Opening Session Speakers

Minister of State for Higher Education
Chairman, UAE Space Agency

As Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Higher Education since February 2016, His Excellency Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi supervises the development of higher education and scientific research in the country. H.E. overseas universities operating in the UAE, the implementation of higher education policies as well as ensuring the delivery of high-quality tertiary education that aligns with labor market requirements.

H.E. previously held the position of Chief Executive Officer at Masdar, leading the company’s strategic growth and development within the renewable energy and clean technology sector. During this time, H.E. was also a member of the executive committee at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

Prior to that role, H.E. was formerly Vice President, Industry Unit of Mubadala Development Company, where he led a team responsible for negotiating partnerships with multinational organizations to increase foreign direct investment in the UAE.

H.E.’s business development and corporate strategy experience dates back to his work with management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he advised the Middle East’s largest telecommunications and high-tech companies.

H.E. holds a PhD from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia; a Master’s degree from the University of Melbourne; and a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from Khalifa University.

President, Khalifa University

Tod A. Laursen is the President of Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Prior to becoming President of Khalifa University, Dr. Laursen was a member of the faculty of Duke University (USA), between the years of 1992 and 2010, during which time he had appointments in civil engineering, biomedical engineering, and mechanical engineering. He served as Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from 2008-2010, and served as Senior Associate Dean for Education in the Pratt School of Engineering from 2003-2008. In the latter capacity, he had oversight responsibility for all undergraduate and graduate engineering programs at Duke.

Dr. Laursen earned his Ph.D. and M.Sc. postgraduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a B.Sc. in the same subject from Oregon State University. He specializes in computational mechanics, a subfield of engineering mechanics concerned with development of new computational algorithms and tools used by engineers to analyze mechanical and structural systems. He has published over 100 refereed articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and has authored or co-edited two books. His particular focus is development of methods to analyze contact, impact and frictional phenomena, in highly nonlinear and complex systems.
He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the International Association of Computational Mechanics, and the United States Association for Computational Mechanics. He also holds memberships in the American Society for Engineering Education and Tau Beta Pi. He served as an at-large member of the Executive Committee for the United States Association for Computational Mechanics between 2007 and 2010,and currently services as a member of the Executive Council of the International Association for Computational Mechanics (until 2020). Additionally, he has served on the scientific advisory committees of several of the most important national and international congresses in computational mechanics.