to microbial barriers. He is (co)author of more than 350 papers with >12.000 citations (h‐index = 66). Recently, the British magazine “The Medicine Maker” rated him, for the third time, as one of the top 100 most influencing drug researchers in the world.

Dalila Bensaddek

Dalila Bensaddek obtained her Ph.D. in mass spectrometry at the Michael Barber Centre for mass spectrometry, in FTMS (high-resolution MS) working on single peptides and single purified proteins. Then Dr. Bensaddek worked on proteomics and LC-MS in Geneva Switzerland (Denis Hochstrasser) and phospho-proteomics in Boston (Hanno Steen) before coming back to Europe to do high throughput proteomics in Dundee, where she managed the quantitative proteomics laboratory and expanded by experience in all things proteomics including on model organisms, cell lines, and stem cells. Finally, Dr. Dalila moved to work as an application specialist with Bruker in life sciences and proteomics before joining KAUST, where she is currently in-charge of set-up MS-based metabolomics platform.

Dimitrios Kleftogiannis

Dimitrios Kleftogiannis obtained his Diploma in Computer Science and Engineering (DEng), and his MSc in Bioinformatics from the University of Patras. In 2016 he earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at KAUST. After his Ph.D., he conducted postdoctoral research at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, and in 2019 he joined the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) within A*STAR.  He is now investigating the use of liquid biopsies to deliver personalized cancer medicine. He has co-authored 21 research articles, and his work has been published in different journals, including Nucleic Acids Research, Cancer Research, Clinical Chemistry, and Bioinformatics

Eduardo Gorron

Eduardo Gorron is a microbiologist from Colombia and a former student of the MSc in Chemical and Biological Engineering program at KAUST, from which he graduated. After which, he worked in an algae biotechnology project in SABIC CRI at KAUST. He then moved to Colombia where he lectured Biotechnology in different universities. He is now studying his Ph.D. on recombinant protein production at The University of Queensland, Australia. He is involved in a project to produce recombinant collagen and strategies to engineer human collagen to enhance wound healing and other healing processes in the body.

Faisal Nawab

Faisal Nawab is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at UC Santa Cruz. He received his Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara where he won the Computer Science Department best dissertation award. His research lies at the intersection of Big Data management and distributed Cloud Computing systems. More precisely, he works on data management systems that accelerate and support data science and global connectivity, especially in the domains of autonomous, mobile applications and the Internet of Things.

Gang Bao

Gang Bao is the Foyt Family Chair Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and Associate Dean for Research and Innovation of School of Engineering, Rice University. He is also the Director of the Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines at Rice. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Advancement in Science, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Physical Society, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering Society. His research focuses on the development of nanotechnology and biomolecular engineering tools for biological and disease studies, including multifunctional magnetic nanoparticles and engineered nucleases such as CRISPR/Cas9. These approaches have been applied to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer, and genome editing approaches for treating single-gene disorders.

Hessa Al-Quwaiee

Hessa Alquwaiee works with Ericsson to manage the Saudi innovation hub in Riyadh. The hub vision is to build and create 5G and IoT innovative use-cases and to encourage ICT innovation within the local ecosystem. These efforts help in achieving Saudi Arabia 2030 vision by accelerating the digital transformation and positioning the country as an emerging technologies early adopter. Before Ericsson, Hessa worked as a senior network engineer at Huawei in which she managed several critical cellular network projects. Hessa holds a Ph.D. in Electrical engineering from King Abdullah University of science and technology (KAUST).

Hosam Zowawi

Hosam Mamoon A. Zowawi is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, a 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise young laureate, and a Next Generation Leader by TIME Magazine. His research focuses on infection of disease control and management. He has a track record in the surveillance, rapid diagnostic, and policies to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). He is now leading a project that is aiming to develop Point-of-Care diagnostics for antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the pediatrics population. The project aims to provide a rapid diagnosis to tailor personalized treatments

Ivan Viola

Ivan Viola is an Associate Professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. In his research, Viola investigates methods that automate the visualization design process. Basal new technologies he then applies to various application domains, such as ultrasound diagnostics, geology, or sub-milimeter biology. Viola has graduated from TU Wien, Austria in 2005 and moved for postdoctoral fellowship to the University of Bergen, Norway, where he was gradually promoted to the rank of Professor. In 2013 he has been awarded a Vienna Science and Technology Fund grant to establish his own research group back at TU Wien, Austria. After several years of research on visualization and computer graphics techniques for multiscale biological structures in Vienna, Viola has co-founded the startup company called Nanographics, to commercialize nanovisualization technologies. Viola he has joined KAUST to multiply his investigative efforts, for delivering technologies that make visual, in-silico life possible.

