Alumni Focus: Nasser Alaslaai

KAUST alumnus Nasser Alaslaai (M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17) was a shepherd in Saudi Arabia before he began his educational journey at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and then continued on to KAUST. Image courtesy of Nasser Alaslaai.

​-By Abdullah Alhamdan, KAUST News

Always renew you hopes and raise the roof of your ambition," said KAUST alumnus Nasser Alaslaai (M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17, chemical engineering). Alaslaai faced many challenges to complete his higher education, and he repeated the phrase until it became his mantra.

Alaslaai was born and raised in a nomadic environment in Saudi Arabia and was constantly on the move—he shepherded his sheep in the desert until he graduated from secondary school. After secondary school, he moved to the city and graduated from high school with a total grade point of 99 percent, a turning point for him. He then decided to move to Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to study at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran.

Before beginning his undergraduate studies, KAUST alumnus Nasser Alaslaai (M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17) shepherded his sheep in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Studying at KAUST

"[Traveling to Dhahran] was the first journey I ever took in my life—it was the first time I climbed the stairs of an airplane. It was a new feeling for me," Alaslaai said. "After obtaining my bachelor's degree, situation was the main driver for me to join Saudi Aramco [to] support my family. At first, my dream was to obtain a master's degree from KAUST after receiving Aramco's approval, and then I would return to work for the company."

KAUST alumnus Nasser Alaslaai (M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17) completed his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran. Image courtesy of KFUPM.

When beginning his master's degree, Alaslaai's main challenge was to figure out how to go back to university after he'd been away from higher education for years. He also had to learn how to balance his family life, his studies and work.

"After spending time at KAUST and seeing all the many possibilities and high-tech facilities there, my dream changed from just getting a degree to something bigger," he continued. "I exerted a lot of effort to get excellent results in the scholarship program because this was definitely the golden key to attract the attention of my supervisor to continue on to obtain my doctoral degree at KAUST."

Patents and conferences

After four years and several months of study at KAUST, Alaslaai produced about 10 research papers, and he is working on two more. He also participated in eight conferences and has one registered patent and another in the pipeline.

"The patent was fully registered at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and will be awarded soon," Alaslaai said. "I'm still working on my second patent with my Ph.D. advisor. In all honesty, the journey of research is a never-ending one."

KAUST alumnus Nasser Alaslaai (M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17) returned to Saudi Aramco to continue his career there after graduating from KAUST. Image courtesy of Nasser Alaslaai.

During conferences he attended while completing his graduate degrees, Alaslaai noted, "It was a very difficult task for me to speak as a student to all these experts in the field. I remember that one of the most difficult conferences for me was the first conference I attended in San Francisco. I was the only student who was accepted to attend, but the conference went smoother than I expected.

"With time and after my second conference, I began applying to every relevant conference. Speaking at conferences is one of the best ways to share your findings with experts. Conferences are a great opportunity to communicate and gain new knowledge."

Since graduating from the University with his Ph.D. in December 2017, Alaslaai returned to his old home—he now works for Saudi Aramco on a temporary assignment in the company's Research & Development Center.

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