Enrichment activities are an important part of a KGSP student’s development outside of the traditional classroom setting, as they both foster new skills and expand existing ones. Enrichment also helps students explore future research interests and career paths by offering real-world and hands-on experience, as well as growing their professional network. KGSP students understand that these critical experiences now will open doors and broaden future opportunities, which in turn fuels their ability to positively contribute to Saudi Arabia’s growing knowledge economy as a next generation of thought leaders in their respective fields.
The KGSP partners with academic, corporate, and research institutions to develop and facilitate the majority of these enrichment opportunities, though students are encouraged to utilize their own university networks and career services offices to also identify internships independently. The KGSP Advising and Enrichment Teams collaborate one-on-one with students to identify opportunities that will further their specific goals, and that are aligned with their holistic and multi-year individualized development plans and academic progress.
Despite the constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, KGSP students continue to pursue enrichment and grow their resumes: Last year, 86% of required Undergraduate students and all Foundation Year students completed virtual enrichment varying from research to internships to specialized skill-building programs. Some of these exciting opportunities from summer 2020 are highlighted below:
Research at KAUST
During the summer after their junior year, KGSP students have the chance to work alongside KAUST professors to gain valuable research experience and take part in groundbreaking projects conducted at the university. Projects included:
- Naser Alsubaiei, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, worked with Dr. Hussein Hoteit, Associate Professor of Energy Resources and Petroleum Engineering at KAUST, on the research project, “Deep Learning for Thermodynamic Phase-Behavior Calculations.” From his experience, Naser appreciated the applicable information he acquired regarding thermodynamic analysis of certain fluid mixtures and its relevance to his current coursework. He completed his research by learning to code using MATLAB, a valuable new skill.
- Basem Eraqi, a senior at University of California, Irvine also studying Mechanical Engineering, worked on the research project, “Carbon Footprint Calculations for A Generic Tourist Project,” alongside Dr. Mani Sarathy, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Associate Director of the Clean Combustion Research Center. The goal was to estimate the GHG emissions from construction, transportation, energy generation, and water desalination activities of the Tourist Project.
More than 30 KGSP students conducted research in various fields at their home universities or other institutions as part of summer enrichment. Highlights include:
- Rana Gahwagy, a junior studying Geosciences at Smith College, participated in two research projects hosted virtually by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Working with Professor Falk Huettmann, Rana assessed the different climate models' performance on projecting the climate of Denali's summit, the highest mountain peak in North America. She also worked with Professor Uma Bhatt in analyzing wildfire data from fire reports in collaboration with the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, the state’s wildland fire response and services. Rana enjoyed working on both projects, remarking that they “fit my academic interests perfectly and intersect with my geoscience major where I hope to focus on climate science. They also opened up new research interests for me within and outside my major.” Despite the remote format, Rana noted, “I still had a chance to connect with people and teams and collaborate with other scientists, which is one of the best parts of my experience.”
- For the third consecutive year, KGSP students participated in the competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute Summer Scholars Program. Ali Albazroun, a junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is the third KGSP student to attend this program. After two summers of KGSP student participation, the Robotics Institute and KGSP haven taken steps to formalize a partnership so that this will continue to be an opportunity for KGSP students in Summer 2021. Read more about Ali’s summer experience here.
- Six KGSP students were accepted into the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Extreme Events REU. Read more about their enrichment experience here.
With the support and resources of KGSP Advising and Enrichment, students successfully gained internships with various notable companies in summer 2020. Examples include:
- Omar Alhazzaa, a senior majoring in Computer Engineering at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, participated in a Virtual Software Engineering Internship at Bloomberg. In this role, Omar worked alongside other interns under the mentorship of professional software engineers, learning how to use the Bloomberg Terminal, participating in coding challenges, and designing and building software systems, all while gaining expertise in finance and technology.
- Nourah Alrasheed, a senior at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Computer Science, served as a Software Engineer Intern at Intuit where she learned invaluable skills and tools to succeed in the tech industry from senior leaders and business partners. Under their guidance, she expanded her knowledge of software programming as she was tasked to create consistent generating sequence segregate keys for various uses cases in the data lake.
Custom and Specialized Skill-building Programs
Working with universities across the US, the KGSP Enrichment Team developed customized summer programs designed to give students a holistic research experience or a specialized certificate, the experience of which can be leveraged later in students’ academic careers to help them secure competitive internships or research placements. More than 30 students participated in custom programs in small cohorts engaging in virtual research, professional development workshops, or specialized skill-building in virtual programs hosted by universities across the U.S. Examples include:
- Mustafa Almutawa, a sophomore at University of Massachusetts, Amherst who participated in the ASU program focused on Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation, felt the program helped “advance my knowledge in the entrepreneurial world, from idea inception to financial management” as well as improving his ability to present and communicate his ideas. He continued, "The best part for me was the weekly guest speakers on the program. Each guest speaker came from a distinct, specialized industry and provided valuable insight.”
An additional 20 KGSP students earned specialized certificates by completing the BASE Summer Program hosted by University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, the Technology Leadership Summer Institute presented by University of California, Los Angeles, and the Data Science Virtual Program at NC State, which provided in-depth instruction in statistics concepts, data handling, sampling techniques, programming, and data visualization.
KGSP students also pursued specialized skills through open online courses, with over 100 KGSP students earning a certificate of completion.
- Yasser Althuwaini, a sophomore at George Washington University majoring in Mechanical Engineering, completed a Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) Security+ course where he learned the basics of cyber security, a growing field of interest.
- Shaden Alshammari, a sophomore studying Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, completed online courses focused on machine learning and artificial intelligence: “Intro to Machine Learning with Pytorch” and “Deep Learning.” She remarked, “I would highly recommend it for students who are interested in machine learning and deep learning. Even though similar courses are offered in their home university, most of them are theoretical and do not teach practical tools such as PyTorch and TensorFlow.”
Students have already started pursuing options for this year. Approximately 300 KGSP students are expected to participate in summer 2021 enrichment, and the process of applying for internships, REUs and other research programs is already underway. In addition to a continuation of opportunities described above, KGSP continues to foster new internship opportunities for its students—including an exciting new partnership with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)!
KGSP students presenting their work at the 2019 Convocation Enrichment Fair. Summer enrichment provides students the experience to participate in meaningful research opportunities that they can present to other KGSP students and at national academic conferences.