Science Breakfast- June 2012 - Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University and U.S Science Envoy

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Dr. Alice P. Gast, an internationally renowned scholar, researcher and academic leader, was appointed the 13th president of Lehigh University in 2006. She is also serving as the U.S. Science Envoy to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. She will give a presentation to and engage with the Science Diplomats Club of Washington, DC on June 14, 2012. Dr. Gast will discuss her experiences as Science Envoy to Central Asia and the Caucasus, focusing on the value of international education and the importance of science and technology diplomacy.


Prior to her appointment at Lehigh, Dr. Gast served as the vice president for research and associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering. She previously spent 16 years as a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory.

Dr. Gast was named one of the top 100 "Modern Era" engineers in the country, under the category of "Leadership" by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She studies surface and interfacial phenomena, in particular the behavior of complex fluids. Her areas of research include colloidal aggregation and ordering, protein lipid interactions and enzymes reactions at surfaces. She is the co-author of Physical Chemistry of Surfaces, 6th edition, a classic textbook on colloid and surface phenomena, and has co-authored numerous scientific publications. In 2010, Dr. Gast was named to the prestigious post of science envoy by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the U.S. Department of State. As one of three science envoys named in 2010, Dr. Gast travels to the Caucasus and Central Asia and advises the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. scientific community about ways to deepen existing ties and foster new relationships there. Additionally, Dr. Gast is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Gast has served on a number of national advisory committees and boards, including the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as co-chair of the Board of Chemical Science and Technology for the National Research Council. She currently serves on the Academic Research Council for the Singapore Ministry of Education, the National Research Council Committee for Science, Technology, and the Law, and the Board of Governors for the New York Academy of Science. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the American Physical Society.

In 2010, she was awarded an honorary degree from The University of Western Ontario where she was described as “a scholar, a researcher and a leader who is a great inspiration to female and male students alike, who aspire to enter the profession of engineering.” Dr. Gast earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from The University of Southern California in 1980 and her master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1981 and 1984.

She spent several years of her scientific career overseas, first as a postdoctoral student on a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) fellowship at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris. While serving as professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, she returned to Paris for a sabbatical as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in 1991. In 1999, she was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow in Munich, Germany.

Additional resources

Two articles that Alice P. Gast has recently had published about her science envoy work:
- From Cold War to Warm Relations (pdf) - AAAS Science & Diplomacy ( - March 2012
- Boundary Conditions: A Mexican, a German and an American were working in a physics lab . . . (pdf) - Scientific American - May 2012

Pictures of the Event

Presentation (pdf)

SDC breakfast - Alice P. Gast - International Students and exchanges