Robert W. Conn
Robert W. Conn, Ph.D., is President of The Kavli Foundation and widely recognized for his academic research and leadership, as well as his experience in the private sector. He is Dean Emeritus of the Jacobs School of Engineering and Walter Zable Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Pratt Institute, and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering Science from the California Institute of Technology.
Prior to his appointment as the Foundation’s President, he was from 2002 to 2008 a Managing Director at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, an investment firm specializing in early stage high tech/IT and life science companies. As a managing director, he led investments and served on the boards of a number of private and public companies.
As Dean of Engineering at UC San Diego from 1993 to 2002, he led the Jacobs School of Engineering through an unprecedented period of growth in faculty, students and reputation, leading to its current ranking among the top engineering schools in the country. Research centers established during Dr. Conn’s tenure include the Center for Wireless Communications, the Whitaker Institute for Biomedical Engineering, and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Dr. Conn built partnerships between the university and industry in many areas and established the von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Transfer to encourage university-industry partnerships.
From 1980 to 1993, Dr. Conn was Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at UCLA, and founder (in 1986) and first Director of UCLA’s Institute of Plasma and Fusion Research. From 1970 to 1979, he was Professor of Engineering Physics in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and director from 1974 to 1979 of the University’s Fusion Technology Institute. He held the Romnes Faculty Endowed Chair from 1977 to 1979.
Dr. Conn has been a leading researcher in plasma physics and fusion energy, and active in energy and science policy. He pioneered the study of fusion systems as potential power reactors, identifying the major physics and engineering challenges facing the development of a practical fusion power source. His theoretical and experimental research focused on fusion plasma physics, the plasma boundary layer, surface science and chemical physics. It was for his research contributions to the development of fusion energy that he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987.
His experience in the private sector includes co-founding Plasma & Materials Technologies, Inc. in 1987, a semiconductor equipment company that had its initial public offering on NASDAQ in 1995. He has served, since 2000, on the Board of Directors of Intersil Corporation. He served on the Board of Directors of STATS-ChipPAC from 2002 to 2007, when it was acquired in a private equity transaction.
Dr. Conn is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a member of the NAE’s Finance Committee, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society. Awards for his research contributions include the Ernest O. Lawrence Memorial Award presented on behalf of the U.S. President; the McGraw Research Award of the American Association of Engineering Education; the Distinguished Associate Award of the U.S. Department of Energy; and the Distinguished Alumni Award of the California Institute of Technology. He has served on advisory committees for the U.S. Government, the National Research Council, the National Academy of Science and several national laboratories.