Ph.D. student represents KAUST and Saudi Arabia at the 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities

The 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities took place in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., from June 5 to 7. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

​-By David Murphy and Nasir Alfaraj, KAUST News

KAUST Ph.D. student Nasir Alfaraj was recently selected to represent KAUST and Saudi Arabia at the 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. The event, which was held from June 5 to 7, was hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The Financial Times. It brought together more than 80 speakers from 27 countries to discuss the influence of global cities and how attendees could solve pressing global challenges.

Over the duration of the conference, in-depth panels moderated by Financial Times journalists gave participants the chance to engage in a series of discussions, flash talks and intensive workshops, with the goal of improving the efficacy of urban networks, management and design.

In his delegate role, Alfaraj, a Saudi electrical engineering doctoral student under the supervision of KAUST Professor Boon S. Ooi, attended forum panels focusing on water, food and energy security for sustainable global cities in the future.

Current research focus

Before joining KAUST, Alfaraj received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S., in 2013. During his time in the U.S., Alfaraj was impressed by the value that American universities place on diversity in the learning process.

"In an increasingly globalized and international world, students must possess the ability to learn from and interact with people from a broad range of backgrounds and cultures," he noted.

Alfaraj completed his master's degree in electrical engineering at KAUST in 2015 under the supervision of Professor Muhammad Mustafa Hussain. His master's degree thesis entitled "Reversibly Bistable Flexible Electronics" was published as a cover article in the journal Applied Physics Letters. He has also published 12 journal papers. His current research focus at the KAUST Photonics Laboratory centers on photonic devices and their applications—especially those pertaining to sustainability. More specifically, he focuses on the development of special types of light-emitting devices that can positively contribute to current global issues concerning water, the environment, energy and food.

"I am currently performing cutting-edge fabrication and characterization research of lasers and other light-emitting devices operating in the ultraviolet (UV) range. My proposed devices will be applicable at a multitude of societal levels [ranging] from inexpensive and efficient lighting to the safest and most effective method of treating water to strategic application in military equipment manufacturing," he noted. 

"Water sterilization is arguably the most important use for UV devices in a water-stressed country [like] Saudi Arabia. UV light is germicidal: it disrupts activities and damages the DNA structure of infective agents. Most importantly, it does not create residual chemicals that could cause environmental and health issues," Alfaraj added.

KAUST Ph.D. student Nasir Alfaraj, who represented KAUST and Saudi Arabia at the 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities in June, felt his experience there had 'a positive impact on [him].' Image courtesy of Chicago Forum on Global Cities.

A drive to create a positive impact

Alfaraj, whose interests include technology, macroeconomics, business and politics, sees himself as a young Saudi leader. He feels that his research at KAUST will benefit the Kingdom's long-term plans for developing a sustainable socioeconomic infrastructure. In the future, Alfaraj aims to promote innovative and creative approaches that enhance culture as a bridge to development in Saudi Arabia while improving the country's collaborative ties with other nations.

"I believe my experience at the 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities will have a positive impact on me as well as those communities that I will have the opportunity to organize and serve in the future," Alfaraj emphasized.

"Utilizing the innovative approach of a researcher and my creativity as an engineer, I plan to begin my career in a university or private industry laboratory, leading to my ultimate goal of establishing my own engineering consulting firm that has a permeating impact on our social sphere," he added.

"My experience at KAUST prepared me to be a responsible global citizen. The research ecosystem at KAUST [also] assisted me in further expanding my career opportunities and horizons," Alfaraj concluded.

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