Jeremiah Gassensmith

Jeremiah Gassensmith is a University Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. He earned his bachelors degree at Indiana University and his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, where he studied the synthesis of sterically shielded near-infrared luminescent dyes. After obtaining his Ph.D., he traveled to Northwestern University, where he investigated a diverse array of topics, including gas sequestration by cyclodextrin based metal-organic frameworks. He has received several awards, such a new doctoral investigator award by the American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund, and an NSF CAREER award.

Khaled Salama

Khaled Salama is professor of Electrical Engineering at KAUST’s Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering Division (CEMSE). Professor Salama's research interests cover a variety of interdisciplinary aspects of electronic circuit design and semiconductors' fabrication. He is engaged in developing devices, circuits, systems, and algorithms to enable inexpensive analytical platforms for a variety of industrial, environmental, and biomedical applications. Recently he has been working on neuromorphic circuits for brain emulation.

Kyle Lauersen

Dr. Kyle J. Lauersen is originally from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he completed his Bachelor of Science with honors, Bachelor of Education, and Master of Science degrees at Queen’s University. Dr. Lauersen’s research background is in molecular biology, green biotechnology, and genetic control of gene expression. His bachelor’s thesis investigated genetic control of leaf morphology in poplar trees and his master’s research focused on mechanisms of freezing tolerance mediated by ice-binding proteins in perennial grass. In 2011, he was awarded a full Ph.D. scholarship funded by the Cluster Industrial Biotechnology Graduate Cluster (CLIB-GC) at the Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec), Bielefeld University, Germany. During his doctoral research, Dr. Lauersen discovered that long-observed recalcitrance of eukaryotic microalgae to genetic engineering could be overcome by synthetically adapting transgene expression constructs to mimic host regulation machinery. This innovation enabled reliable transgene expression from eukaryotic green algal nuclear genomes for the first time and opened new possibilities for engineering these hosts. Dr. Lauersen has since demonstrated multiple examples of using algae as green-cell-factories for sustainable biotechnological concepts driven by photosynthesis. He developed a synthetic expression vector toolkit for the model microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, characterized green algal peroxisomes as playing key roles in acetate uptake and central carbon metabolism, and was the first to demonstrate high-level metabolic engineering concepts in this alga. Since 2015, Dr. Lauersen has been the leader of the synthetic biology team within the algae biotechnology and bioenergy group at the CeBiTec, Bielefeld University. Dr. Lauersen was nominated by Bielefeld University for the German Research Foundation 2019 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz award. Currently, his team works towards increasing fundamental understanding of algal metabolism and the development of sustainable, light-driven, bio-processes with these hosts.

Leaf Huang

Leaf Huang, is the Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor, Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Huang‚Äôs research has been in the area of gene therapy and targeted drug delivery. He has pioneered the liposome non-viral vector and has designed and manufactured the cationic lipid vector for the first non-viral clinical trial in 1992. His current work centers on nanoparticle vectors for gene transfer in tumor and liver. He also continues research in establishing a ligand targeted delivery system for cDNA, mRNA, siRNA, proteins and peptides for tumor growth inhibition and for vaccines in treating cancer and infected diseases. 

Lyle Isaacs

Lyle Isaacs obtained a BS degree from the University of Chicago in 1991, and he performed doctoral research with Professor Francois Diederich (MS 1992, UCLA; Ph.D. 1995, ETH-Zürich). After an NIH postdoctoral fellowship with Professor George Whitesides at Harvard, he joined the faculty at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1998 where he is currently Professor of Chemistry. Lyle was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013 for his work on the development of cucurbit[n]uril molecular containers and self-sorting systems.

