Jean-Lou Chameau is an independent consultant based in Paris, specializing in higher education, research and innovation. He 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.
After his tenure at Caltech, he served as the President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. In this position, he guided this private start-up 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.
Upon his return to France in 2018, he was appointed by the French government to initiate and plan the creation of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris (IP Paris). His plan was endorsed by the relevant ministries and served as the framework for the establishment of this new institute of science and technology in 2019. Modeled after MIT and based on a regrouping of five Grandes Ecoles located on the Plateau de Saclay — Polytechnique, Ensta, Ensae, Télécom ParisTech and Télécom SudParis — IP Paris entered the Top 50 in its first ranking of QS World University Rankings in 2022.
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 environmental and 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 top-ranked engineering program in the world but also as the largest in the U.S. He then became provost and vice-president for academic affairs, overseeing both the campus and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. In his roles as dean and provost, he also led Georgia Tech’s development of regional and overseas activities and campuses.
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. He is a member of both the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the French Académie des Technologies. In his native France, he was elected Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. 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.