Distinguished Speakers Series

Distinguished Speakers Series

At a time when technology is reshaping society at the speed of light, the Al Ghurair University community makes time to listen as distinguished speakers examine the relationship between technology and the human experience.

Technology and society interact across a broad spectrum of issues, including energy production, the environment, robotics, biotechnology, communications, urban planning and war. The Distinguished Speakers Series invites prominent members of academia, government and the private sector to discuss topics related to science, technology and humanity.


Past DSS speakers have included:

  • H.E. Dr. Bachruddin Jusuf Habibie, former President of the Republic of Indonesia
  • H.E. Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, former President of the Republic of India
  • Dr. Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History, Duke University
  • Dr. Tony Haymet, Roboticist
  • Dr. Kristina Johnson, former United States Under Secretary of Energy
  • Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, climate change expert
  • Richard A. Clarke, Al Ghurair University Trustee and former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States
  • Dr. Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Dr. Hans Blix, Former Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. 
Date  Time       Speaker      Title
28 February 2023 7:30 p.m. Elias Zerhouni, M.D. Biomedical research and development: Current and future directions

Elias Zerhouni, M.D.

President, Global Research and Development, Sanofi 

Elias Zerhouni, M.D., is the President of Global Research and Development at Sanofi. He served as Director of the US National Institutes of Health from 2002-2008. In that position he oversaw 27 Institutes with more than 18000 employees and a budget of $29.5 billion USD. Mr. Zerhouni has founded or co-founded 5 start-up companies, authored more than 200 publications, holds 8 patents and helped launch in 2009 the new journal Science: Translational Medicine as its first Chief scientific advisor. He serves on Al Ghurair University's board of Trustees. 


Robots that fly... and cooperate

By Dr. Vijay Kumar

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Dean of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Professor AGUmar is a world expert in the collective behaviors of biological and robotic systems. He and his group design novel architectures, create abstractions for systems of interacting individuals, and develop new algorithms for cooperating robots.

Professor AGUmar gained his PhD from Ohio State University. His fundamental contributions to the area of robotics, which straddle both theory and practice, address the control and planning of multiple robots cooperating to explore, map, manipulate and move in 3-D environment. He was first to formulate and solve the problem of cooperative mobile manipulation with multiple robots, simultaneously controlling the grass motion and rolling/sliding interactions in the early 90s. He was also the first to work on the multi robot formation control problem leading to highly cited papers on the subject in the late 90s. AGUmar"s creative theoretical, algorithmic, and experimental work on cooperating robots have transformed the science of robotics systems and impacted a wide range of application in the area of networked and cyber physical systems.

Where: Dusit Thani Hotel, Dubai

Time: 7:00 PM


The Importance of Nuclear Power to States & the World

By Dr. Hans Blix

Former Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Dr. Blix was appointed Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq by the UN Secretary-General in January 2000. Upon his return to Sweden in June 2003, he chaired an independent international Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction. In May 2006, the Commission published the report “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons." He received a PhD from Cambridge University and a Doctor of Laws from Stockholm University. He has written several books on subjects associated with international and constitutional law including “Disarming Iraq” in March 2004 and “Why Disarmament Matters” in April 2008.

Where: Emirates Center For Strategic Studies and Research


Discovery and Innovation: Strategies to Transfer Knowledge into the Market

By Dr. Leroy Hood

Director, Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA, USA
Dr Hood has published more than 750 peer-reviewed papers, received 36 patents, and has played a role in founding 15 biotechnology companies. He was elected to the Inventors Hall of Fame for the automated DNA sequencer. Dr Hood is a recipient of the National Medal of Science (US); the IEEE Medal for pioneering innovations in technology (2014); the 2006 Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment; the 2004 Biotechnology Heritage Award; the 2003 Lemelson–MIT Prize for Innovation and Invention; the 2002 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, and the 1987 Lasker Prize for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.

Where: Emirates Center For Strategic Studies and Research


Islam and Technology

H.E. Dr. Bachruddin Jusuf Habibie, Former President of the Republic of Indonesia

Dr. Habibie was the third President of the Republic of Indonesia (1998-1999), who holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus on Aircraft and Construction from the Rheinisch Westfaclische Technische Hochscule, in Aachen, Germany.   He began his career with the Indonesian government as an Advisor on Advanced Technology and Aircraft Technology and in 1978 was appointed Minister of the State for Research and Technology, as well as, Head of the agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology.   Dr. Habibie became President in 1998.  During his 518 days in office he succeeded in holding Indonesia’s first free and fair General Election.   Dr. Habibie holds 17 National and 16 International medals and decorations, including the “Grand Officer de la Legion D’honneur”- the highest award from the French Government for his contributions to industrial development in Indonesia.