Magdalena Julkowska

Magdalena has Polish roots but was transplanted to the Netherlands in her early intellectual development. She finished both her Bachelor (General Biology) and Master's degree (Integrative Plant Science) at the University of Amsterdam. In her Ph.D. she was nurtured by Prof. Christa Testerink, where she tried to dissect the effect of salt stress on Root System Architecture development in Arabidopsis seedlings. She works currently as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Salt Lab lead by Prof. Mark Tester at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, where she continues studying relationship between plant architecture and performance under salt stress and develops new passions for production and analysis of big-data sets, phenotype analysis, developing shiny apps and flying a carpet.

Mardson Mcquay

Mardson McQuay is Associate General Counsel and Senior IP Attorney at KAUST. He is a former tenured professor of Mechanical Engineering at Brigham Young University and Senior VP and Chief IP Counsel at CGG, France. He also spent four years as an Associate in a law firm and five years as a Senior IP attorney at GE. He has been an invited lecturer on the topic of IP all over the world.

Marie-Laure Boulot

Marie-Laure Boulot is the Enrichment Office director at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She sets strategies, oversees program development and positions KAUST’s enrichment programs in Saudi Arabia and in the international landscape. She graduated from Paris Dauphine University where she studied finances and marketing. Marie-Laure joined KAUST as a founding staff member in 2009. Starting with the inaugural 2010 Winter Enrichment Program, Marie-Laure has successfully spearheaded the development and expansion of the University's enrichment programs that expand the minds of not only students but also faculty, staff and community members and in-Kingdom guests.

Marie-Sophie L

Marie-Sophie L has been Naturopath for 30 years and Raw Chef since 2012 after studying vegan and raw culinary art in California, Marie-Sophie L has become Naturawchef®, the leading expert in vegetable and no-cooking cuisine. She has raised raw food to a gastrawnomic level. She trains the young chefs of the Ferrandi International School, and has prepared signature dishes in a menu l'instant Cru in the prestigious restaurant l'Alcazar in Paris. She shares her know-how and offers online training on her website linstantcru.com Marie-Sophie L creates innovative products including "La Bonne Foi", a 100% vegetable foie gras like that received the 2019 Agri-food Trophy in the culinary art and innovation category. Her books "L'instant Cru" and "L'alimentation crue, naturellement healthy", reference books in France, are regularly reprinted by Albin Michel. "Marie-Sophie L. renews French gastronomy in an incredible...but raw way! "PARIS MATCH 2014

Mark Ptashne

Mark Ptashne is a molecular biologist and the Ludwig Chair of Molecular Biology at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center. Ptashne earned his PhD from Harvard in 1968, after which he joined the faculty of Harvard and became chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1980. In 1997 he left Harvard for MSK. In 1997, he was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. The focus of his scientific career has been gene regulation. Ptashne was the first scientist to demonstrate specific binding between protein and DNA, and his lifelong work has been the elucidation of how the yeast transcriptional activator Gal4 works. He was the originator of the "ball and stick" model of transcription factor function, demonstrating in bacteria and in yeast that they typically consist of separable regions that mediate DNA binding and interaction with transcriptional activators or repressors.

Maxat Kulmanov

Maxat Kulmanov is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Bio-Ontology Research Group at Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC).  His research is related to knowledge representation and reasoning, machine learning, neural networks, semantic web, and algorithms.  He is interested in knowledge discovery and data integration using artificial intelligence and semantic web technologies in biology and biomedicine.

Myraida Rivera Marzan

Myraida Rivera is a licensed architect, civil engineer, project manager, design consultant and co-founder of d.heritage2tech. Her interdisciplinary experiences have influenced her interest in social entrepreneurship, working on projects which combine creativity, ideation, science, art, math, and technology, innovating positive solutions. Myraida received an undergraduate degree in Environmental Design and graduate degrees in Architecture and Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering and Management, from the University of Puerto Rico and Stanford University.

Naadiya Carrim

Integrative Specialist, Integrative Activities at KAUST


Naeemullah Khan

Dr. Naeemullah Khan received his masters and Ph.D. degrees from Kaust in 2014 and 2018 respectively, in Electrical Engineering. Since 2018 he has been part of the Torr vision group (TVG) at the department of engineering, the University of Oxford. The primary focus of his research is the theoretical evaluation of deep networks. He has also been involved in several courses and summer schools on machine learning at artificial intelligence at the University of Oxford.

