Practical Learning: KGSP Summer Enrichment


Summer months are an exciting time for KGSP students as they explore their academic disciplines through enrichment opportunities. Students participate in research projects and internships that take place in laboratories and businesses across the United States and at KAUST. Enrichments provide students with practical and hands-on experience under the guidance of industry leaders. Over the last several years, KGSP students have participated in a wide variety of competitive opportunities. In Summer 2018, a total of 323 KGSP students participated in summer enrichment which included REUs, university research projects, industrial internships, and pre-freshman summer coursework.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates, also known as REUs, are competitive research programs that allow undergraduates to engage in meaningful research in their field of study.  This past summer, eight KGSP students participated in REUs at Cornell University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Kansas, and the University of Maryland, College Park.  A sample of KGSP students’ REU participation include:

  • Laith Abdulmajeid, a rising sophomore at University of Wisconsin Madison majoring in mechanical engineering, completed research at Duke University contributing to studies influencing the grand challenges of engineering in the 21st century.
  • Amna Abdullah, a rising junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying bioscience, focused on nanotechnology in biology and bioengineering at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Shaden Albahrani, a rising sophomore at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University studying chemical engineering, and Rajeh Alsaadi, a rising junior at Pennsylvania State University majoring in materials science, took parts in interdisciplinary materials research at Cornell University.

KGSP Students Shaden Albahrani and Rajeh Alsaadi at Cornell University REU in Summer 2018

Nawaf Alotaibi, a rising junior at Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in mechanical engineering, was selected from hundreds of applicants to be one of 35 participants of the prestigious Robotics Institute Summer Scholars (RISS) Program held at Carnegie Mellon University. The 10-week program challenged participants to conduct state-of-the-art research in robotics. Nawaf had the opportunity to present his research to the Carnegie Mellon University community at the end of the program.   

Other KGSP students participated in specialized research projects at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Arizona, and University of Washington. Students worked one-on-one or in small groups with faculty and graduate students on a variety of projects ranging from improving ultrasound technology to analyzing air quality data to developing functional polymers for additive manufacturing. During their time at the universities, KGSP students also engaged in professional development workshops designed to enhance their public speaking skills. The students successfully presented their research to university faculty, staff, and other student researchers during end-of-program poster sessions.  

KGSP Students and KGSP Advisor Zaria Qadafi at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Poster Session

Fourteen KGSP students had the opportunity to participate in a newly launched program at Arizona State University. Through classroom sessions, industry site visits, and interactive business development challenges, the students gained knowledge on global entrepreneurship and innovation and its intersection with the STEM field. As a final capstone of the program, the KGSP students worked in groups to design a new company addressing current issues in Saudi Arabia. The students developed full business plans and presented their ideas to a panel of judges composed of U.S. business people and entrepreneurs. KGSP students’ business proposal for a company called “Go Divine” which would develop and produce sensory bracelets for autistic children won the competition.

KGSP students receive awards for their “Go Devine” business pitch

A cohort of thirty-eight KGSP Juniors completed research at KAUST in summer 2018. The students spent 9 to 12 weeks at KAUST working on individualized projects with KAUST faculty mentors.  Students shared their research with the KAUST community at culminating poster competitions. First place winners of the poster competitions were Rawan AlYahya for her research on the “Procedural Generation of Indoor Scenes” and Ammar Alqatari for his research on “Convolutional Sequence to Sequence Learning to Improve Nanopore Basecalling Efficiency.”

First place winner, Ammar Alqatari, presenting his research work to other KGSP students

In addition to research experiences, industrial internships provided enrichment opportunities outside of the university sector for thirty-one KGSP students. Some students enjoyed contributing to the initial stages of corporate start-ups, while others completed internships at high profile companies including Saudi Aramco, Bank of America, Deloitte, DOW, Google, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Microsoft.

KGSP Student Mariam Faisal Alghamdi interned at Saudi Aramco in Summer 2018

In preparation of their freshman year, Foundation Year students were encouraged to take one or two courses in mathematics, science, technology, or research methods during Summer 2018. Forty-three pre-freshman students spent the summer at the George Washington University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Brown University completing non-matriculating, pre-freshman summer coursework. An additional forty-two students studied directly at the universities to which they matriculated in Fall 2018.

Pre-Freshman Students at the National Mall, Washington D.C. in Summer 2018

Summer enrichment provides optimal environment for students to build theoretical knowledge and practical skills associated with their academic disciplines. It prepares KGSP students for the practice of science application and their future contributions to KAUST, Saudi Arabia, and the World.