KGSP students conduct inspiring summer research at KAUST

Shahd Bawarith, Abdulmohsen AlBelushi and Yousef Alowayed took part in the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) this summer.

For Jawaher Almutlaq, Abdulmohsen AlBelushi, Shahd Bawarith and Yousef Alowayed, conducting research at KAUST this summer as part of the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) has been an unparalleled opportunity for academic and personal growth.

KGSP sponsors academically gifted Saudi students earning undergraduate degrees in science and engineering subjects at universities in the United States and prepares them for eventual matriculation at KAUST. A major component of the program is the opportunity for students to conduct research at KAUST during their undergraduate studies. This year, 43 students are carrying out summer research at KAUST.

"My summer has certainly been enjoyable," said Yousef, who will be a junior at MIT in the coming academic year, and who has been working with Assistant Professor Osman Bakr on developing solar cells. "It has been great to get a feel of the different kinds of research going on at KAUST before coming back here for my master's degree. And I have really learned a lot."

"KAUST is wonderful," agreed Jawaher, who worked with Assistant Professor Iman Roqan to study the optical properties and structure of gadolinium (Gd)-doped zinc oxide thin films, which are used in many applications, including solar cells and biosensors. "I previously worked with metal alloys at my home university, Pennsylvania State University, so my research at KAUST was a good opportunity to explore a different class of materials," she said.

Jawaher will complete her bachelor's degree in Material Science and Engineering next year, and plans to study Nanotechnology at KAUST for her master's degree.

Shahd, who studies Bioengineering at George Mason University, has been working with Professor Klaus-Viktor Peinemann in the Advanced Membranes & Porous Materials Center (AMPM), where she has learned how to produce composite membranes.

"I don't think I could have done this kind of cutting-edge research with such amazing professors and so much support anywhere else," said Shahd, who will be a sophomore in the next academic year. "I originally wanted to study law in university, but now I definitely feel a future in science is worthwhile."

Abdulmohsen says he discovered a new field to explore during his summer working with Associate Professor Ravi Samtaney in the Fluid and Plasma Simulation Laboratory. "My research at KAUST has made me interested in a new area, computational fluid mechanics," he explained. He will be a senior in the autumn at Johns Hopkins University, where he is majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

"I am definitely excited to return to KAUST for my master's degree," he said. "In the future, I hope to go for a PhD so I can work in the research field."

"Knowledge gained from textbooks and in classrooms is important," noted Jawaher, "but it is not enough. My summer research at KAUST has enabled me to understand my major better, and I feel that opportunities like this provided through KGSP will make it easier to contribute to the advancement of science and technology in the development of my country. That is my greatest motivation."

KGSP is administered by KAUST's Saudi Initiatives organization. Now in its fifth year, the program cultivates the next generation of Saudi leaders in science, research, and innovation.

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- by Caitlin Clark, KAUST News