A Partnership in Discovery: 2017 KGSP Convocation


In January, the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) welcomed over 500 attendees to Atlanta, Georgia in celebration of the 2017 KGSP Engagement Event and Convocation. This annual three-day event maximizes opportunities for all KGSP students to engage with honored guests from among KAUST faculty and leadership, and to learn more about the university’s newest programs and research. Several KAUST faculty members and a KGSP Student Steering Committee helped design an agenda reflective of this year’s theme, Partnership in Discovery. Sessions focused on the importance of scientific curiosity—a concept the KGSP endeavors to foster within all students, and which mirrors the University’s institutional commitment to the same through innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration. 

Attendees were privileged to hear from KAUST President Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau, who set the event’s tone by outlining the ways in which students’ current hard work as KGSP recipients actively contributes to KAUST’s long-term vision and goals. Dr. Najah Ashry, Vice President for Saudi Affairs, and Dr. James Calvin, Vice President for Academic Affairs, expanded on this sentiment during student-led interview panels, discussing student involvement in the University’s many outreach and social responsibility initiatives, as well as the types of careers available to KAUST alumni that fulfill the University’s goal of building a knowledge-based economy in Saudi Arabia.

event 2017 1
Dr. Najah Ashry was interviewed by Ali Al Haddad, a senior at the University of Michigan.

KAUST Vice President for Research, Dr. Jean Fréchet, inspired students to continue their quest for academic excellence during a keynote on KAUST’s most recent research initiatives, encouraging them to envision the day when they, too, would have the opportunity to contribute to such groundbreaking work.  Senior faculty members gave rousing and interactive presentations on research topics ranging from fuel and combustion innovation to microelectronic devices in neuroscience, while the Dean of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Dr. Pierre Magestretti introduced the audience to his pioneering project to revolutionize the visualization and modeling of brain activity.

event 2017 2
Dr. Robert Dibble discusses fuel innovation research. 

KGSP students had the opportunity to share their own research experiences, too: the Research Poster Fair featured both faculty and student projects, offering students the unique opportunity to share their work with top experts in their academic fields. In recognition of Excellence in Student Research, Sarah Al Abdullatif, a junior at University of California, Berkeley, was awarded first place for her poster “Synthesis of Red Shifted Fluorescent Voltage Sensors.”

event 2017 3
2017 Research Poster Fair.

Similarly, KAUST faculty utilized these sessions to share their work and interests with groups of potential future students. Such positive interactions were furthered through informal activities and individual mentoring meetings, providing students with the academic, professional, and research advice critical to success on their paths toward a KAUST graduate program. 
event 2017 4
Faculty and students competing to engineer the tallest possible tower made of paper. 

The 2017 KGSP Engagement Event and Convocation reaffirmed the Program’s commitment to fostering not only academic excellence, but also a sense of individual curiosity that pushes the bounds of knowledge. Each session highlighted exciting advancements within the KGSP and KAUST communities, and encouraged attendees to continue their drive toward addressing the world’s scientific challenges through a lens of discovery and innovation.     
Thank you to all attendees, without whom the event’s success would not have been possible—and we look forward to seeing what new discoveries the coming year will bring!