Najeh Kharbatia

Najeh Kharbatia is a staff scientist in the organic team at KAUST’s Analytical Core Laboratory. He earned a master degree in mass spectrometry from Stevens Institute of Technology (USA). Najeh joined KAUST in 2013 coming from Agilent Technologies. He employs GC/MS and LC/MS based metabolomics platforms to study metabolites distribution in plants, bacteria, parasites, and human’ tissues and fluids. Najeh Kharbatia was the first to lead the effort in establishing metabolomics and lipidomics capabilities at ACL to support KAUST researchers.  

Nasser Mohiuddin

Nasser Mohiuddin is a Research Data Storage Specialist working with Systems, Storage and Automation Team (SSAT) group at KAUST IT. He has vast experience in research engagement, automation systems, web technologies, database management and application development. At KAUST he is currently working with researchers and students with their data storage needs and to help them understand IT (information technology) better by organizing workshops, lunch & learn and other learning sessions.

Nicholas Demille

Nicholas Demille is the head of University Editorial Services - the KAUST team responsible for publishing the official English language social channels, website, The Beacon and The Lens. Before joining KAUST he worked as an agency copywriter for numerous Fortune 100 brands. He also lived with the Maasai as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. Demille earned a master's degree in Global Journalism from Indiana University

Niveen M. Khashab

Niveen M. Khashab is an Associate Professor in the Physical Sciences and Engineering Division at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). During her doctoral studies at the University of Florida, Prof. Khashab trained in organic chemistry in the laboratory of Prof. Alan R. Katritzky. Prof. Khashab received the Crow award for organic innovation in 2006 and AlMarai award for excellence in nanotechnology in the Middle East region in 2013. She is also the 2017 recipient of the L’Oreal-Unesco international women in science award. Her current efforts focus on the design, synthesis, and applications of organic-inorganic hybrid materials that are porous and dynamically controlled by stimuli (pH, light, magnet, enzymes….).

Oliver Hobert

Dr. Oliver Hobert is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and holds secondary appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University Medical Center. He also is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He did his graduate work with Gerhard Krauss at the University of Bayreuth and Axel Ullrich at the Max Planck Insitute for Biochemistry in Germany and did his postdoc with Gary Ruvkun at Harvard Medical School on Boston. He has been on the faculty at Columbia University since 1999. He is a recipient of the Mossman Award, the Jacob Javits Award and is an elected fellow of the AAAS.

Omar Farha

Omar Farha is an associate professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, distinguished adjunct professor at King Abdulaziz University. He is the president of NuMat Technologies and Associate Editor for ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. He has received several awards and recognitions, such as the "Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division Early Career" Award by the Royal Society of Chemistry or "The Satinder Ahuja Award for Young Investigators in Separation Science by the American Chemical Society.  His current research spans diverse areas of chemistry and materials science ranging from energy to defense-related challenges. Specifically, his research focuses on the rational design of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and porous-organic polymers for sensing, catalysis, storage, separations, and light-harvesting. He has 280 peer-reviewed publications, holds 13 patents, and has been named a "Highly Cited Researcher" in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Paolo Falcaro

Paolo Falcaro is a university professor in Bio-based Materials Technology at the Graz University of Technology. He works in the field of self-assembled materials, film deposition and crystal engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from Bologna University. He has led a research team engineering porous crystals, related inorganic- and bio-composites at CSIRO, Australia. His research focuses mostly on metal organic frameworks (MOFs), mesoporous materials, and functional nanoparticles for application to sensing, environmental remediation, and biotechnology. He develops new crystal growth methodologies and self-assembly strategies to design novel biomacromolecule-based composites for bio-catalysis and bio-medicine.

Philip Gale

Philip Gale is a Professor of Chemistry and Head of School at the University of Sydney. His research interests include all aspects of the supramolecular chemistry of anions but in particular their transmembrane transport. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford. He then joined Prof. Jonathan Sessler’s group at the University of Texas at Austin as Fulbright Scholar. He returned to the UK to a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 1997 moving to a lectureship at the University of Southampton in 1999. He was promoted to Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry in 2007 and served as Head of the School of Chemistry between 2010 and 2016.

Sandra Katakalea

Sandra Katakalea is an HR & Organizational Development Professional with 20 years of experience and expertise in all facets of HR, leadership and talent development. Her experience involves occupying management roles in the banking and telecommunications sectors while at KAUST, she is Head of Talent Management, supporting the development of staff by designing and resourcing learning and development solutions along with the provision of consulting and coaching.

