Nov 30, 2005

Zewail, Frustrations of the Egyptian Nobel Laureate

I've recently got Ahmad Zewail's biography (the Egyptian Nobel laureate for Chemistry '99). It's nice and has some interesting pictures.

Most interestingly, in the last 2 chapters he talks about his vision for enhancing the state of research in Egypt/Arab World and then US.
Apparently, after he got the Nobel prize and went to Egypt, he put the "corner stone" for University of Science and Technology (UST) and vision document for Technology Park (TP). In his bio, he stated 3 conditions for the success of this project:
1- Promise endowment (money from government & donations)
2- Promise law that guarantee's full independence from the government
3- Curriculum (he will do it with advisors from around the world)
The TP idea is cool. It aims to create a place where academia & industry can meet and do experiments & research related to the industry. I couldn't find any more info about the details - but it definitely sounds interesting.

Zewail in his book cites several successful governmental research projects to excite the Egyptian government. These are the ones I remember:
1- The Max Planck institutions in Germany
2- The IITs & India Institute of Science in India
3- The Institute de France in France
4- The Technion and Wizeman institutes in Israel
5- U of California campuses in USA
6- ... there's one more. I can't remember.

Unsurprisingly, Egyptian government put the corner stone with names of 3 ministers & Mubarak, and never did anything else. Ahmad Zewail hints to that on page 223 his bio:
"I have had first-hand experience with UST and other projects in Egypt and have seen how bureaucracy and the 'power of the chair,' or more accurately the power of position, can impede real progress."
And then finally on page 224
"Although clear orders regarding UST have been issued, the slow implementation of the plan is enough to subdue the enthusiasm of any serious person with obligations and exacting demands on his time."
he also shows his frustration while collecting donations:
"Ironically, some of the very rich were less willing to make significant contributions until they had weighed their personal benefits."
and then he goes on to say:
"The public sector was pushing me to begin a national donation campaign believing that every Egyptian should participate in this national cause. But of course, I could not do so without a new law that guarantees that UST will be able to function freely."
RECENTLY I've heard that he gave up on Egypt government and went to Qatar to create his university. It seems that they have started building the university and that it's on its way. Also heard that he asked for "10 year grace period" after which results can be expected.

So, the question for you readers - Do you know anything about his project in Qatar? it sounds interesting. I looked on the internet, and I couldn't find anything more than 1-page biography for him and nothing about the University of Science and Technology.

Any more info on this guy?

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