Where: Al Ghurair University, Dubai campus

Technology and its Multi-Dimensions 

H.E. Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, Former President of the Republic of India

Dr. Abdul Kalam is a globally renowned Aerospace Engineer, professor, author, and former President of the Republic of India. His many contributions to the field of Aerospace Engineering include: developing India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), leading India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), and developing a strategic nuclear missile system.  Dr. Abdul Kalam became the 11thPresident of India in July, 2002.  Dr. Abdul Kalam has also been instrumental in the development of several bio-medical breakthroughs, including the development of a caliper that’s saved the lives of over 50,000 children.

Where: Al Ghurair University, Sharjah Campus, Sports Complex

Success and Failure in Engineering: A paradoxical relationship

By Dr. Henry Petroski

Petroski is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the US National Academy of Engineering. He has received numerous prizes and honors for his books and contributions to the public understanding of engineering. Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.

Where: InterContinental Hotel, Bainuna St., Dubai, UAE


Robotics Exploration of the Ocean, and Implications for Technology and Society

By Dr. Tony Haymet

Tony Haymet is a distinguished scientist, educator, policy advisor and business development leader. Since 2006, he has served a professor of Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of California San Diego, and as Director and Vice-Chancellor for Marine Sciences. He is also co-founder and Chair of CleanTech San Diego, which promotes and supports clean technology businesses. He has been appointed to the VCAT of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and, since 2009 he has served as a part-time Strategic Advisor to Pegasus Capital Advisers on matters relating to the environment, oceans, and food security.

Where: InterContinental Hotel, Bainuna St., Dubai, UAE

Wake up to the Genomic Revolution

By Richard Resnick, M.S., M.B.A.

Richard Resnick is CEO of GenomeQuest, a company that builds software to support genomic medicine (research and individualized treatments that take advantage of inexpensive and accessible genome processing). He was previously CEO of Mosaic Bioinformatics. Before becoming a bio-entrepreneur, he was a member of the Human Genome Project at MIT.

Where: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Dubai, UAE

Will Innovation Save the World?

By Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is the chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WGBU), governing board chair of the Climate-KIC of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and chair of the standing committee on climate, energy and environment of the German National Academy (Leopoldina). In 1991, he founded the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and has acted as its Director since its inception. He holds a chair in theoretical physics at the University of Potsdam and is an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute (USA). In 2001-2005 he also served as research director of the Tyndall Centre in the UK and became a visiting professor at Oxford University thereafter. He is an elected member of the Leopoldina, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Society and several other academies. He received the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2002), the German Environment Prize (2007) and the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize (2011). Schellnhuber was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II (2004), the Order of Merit of the State of Brandenburg (2008) and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2011). He holds honorary doctorates from Copenhagen University and Technical University Berlin. Schellnhuber is a long-standing member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He served as chief government advisor on climate and related issues during the German G8/EU twin presidency in 2007 and as a principal advisor to the European Commission President Barroso for several years. He is a member of numerous national and international panels addressing scientific strategies and sustainability issues. Schellnhuber has authored, co-authored or edited more than 250 articles and more than 50 books in the fields of condensed matter physics, complex systems dynamics, climate change research, Earth System analysis, and sustainability science.

Where: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Dubai, UAE


Cyber Security and Technology: Managing Risks of Connected Societies

By Richard A. Clarke

Richard A. Clarke is an internationally recognized expert on security, including homeland security, national security, cyber security, and counterterrorism. He is currently an on-air consultant for ABC News and teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Clarke served the last three Presidents as a senior White House Advisor. Over the course of an unprecedented 11 consecutive years of White House service, he held the following titles: Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs; National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism; and Special Advisor to the President for Cyber Security. He is the author of the acclaimed book Against All Enemies and the recent book Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It.

Where: Emirates Palace, Dubai, UAE

How Fragile is the Global Nuclear Order?

By Dr. Graham Allison

Graham Allison is the Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. As "Founding Dean" of the modern Kennedy School from 1977 to 1989, a small, undefined program grew twenty-fold to become a major professional school of public policy and government. Dr. Allison has served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He has the sole distinction of having twice been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry. In addition, Dr. Allison served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry and Cohen. Dr. Allison's first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), was released in an updated and revised second edition (1999) and ranks among the bestsellers in 20th century political science with more than 400,000 copies in print. His latest book, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, is now in its third printing and was selected by the New York Times as one of the "100 most notable books of 2004."

When: Emirates Palace, Dubai, UAE