Professor Alice Gast to become sixteenth head and first woman to lead Imperial


Professor Gast

The College has announced that Professor Alice P. Gast will succeed Sir Keith O'Nions FRS as President of Imperial from September 2014.

Professor Gast is currently President of Lehigh University and former Vice President for Research and Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As President Professor Gast will lead the College’s strategy, including the development of its new 25 acre campus, Imperial West, and its links to government, industry, philanthropists and alumni. Her appointment concludes an international search for Imperial’s new President and completes the appointments within a new leadership model announced by the Chairman of its Council, Baroness Manningham-Buller, in April 2012. 

"Imperial's future looks very bright, and I am honoured by the invitation to help shape it"

– Professor Alice Gast

Imperial's President-designate

An internationally renowned scholar in the field of chemical engineering and a leader in higher education, Professor Gast has served as President of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania since 2006.

At Lehigh she has focused on the quality of undergraduate and postgraduate education and their integration with research. She has led a campus-wide strategic planning and implementation process, and launched major initiatives in sustainability, inquiry-based learning, neighbourhood revitalisation and campus master planning. Professor Gast has overseen a 47% increase in the size of Lehigh’s campus estate, expanded the university’s international presence, concluded its $500 million fundraising campaign, and helped to raise an additional $225 million during her tenure.

Before Lehigh University, Professor Gast was Vice President for Research and Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering. She was previously at Stanford University from 1985 to 2001 as a professor of chemical engineering and as affiliated faculty at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. She has been a US Science Envoy to Central Asia and is currently a Board Director of the Chevron Corporation and Trustee of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

Responding to her appointment Professor Gast said:

“I have always been excited by what goes on at Imperial, one of the world’s greatest scientific universities. With its unique focus on science, engineering, medicine and business, and its integrated mission to teach, research and translate its work for the benefit of society, Imperial has a great leadership role in the world. I am therefore deeply honoured by this opportunity to serve as its President.

“I look forward to getting to know its whole community of staff, students, alumni, friends and supporters, and to helping Imperial to grow and to continue to push the boundaries of learning, discovery and innovation over the coming years.

“Sir Keith leaves a wonderful legacy and Imperial and the global science community are much stronger thanks to his leadership. Imperial’s future looks very bright, and I am honoured by the invitation to help shape it.”

Appointment reactions

Baroness Manningham-BullerBaroness Manningham-Buller, Chair of the Council at Imperial, led an international Appointing Committee to find a successor to Sir Keith, who will retire after four and a half years at Imperial’s helm. She said:

“We were ambitious in seeking a new leader for Imperial. I am absolutely delighted that Alice Gast has agreed to be our new President.  She has all the personal qualities and relevant experience that we hoped to find. I expect her to be an outstanding leader of the College and am much looking forward to welcoming Alice and her husband Brad to London, and to working with her at Imperial.”

Professor StirlingProfessor James Stirling CBE FRS, Imperial’s first Provost, served as a member of the Appointing Committee. He said:

“Alice Gast is one of the foremost chemical engineers of her generation and an exceptional university leader. She has the ability to develop deep and lasting relationships to advance the universities she has served, both close to home within local communities and further afield with international partners in business and industry, government, and private support.

“She is a great fit with Imperial’s culture and its ambition to build on its status as one of the world’s leading universities. I am looking forward to working with her.”

Sir Keith O'NionsSir Keith O’Nions, who has led Imperial as President & Rector since January 2010, warmly welcomed Professor Gast’s appointment, adding:

“Working with so many brilliant students, academics and staff at one of the world’s great universities has been a tremendous privilege. I am delighted to be passing this honour and responsibility to such a distinguished figure as Alice Gast.”

Professor TilghmanProfessor Shirley Tilghman FRS, former President of Princeton University, said:

"Alice Gast is an inspired choice for Imperial College London. As a world-class scientist and highly respected university administrator, she brings both broad experience and scientific vision to the task of leading one of the world's important educational institutions.”

Professor Gast, 55, was born in Texas and earned her bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Southern California (1980) where she was class valedictorian, before completing a master's degree (1981) and Ph.D. (1984) in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University.

Professor Gast is married to Bradley J. Askins, a computer consultant, and they have two children. As President of Imperial, Professor Gast will live on campus at the residence above 170 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, a historic building that is used by the College for a range of official ceremonial and meeting functions.

Read more about Professor Gast on the President-designate’s webpages.


John-Paul Jones

John-Paul Jones
Communications and Public Affairs

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