Soren-Peter Olesen

Prof. Søren-Peter Olesen is a professor at the University of Copenhagen Medical School and the CEO of the Danish National Research Foundation. He is trained as a medical doctor and an electronics engineer. Prof. Olesen's research has focused on the membrane proteins responsible for the fast electric signaling in the heart, muscle, and brain. Søren-Peter Olesen has been involved in starting up and developing several pharma and device companies as co-founder, CEO, scientific director, and board member.

Sridevi Sarma

Sridevi Sarma received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 1994; and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1997 and 2006. From 2000-2003 she took a leave to start a data analytics company. From 2006-2009, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT. She is now an Associate Professor at the Institute for Computational Medicine, Department of Biomedical Engineering, at Johns Hopkins University. Her research includes modeling, estimation, and control of neural systems using electrical stimulation. She is a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Careers at the Scientific Interface Award, the Krishna Kumar New Investigator Award from the North American Neuromodulation Society and a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the Whiting School of Engineering Robert B. Pond Excellence in Teaching Award.

Tamer Shahin

Tamer Shahin is Prototyping Lead Engineer at KAUST.

Theresa Reineke

Theresa M. Reineke is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Chemistry at The University of Minnesota. She also holds graduate faculty appointments in the Departments of Chemical Engineering/Materials Science and Pharmaceutics. She received a B.S. Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, an M.S. Degree from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. from The University of Michigan. Her research group is focused on enabling fundamental and applied technology advancements of polymers in the fields of gene therapy and genome editing, drug delivery, and sustainability. Reineke is also a founding Associate Editor of ACS MacroLetters.

Todd Nims

Todd Albert Nims is a Saudi-born American producer heavily involved in the Gulf region’s cinema and entertainment development. Mr. Nims is known for producing the feature films JOUD (2019) and BORN A KING (2019) for release to cinemas in 2019. He held the Film Producer position at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s state-of-the-art hub for inspiring creativity and global culture, Ithra, for six years where he established the Kingdom’s first cinema and assisted in launching the first Saudi Film Days (saudifilmdays.com) program to provide funding and development to Saudi filmmakers while screening their films in Hollywood. Mr. Nims owns a AB Media, a media consultancy business based in the USA and Empty Quarter Entertainment, a tech media company, based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Virginia Unkefer

Virginia A. Unkefer, PhD

Acting Director, Research Operations and Compliance, KAUST

Virginia’s formal training is in English Language and Literature with a Ph.D. in medieval studies from Michigan State University. Since 1996, she has worked with scientists to improve their research communications. Virginia has practiced yoga for 20 years. In 2014, she was certified to teach yoga by the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Uttar Kashi, India. Since then, she has taught modified Astanga (primary series) and hatha yoga classes at KAUST.

Yasser Al-Omrany

Yasser Al-Omrany is a Prototyping Technician, at KAUST's Prototyping Core Lab.

Zhen Gu

Zhen Gu is a Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Director of the NIH Biotechnology Training in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He received his B.S. degree in Chemistry and M.S. degree in Polymer Chemistry and Physics from Nanjing University. In 2010, he obtained a Ph.D. at UCLA. He was a Postdoctoral Associate working with Dr. Robert Langer at MIT and Harvard Medical School from 2010 to 2012. Before he moved to UCLA in 2018, he had been appointed as a Jackson Family Distinguished Professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Dr. Gu’s group studies controlled drug delivery, bio-inspired materials, and nanobiotechnology, especially for cancer and diabetes treatment. He has published over 170 research papers and applied over 60 patents. He is a co-founder of five start-up companies.

Zulfikhar Mohammed

Zulfikhar Ali Mohammed is an experienced systems’ analyst with emphasis on Unix security. He has over 18 years’ experience in the IT industry, ensuring optimal functionality of systems while maintaining security standards. At KAUST, he is responsible for making sure our mission-critical systems (processing salaries, budgets, HR, GASC requests, etc) are compliant with CIS-CAT benchmarks, which is an industry-wide security standards body. He also keeps a close eye on security risks and threats as they appear and takes actions to remediate and eliminate them.