KAUSTians awarded prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

For the second year in a row, three Saudi Arabian undergraduates have been selected as Rhodes scholars, joining the oldest and one of the most prestigious communities of scholars in the world. Of these, two awardees are from within a STEM field and are current participants or alumni of a KAUST program.

The Rhodes Trust selects 100 international awardees annually, identifying "young leaders of outstanding intellect and character who are motivated to engage with global challenges, committed to the service of others and show promise of becoming value-driven, principled leaders for the world's future." Awardees receive a full scholarship to further their areas of research interest while pursuing graduate studies at the University of Oxford.

This year’s success mirrors that of 2021, the first time that three Saudi students were selected as Rhodes recipients within one cohort. Impressively, of the six Saudi Arabian Rhodes scholars from the past two years, five are recipients of one or more KAUST student research or talent development programs. This exemplifies the University’s commitment to and success in fostering the next generation of the nation’s scientists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

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The 2022 Saudi Arabian Rhodes scholars

Ahmed Aljohani
Ahmed Aljohani joined the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) in 2017. After a successful foundation year at Boston University, he enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in biology. In 2021 Ahmed interned with Professor Salim Babili at the KAUST Center for Desert Agriculture as part of the KGSP Summer Internship Program, where he conducted research on the mitigation of the parasitic Striga’s impact on crops in Africa. At Oxford, he plans to study marine biology and eventually return to Saudi Arabia to work on Red Sea coral reef preservation and rehabilitation. Learn more about Ahmed’s journey.

“KGSP allowed me to explore research as a valid possible career path, in which I hope to explore the Red Sea's super corals and help use them as a model to save coral reefs globally. Through the KGSP I also secured an internship at KAUST. The facilities, faculty and guidance gave me a glimpse of how fascinating the life of a scientist can be. During my time as a STEM scholar, the KGSP also encouraged my extracurricular interests, including how to better use film for scientific communication. This well-rounded educational experience absolutely had a positive impact on my Rhodes application," said Ahmed.

Mohammed Alghadeer earned a bachelor’s degree in May 2021 from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals with a double major in physics and electrical engineering. He then participated in the KAUST Saudi Summer Internship program from June to October with Dr. Hossein Faribirzi, developing new surface treatments to reduce coherent losses in quantum devices. Mohammed is currently collaborating with the Quantum Nanoelectronics Laboratory at UC Berkeley, and at Oxford plans to study condensed matter physics with research focusing on quantum information technology.

Jood Althukair graduated from King Saud University in May 2021 with a BA in English language and literature. Her research focuses on exile and forced migration in Arab communities, the polemics and futurisms in contemporary Arab literature, and their overall sociopolitical implications on the Arab identity. At Oxford, Jood will study the intersections between politics and literature that mark the features of Arab women’s literary works.

Mohammed Alghadeer

While coming from different backgrounds, universities and research areas, all three 2022 Rhodes scholars nevertheless together represent the incredible potential of the nation’s youth, as well as the opportunities that the Kingdom’s ever-increasing commitment to education and development has afforded. Such achievements reinforce KAUST’s success in significant capacity building through transformational opportunities; they demonstrate at the individual, institutional and national level the power that world-class academic programming, mentorship and support have in catalyzing internationally competitive innovators.

Mohammed Alghadeer said, “KAUST’s facilities allowed me to examine serious limitations in my research field — quantum computing and information — and provided me with the scientific tools needed for high-quality research. After being at KAUST, I realized that I can compete with students in different places in the world, which encouraged me to apply for the Rhodes scholarship.”