Alex Dehgan, JD, MS, PhD

Course Instructor


Dr. Alex Dehgan, Inaugural Rubenstein Fellow and The Chanler Innovator in Residence

Dr. Alex Dehgan is the co-founder of the new startup, Conservation X Labs, which focuses on harnessing exponential technologies, open innovation, and entrepreneurship for conservation, including launching the first Grand Challenge for Conservation on Aquaculture. He is also currently The Chanler Innovator in Residence at Duke University, where he focuses on innovation for conservation and development. Dr. Dehgan is also currently writing a book, The Snow Leopard Startup, which will be published through Public Affairs, an imprint of Perseus Books Group, on setting up the first national park in Afghanistan.

Dr. Dehgan recently served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with the rank of Assistant Administrator, and founded and headed the Office of Science and Technology, and created the vision for and helped launch the Global Development Lab. As the Agency’s first chief scientist in two decades, Dr. Dehgan implemented the President’s promise to restore science and technology to its rightful place within USAID. During his tenure at USAID, Dr. Dehgan was the architect of a number of new Agency institutions, including the Grand Challenges for Development program, its partnerships with universities (HESN) and federal science agencies (PEER), the independent office of science and technology, the position of the Agency geographer and the GeoCenter, and the data teams. In less than four years, Dr. Dehgan built the Office of Science and Technology from scratch to an 80-person office, a $100 million dollar research program, and leveraged or raised $500 million dollars from other donors and partners. Dr. Dehgan was also part of the founding team for the creation of the Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau, and initiated the reinvigoration of the AAAS program, and the AAAS overseas fellows program, the latter which put scientists and engineers directly into USAID missions and technical bureaus. Under Dr. Dehgan, the Office of Science and Technology also implemented the Agency’s first scientific integrity and research policies.

Prior to coming to USAID, Dr. Dehgan worked in multiple positions within the Office of the Secretary at the Department of State and within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where he developed a science diplomacy strategy directed towards addressing our most challenging foreign policy issues in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the greater Islamic world. This included initiating the Obama Administration’s engagement efforts with Iran through science diplomacy, working under Ambassador Dennis Ross, and serving as a liaison to the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Dr. Dehgan was also the founding Afghanistan Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program. Through his leadership, WCS led efforts to create Afghanistan’s first national park, conducted the first comprehensive biological surveys of the country in 30 years, helped develop Afghanistan’s biodiversity conservation laws and policies, and curtailed illegal wildlife trade on US and ISAF military bases.

Dr. Dehgan holds a Ph.D and M.Sc. from The University of Chicago’s Committee on Evolutionary Biology, where he focused on extinction and adaptation of 12 lemur species during environmental change in tropical forests in Madagascar. He also holds a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings, and a B.S. from Duke University. He was chosen as an “Icon of Science” by Seed Magazine in 2005, received the World Technology Award for Policy in 2011, and has been recognized through multiple awards from the Departments of State and Defense, and USAID. In 2013, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) selected Dr. Dehgan as one of its 40@40 fellows out of 2,600 AAAS Science Policy Fellows as “an individual who has made exemplary dedication to applying science to serve society, was creative, innovative, and collaborative problem solvers in addressing global challenges, and was an uncommon ambassador for the role of science and technology.” Dr. Dehgan has worked, lived, and traveled in more than 80 countries on 6 continents. You can follow Dr. Dehgan on twitter at “@lemurwrangler”.