California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Jean-Lou Chameau is President Emeritus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), an institution he led from 2006 to 2013. With a budget in excess of $2 billion and about 8,000 employees, Caltech is one of the world’s preeminent centers of instruction and research in engineering and science, as well as the home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the lead institution in the U.S. for robotic space exploration. During his tenure as president, Caltech became number one in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and JPL successfully landed the rover Curiosity on Mars.
Upon his return in France in 2018, he was appointed by the French government to initiate and plan for the creation of NewUni. His report was endorsed by the relevant ministries and is serving as the framework for the establishment of this new institute of science and technology modeled after MIT and based on a regrouping of five Grandes Ecoles located on the Plateau de Saclay: Polytechnique, Ensta, l’Ensae, Télécom ParisTech and Télécom SudParis.
Prior to returning to France, he served as the President of the King Abdullah University of
Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudia Arabia. In this position, he guided this private “startup
university,” modeled after Caltech, on a path to excellence and led the development of the
campus and its surrounding community comprising members from over 80 different nations.
Dr. Chameau received his undergraduate education from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts
et Métiers and earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Stanford University. Prior to the
presidency of Caltech, he had a distinguished career as a professor and administrator at Purdue
University and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). After serving as director of
the school of civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech, he left academia for the
private sector, serving as president of Golder Associates, an international geotechnical
consulting company. He then returned to Georgia Tech as a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent
Scholar and vice-provost for research. He subsequently served as dean of the college of
engineering, distinguished not only as a highly-ranked U.S. engineering program but also as the
nation’s largest, and then provost and vice-president for academic affairs.
An internationally recognized leader, Dr. Chameau has been committed to fostering excellence
in science and technology, as well as promoting a multidisciplinary approach to research and
education (“The Leader with the Midas Touch”, Times Higher Education, 2017). He also
promoted industry-university partnerships and the involvement of universities in economic
development, including the development of start-ups and new businesses with an emphasis on
advancing entrepreneurial and international opportunities for faculty and students. He excelled
at securing and stewarding resources from public and private sources, allowing the faculty and
students to pursue their dreams and the universities to become destinations and catalysts for
innovation and economic development.
Early in his career, Dr. Chameau’s research focused on soil dynamics and earthquake
engineering, extending into environmental geotechnology and sustainable technology in the late
1980’s. He was a pioneer in the domain of sustainable technology and development, beginning
in 1991, placing the concept of sustainability in education and research as a key theme to
promote a more prosperous and sustainable society.
He received numerous awards for his research and contributions as an educator and academic
leader. In his native France, he was elected Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. He is a member
of both the French Académie des Technologies and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
Dr. Chameau has been active on industry and public boards, including those of InterWest,
Internet2, John Wiley & Sons, KIMC, MTS Systems, Maaden, Safran, Ecole Polytechnique, the
U.S. Council on Competitiveness and the Academic Research Council and National Research
Foundation of Singapore.