Winners of the 2017 Kuwait Prize Inspire Students and Faculty at Kuwait University

December 11, 2017

Winners of the 2017 Kuwait Prize inspire students and faculty at Kuwait University through their innovative research careers and exceptional scientific achievements. 

On December 11th, students and faculty at different colleges within Kuwait University, gathered to hear the talks of prominent Arab scientists, who had recently been named the 2017 laureates of the Kuwait Prize. The prize is awarded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, in recognition of the lifetime achievements of Arab scientists worldwide.

Each of the laureates this year, representing a different scientific discipline, inspired the audience through their efforts and contributions in furthering scientific knowledge, as well as through their inquisitiveness, perseverance and passion, which were also essential to their success.

At the Faculty of Science, Dr. Omar Yaghi, the J. and N. Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, spoke about his contributions to the field of reticular chemistry, where new materials are formed through molecular building blocks held together through strong bonds. Dr. Yaghi fascinated the audience with intricate images of these molecules, and noted to the audience that this field of research has become an extremely popular field of fundamental investigation with potential industrial applications. Their use, Dr. Yaghi noted, ranges from storage and separation of hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide, to playing a critical role in fresh water formation, because of their ability to capture water from air.

At the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Shaker Mousa, Professor and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Albany College of Pharmacy in New York, showcased the importance of nanotechnology and nanomedicine towards medical research. Professor Mousa highlighted some of the findings of his current research on utilizing nanoparticles as means for targeted drug-delivery. By designing these nanoparticles to attach to various cell surfaces, such as cancer cells, these particles can be used to deliver drugs to specific cells, and allow for simultaneous imaging of the tumor at the same time. This, Professor Mousa noted, would greatly advance theranostics, where targeted therapy is linked to specific diagnostics.  .

 Professor Mohamed Arnaout, Professor of Nephrology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, also spoke to the audience at the Faculty of Medicine, providing a historical perspective of his research on a class of proteins, called integrins. These proteins contribute to the pathogenesis of various diseases, and inhibitors of these proteins, he noted, are currently used to treat cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Thus, he and his colleagues have focused on deepening the understanding of the structural features of these receptors, as a means to develop and design novel therapeutics.

 At the Faculty of Education, Dr. Saouma Bou Jaoude, a Professor at the American University of Beirut, discussed the importance of enhancing the access and quality of science education, especially in the Arab world, in which building a stronger foundation for science education will be key in advancing the societies within the region. He also emphasized the need for developing and implementing reform, as well as the engagement and responsibility of stakeholders in education, such as national educational systems, researchers, parents, teachers, and others that impact the quality of student learning

Professor Nabil Matar, a Presidential Professor in the English Department at the University of Minnesota, spoke at the Faculty of Arts. He started his talk by posing a very important question to the audience about the role of the Arab-Islamic civilization in the cultural and historical construction of Europe. The question of whether it was true that the Arabs had had no “curiosity” about the West, as Bernard Lewis had contended, was the focus of his research, where he has worked on trying to gather evidence to refute Lewis’s thesis. His research involved turning to several academic and governmental archives in several cities in Europe, including Paris, London, Madrid, Gibraltar and Vienna. He also searched several Arabic archives in Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan for texts on pilgrimages, jurisprudential determinations and much more. Professor Matar’s research has provided the evidence for a solid platform for research on Euro-Arab history.

Also at the Faculty of Arts, Professor Maroun Khalil Aoud presented his work on the intersection between philosophy and fundamental sciences in the Arab and Islamic civilization. The focus of his work was on translating and analyzing the rhetorical doctrine of Arabic language philosophers. He discovered that within the doctrine, there are two types of text: some that are by Averros and deal with the main and specific processes of theoretical reasoning (mashhûrâtfî bâdî al-ra’y). The other is by al-Fârâbî, and concerns the legitimacy, or illegitimacy, of the use of rhetorical reasoning by the sciences. Dr. Aoud further provided an overview of the scientific protocol that he developed for the purpose of gathering substantial information on manuscripts in a registered database that can be used for further research.

The laureates will be awarded  the Kuwait Prize at the KFAS Prize ceremony held on December 13th, under the patronage of His Highness the Amir of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Chairman of the KFAS Board of Directors.

The Kuwait Prize is an annual prize awarded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, and has grown in stature ever since its introduction in 1979. To date, there have been 121 laureates.