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James R. Luyten Named Director of Red Sea Science and Engineering Research Center

September 8, 2008

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) today announced that Dr. James R. Luyten, one of the world’s most respected and accomplished oceanographic researchers, will become Director of the University’s Red Sea Science and Engineering Research Center (RSSERC).  He will assume his responsibilities at the Center this month.

Dr. Luyten, 66, is currently the Director Emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the United States, where, for 40 years, he has conducted path breaking scholarship and served in various administrative and leadership roles.

“With Dr. Luyten in place at KAUST, we have the talent and experience we need to unlock many of the previously undiscovered mysteries of the Red Sea,” said Choon Fong Shih, president-designate of KAUST.

Added Fawwaz T. Ulaby, KAUST’s provost: “Dr. Luyten will be the anchor of a research enterprise that positions KAUST as a global leader in oceanographic research not just in the Red Sea, but also around the world.”

At the RSSERC, Luyten will be responsible for KAUST’s research, academic, and economic development mission, and for promoting its findings and solutions for the benefit of communities worldwide.  He will also oversee the Center’s research collaborations with other campus research centers, industry and university partners.

“The commitment to world-class interdisciplinary research and education is fundamental to the vision and structure of this University, and well suited to developing a scientific understanding of coral reef ecosystems, its response to global climate change, coastal development, and a scientific basis for reef protection,” Dr. Luyten said.  “The Red Sea is a unique marine environment with many diverse habitats and unexplored deeper regions that provide exciting opportunities for fundamental scientific and engineering research in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics.”

Biographical Summary

Dr. James R. Luyten was appointed WHOI’s director of research in 1996 and later executive vice president in 2002.  He came to the Institution in 1968 as a summer fellow in geophysical fluid dynamics and joined the staff as an assistant scientist in 1971.  At the Institution, he served in various administrative and leadership roles, including chair of the WHOI physical oceanography department.  From 1983 to 1984, he was also a visiting scientist in oceanography at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

His research interests include the observation and modeling of ocean currents, particularly the general circulation of the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream, and equatorial current systems.

Dr. Luyten holds various professional memberships.  Since 2002, he has served as a board member of the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System and a member of the American Meteorological Society.  From 1997 to 2003, he sat on the Naval Research Advisory Committee.  Also a prolific scholar, he has authored nearly 50 publications and technical reports to date.

A native of the United States, Dr. Luyten holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from Reed College.  He received his master’s degree in physics, and his Ph.D. in chemical physics, from Harvard University.


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, across the region and around the globe.  As an independent, merit-based institution, KAUST will enable top researchers from around the globe and across all cultures to work together to solve challenging scientific and technological problems.  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 million square meters on the Red Sea at Thuwal, is set to open in September 2009.  For more information about KAUST, visit