Alex Dehgan

Disruption for Wicked Problems

General Information

Washington, DC
Afternoons, Tuesday-Thursday
Eastern Time (US & Canada)


Alex Dehgan is the co-founder of a new startup,Conservation X Labs, focused on harnessing exponential technologies, openinnovation, and entrepreneurship for conservation, including launching thefirst Grand Challenge for Conservation on Aquaculture. He is also The ChanlerInnovator in Residence at Duke University (and previously served as theInaugural Rubenstein Fellow at Duke), where he researches and lectures on technology and innovation for conservation and development,including through a MOOC with Coursera. Alexis also currently writing a book, TheSnow Leopard Startup, through Public Affairs, an imprint of Perseus BooksGroup, on setting up the first national park in Afghanistan.

Dr. Alex Dehgan recently served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency forInternational Development, with rank of Assistant Administrator, founded andheaded the Office of Science and Technology, and created the vision for andhelped launch the Global Development Lab, the Agency’s DARPA for Development.  As the Agency’s first chief scientist in twodecades, Dr. Dehgan implemented the President’s promise to restore science andtechnology to its rightful place within USAID. During his tenure at USAID, Alexwas the architect of a number of new Agency institutions, including the GrandChallenges for Development program, Agency partnerships with universities(HESN) and federal science agencies (PEER), the independent office of scienceand technology, the position of the Agency geographer and the GeoCenter, and datafor development programs.  In less thanfour years, Alex built the Office of Science and Technology from scratch to an 80-personoffice, a $100 M dollar research program, and leveraged or raised $500 milliondollars from other donors and partners.  Alex was also part of the founding team forthe creation of the Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau, and initiated thereinvigoration of the AAAS program, and the AAAS overseas fellows program, thelatter which put scientists and engineers directly into USAID missions andtechnical bureaus.  Under Alex, the Officeof Science & Technology also implemented the Agency’s first scientificintegrity and research policies.

Prior tocoming to USAID, Dr. Dehgan worked in multiple positions within the Office ofthe Secretary at the Department of State and within the Bureau of Near EasternAffairs, where he developed a science diplomacy strategy towards addressing ourmost challenging foreign policy issues in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and thegreater Islamic world.  This includedinitiating the Obama Administration’s engagement efforts with Iran throughscience diplomacy, working under Amb. Dennis Ross, and serving as a liaison tothe late Amb. Richard Holbrooke.  Dr.Alex Dehgan was also the founding Afghanistan Country Director for the WildlifeConservation Society’s Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program.  Through his leadership, WCS led efforts tocreate Afghanistan’s first national park, conducted the first comprehensivebiological surveys of the country in 30 years, helped develop Afghanistan’sbiodiversity conservation laws and policies, and curtailed illegal wildlifetrade on US and ISAF military bases.

Dr.Dehgan holds a Ph.D and M.Sc. from The University of Chicago’s Committee onEvolutionary Biology, where he focused on extinction and adaptation of 12 lemurspecies during environmental change in tropical forests in Madagascar. He also holds a J.D. from the University ofCalifornia, Hastings, and a B.S. from Duke University. He was chosen as an “Icon of Science” by SeedMagazine in 2005, received the World Technology Award for Policy in 2011, and has been recognized through multiple awards from the Departments of State andDefense, and USAID. In 2013, AAASselected Alex as one of its 40@40 fellows out of 2,600 AAAS Science PolicyFellows as “an individual who has made exemplary dedication to applying scienceto serve society, was creative, innovative, and collaborative problem solversin addressing global challenges, and was an uncommon ambassador for the role ofscience and technology.” Alex hasworked, lived, and traveled in more than 80 countries on 6 continents. You can follow Alex on twitter at“lemurwrangler”