KAUST Ph.D. student wins 3M’s 2017 Invent a New Future Challenge

KAUST Ph.D. student Abdulkhaleq Almansaf from the KAUST Solar Center won the 3M Company's 2017 Invent a New Future (INF) Challenge at the 3M global case competition finals on July 24, 2017.

​-By David Murphy, KAUST News

Abdulkhaleq Almansaf, a Ph.D. candidate in the KAUST Solar Center (KSC), won the 3M Company's 2017 Invent a New Future (INF) Challenge at the 3M global case competition finals on July 24, 2017. The final, which was held at 3M's corporate headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., rewarded innovative and talented graduate students from around the world.

"Winning this competition and being the only one from Saudi Arabia was a great privilege—I was the first one to win this kind of challenge from Saudi Arabia," Almansaf said.

The INF Challenge, which attracted 4,142 ideas from 14 different regions, focused on worldwide proposals on how the 3M Company can better promote diversity and inclusion to achieve and promote innovation.

"I was selected for the first round from more than 900 applicant ideas to be presented in front of 3M Saudi Arabia's top management. I presented my idea, which is related to use new types of materials called metal nanoclusters in the field of solar energy—these are cheaper than the classical material of silicon," he noted.

Forming 'team DNA'

Almansaf was selected to represent Saudi Arabia at the event from out of 900 ideas submitted from within the Kingdom. At the event, he met with 14 other country finalists to develop ideas of how 3M can better promote diversity and inclusion to achieve and promote innovation. Together with finalists from Brazil, India, South Korea and the U.S., he formed an aptly named team called "DNA" to represent the diverse but also common origins of its members. In both rounds of the competition, Almansaf was able to draw upon his experiences and cite KAUST as a shining example of resource utilization and diversity.

"The team had to provide and present new ideas that can improve aspects of the company that are reasonable and applicable to the company standards. It was an excellent experience for me because it helped me a lot to have the courage to present and provide and my ideas to upper management," Almansaf noted.

As part of his win, Almansaf will also be mentored by a member of the 3M senior leadership team for six months.

"The mentorship course provides the winners with the insight and points of view of a senior leader and a senior leader's experiences at 3M. Moreover, the senior leader will act as a resource for professional information and live experience about both 3M and the industry of the recommended field where the winners are going to work in future," he said.

Current research

Almansaf is studying for his Ph.D. in chemical sciences with a research focus on metal nanocluster charge carrier dynamics. He is also a member of Professor Omar Mohammed Abdelsaboor's group in the KSC and is under the supervision of both Abdelsaboor and Professor Osman Bakr.

Almansaf completed his bachelor's degree in plastics and polymer engineering technology at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He believes there are many reasons why he was attracted to study at KAUST. Chief among these are the powerful facilities and the excellent environment for a collaborative relationship between the students and their professors to perform their research.

"KAUST has improved my presentations skills by getting me involved in leadership programs through events such as the Falling Walls Lab. Moreover, KAUST makes me feel that I am living in a very diverse community where more than 100 nationalities from different backgrounds are working towards the success of this great place," Almansaf emphasized.

"Moreover, working at the KSC has improved my knowledge about different science aspects, such as metal nanoclusters synthesis. I enjoy learning powerful techniques to analyze this synthesis and to understand how to improve Saudi Arabia. The support I get from Professor Abdelsaboor and Professor Bakr has helped me to achieve such goals and to be a successful person," he noted.

Future goals

Almansaf is planning to continue working in the solar applications and polymers research field. He is aiming to work in one of the on campus research centers (such as Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation [SABIC] and Dow) to invent new materials and applications in the chemistry field.

"As a Ph.D. student doing research here at the Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy and 4-D Imaging Laboratory, I will try to use this knowledge to study and develop a wide range of nascent applications in various areas of research including chemistry, physics, materials science and nanotechnology. I have a dream that one day I will change the world in one of the chemistry applications—and I will do it," Almansaf concluded.

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