Dr David Gross (centre) had mentored Dr Ahmed Al Mheiri (right) when he was a student Image Credit: UAE Presidential Court

Abu Dhabi: A Nobel laureate has said the UAE could have a very promising future in scientific research because of its ambitious leadership and resources.

Speaking at the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis (MBZ Majlis) in the capital, Dr David Gross, American theoretical physicist and joint winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, said he was very impressed with the country’s progress over the last decade.

“I am very impressed with [what I see]. The last time I visited Abu Dhabi was 10 or 12 years ago, and I am very impressed with what is going on now, with the NYU Abu Dhabi efforts, and your dreams and ambitions. There is clearly enough potential, and enormous resources and opportunities. [The future of scientific research and progress of course] depends on your brilliant people and the leaders. The future could be very, very bright for science in the UAE,” Dr Gross said.

The eminent physicist created a case for another centre specialising in curiosity-driven basic scientific research in the UAE.

Research institutes

“The original example of a theoretical research institute is the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, where quantum mechanics was created. Now there are dozens, including the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in [Trieste,] Italy, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton where Einstein worked, the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore, India… There are institutes in South America, Europe and China, but there is a gap in the Middle East and North Africa, which I hope will some day be filled with the benefit of science and of the UAE,” Dr Gross added.

MBZ Majlis

Dr Gross’ address at the Majlis was attended by Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and numerous other officials, dignitaries, industry experts, professionals, and students. The Majlis regularly hosts distinguished experts from across the world, with the aim of creating dialogue and welcoming a variety of perspectives on relevant local and global issues.

saif bin zayed at mbz majlis
Lt Gen Sheikh Saif (centre front) at the Majlis Image Credit: UAE Presidential Court

Emirati physicist’s journey

This particular session also saw an address by Dr Ahmed Al Mheiri, an Emirati theoretical physicist working at the interface of quantum information and quantum gravity. Dr AlMheiri, who is an assistant professor of Physics at the NYU Abu Dhabi and was mentored by Dr Gross as a student, detailed his journey towards becoming a theoretical physics expert, and how he overcame various challenges along the way, including worries about focussing on such an academic field of study.

The two scientists also discussed their own work in Theoretical Physics, and Dr AlMheiri went on to explain the concept of black holes to the rapt audience at the MBZ Majlis.

“I am thinking very deeply about how I can contribute to Physics in the region, and my plan is to develop science by leveraging local resources. I hope to use the UAE’s extremely strategic resources [to develop theoretical physics in the region, especially as] there is so much interest and support,” Dr AlMheiri added.