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Robert Conn

Distinguished Policy Fellow & Pacific Leadership Fellow

Robert Conn

Robert W. Conn is a leader in education, research and science philanthropy. He is a distinguished policy fellow and pacific rim fellow at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS).  

Conn is the former president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to advance science for the benefit of humanity. Conn served as dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering from 1994-2002. During that time, he guided the Jacobs School to its rise to become one of the top 10 engineering schools in the country. He is also a co-founder of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. 

As a leading researcher in plasma physics, fusion energy, energy policy and materials science, Conn pioneered the design of fusion power systems, identifying the major physics and engineering challenges facing the development of practical fusion energy. He co-founded and served as the first director of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fusion Technology Institute, and later established and led UCLA’s Institute of Plasma and Fusion Research. 

In the private sector, Conn co-founded the semiconductor equipment company Plasma & Materials Technology (PMY) in 1986. The company had an initial public offering on NASDAQ in 1995 and was later acquired. After leaving UC San Diego in 2002, he was a Managing Director at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital where he led investments in semiconductor, computing and software companies, and served on the boards of companies, private and public.

Conn is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society. His honors and awards include the E.O. Lawrence Award, presented on behalf of the United States president, the Distinguished Associate Award of the Department of Energy, the Distinguished Alumni Award of the California Institute of Technology, the Distinguished Educator Award of the Engineering Societies of San Diego, the Roger Revelle Medal from UC San Diego and the Shokuman Award of the University of Tokyo. 

Education and CV

Ph.D., Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
B.S., Chemical Engineering, Pratt Institute