Previous Fora / 2011

KALONJI, Gretchen

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO

Gretchen Kalonji holds a B.Sc. (1980) and a Ph.D (1982) in Materials Science and Engineering, which she obtained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (USA).


Ms Kalonji began her academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she served as Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, from 1982 to 1990. In 1990, Ms Kalonji joined the University of Washington in Seattle as the Kyocera Professor of Materials Science. Since 2005, Ms Kalonji has been working within the University of California system, serving as Director of International Strategy Development for the 10-campus system from 2005 to 2009, and as Director of System-wide Research Development from 2009 to 2010. Since 2006, she has been serving as Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz.

In addition Ms Kalonji has held or continues to hold appointments as visiting professor or scientist at numerous institutions around the world, including at the Max Planck Institute (Germany), the University of Paris XI Orsay (France) and Tohoku (Japan), as well as at Sichuan, Tsinghua and Peking Universities (China).

Ms Kalonji’s work, both in materials science and in higher education transformation, has been recognized by multiple awards and honors. Her areas of expertise in materials science include symmetry constraints on the structure and properties of crystalline defects, phase transformations and microstructural evolution.

Ms Kalonji is also well-known for innovations in science and engineering education, for efforts to promote equity and access for women, as well as underrepresented minorities, to scientific careers and for novel approaches to the internationalization of research and education. While at MIT, Ms Kalonji served as co-director in the United States for the Computer Science and Electronics Program at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in Tanzania serving the needs of South African exile communities. From 1990 to 1997, Ms Kalonji served in multiple leadership roles in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership (ECSEL). At the University of Washington, Ms Kalonji led a campus-wide effort to integrate collaborative international research activities into curricular pathways of students, across the disciplines and from the freshman to the doctoral level. At the University of California, Ms Kalonji was instrumental in the creation of large-scale international initiatives, bringing the faculty, administrators and students of the University of California together with peers in partner regions to create new integrated models for international research, education and economic development.

Ms Kalonji has served on multiple national and international advisory boards. She currently chairs the US National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on International Science and Engineering. She has authored many papers in peer-review journals and conference proceedings and has given numerous lectures around the world.