Fifth academic Convocation welcomes new students to 'adventure of learning'

This year, KAUST welcomed 284 new students from 38 different countries onto the campus.

Highlighting the adventure of learning, KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau welcomed new students and faculty and staff to the University's fifth annual academic Convocation ceremony on August 19.

"You have arrived at a special time in our history as we celebrate our fifth year as a global university," President Chameau told the audience. "You are now part of this history and we welcome you to the community."

This year, KAUST welcomed 284 new students from 38 different countries onto the campus. Of these, 112 students are master's degree students and 172 are doctoral candidates.

"KAUST's international DNA makes us unique," President Chameau stated. "We have the best talent and the best ideas from all corners of the earth," he continued, noting that the international student population brings "new energy, new ideas, and a fresh view of the world" to the University.

President Chameau told the new students they would find "an adventure of the mind, spirit, and imagination" at KAUST, and would have myriad opportunities to contribute, learn and discover.

To enrich their adventure, he said students would need to be passionate about their studies, work with tenacity in the laboratory and the classroom, prepare themselves to be leaders, and take the time to grow as a person.

"We want you to be scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs and – simply put – people who strive to make our world a better place," he said.

Fellow speakers at the event included Mitchell Morton, a master's degree student in Bioscience, and Dr. Mohamed Eddaoudi, Associate Director of the Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Research Center and KAUST Professor of Chemical Science.

Morton, who came to KAUST in 2013 after completing his bachelor's degree in Biology at Imperial College London (UK) in 2011, echoed President Chameau's sentiments. When he attended Convocation a year ago, he "wasn't quite sure what to expect coming here," but said he was sure he had "embarked on an adventure…that has been full of discoveries."

Morton advised the new students to take full advantage of KAUST's learning environment, the intellectual guidance offered by faculty advisors, and the top-notch research facilities. He also urged them to interact with the rest of the international community at KAUST to improve their teamwork, communication, and leadership skills.

"Here, citizens from over 80 countries are generously hosted by the Saudi people," he said. "Where better to experience this rich cultural interface than in a House of Wisdom – Bayt al-Hikma – with some of the brightest minds of our generation?"

Prof. Eddaoudi introduced the audience to his ongoing research in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a promising class of hybrid solid-state materials to remove CO2. This year, Prof. Eddaoudi has been recognized as one of Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers for his work in this field.

"Like many of you, I was once a graduate student," Prof. Eddaoudi told the students. "And like many of you, I left my home and went abroad for my studies. I found myself in a new culture and environment…[but] once I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. In 1997 at the labs of Arizona State University, I was the first to find and then to prove that a new class of hybrid solid-state materials (MOFs) can actually be porous. Since that first discovery, a new area of research opened and attracted international attention."

"It is my belief that this class of materials is well-positioned to address many enduring challenges," he continued. "It is just a matter of time before we see these materials in real applications…I hope that our materials discovered and developed here at KAUST are in the elect."

Prof. Eddaoudi told the students to "aim at solving problems that were never solved before…In this way, you are assured you will make an impact by addressing a given challenge." He added that "all of us, new and returning students, postdoctoral fellows and professors, staff members and administrators, are lucky to be here at KAUST…But nothing is free. With that luck comes huge responsibility. Our success as a university is all in our hands. In this revived 21st century House of Wisdom, we can make an impact, we can help to transform lives, and we can use science as an engine for change…Let us work together on our University's promise and do science that makes a difference."

Celebrating not only the start of a new academic year, but also the five-year anniversary of the University on September 5, President Chameau noted KAUST's values – excellence, collaboration, discovery, diversity, integrity, and openness – to the audience. These are upheld by the entire community and "point our path forward year after year on our journey, not as another university, but as a great university," he said.

- by Caitlin Clark, KAUST News