Student Spotlights

On their home university campuses, KGSP students take advantage of many fun and educational activities to explore the intersection of their academic and personal interests. Engagement with activities outside the classroom is highly encouraged by the KGSP, as such opportunities allow students to expand their knowledge, broaden their social network, and develop their professional business acumen; qualities that will benefit and enrich their development both as students and as future leaders. 

2023 Global Sustainable Development Congress



For the first time since its inception, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology hosted the annual Global Sustainable Development Congress on May 30th through June 1st, 2023, where two KGSP students had the opportunity to attend and participate. The Congress brought together over 1,600 global thought leaders and innovators to discuss pressing issues around sustainability. The Congress event served as a call to action for universities around the world to pivot their educational, research, and innovation programs towards tangible outcomes in meeting the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  

“This Global Congress is one of the first opportunities for KAUST to fully open its doors to the world, and to showcase its extraordinary campus, faculty and administrators,” KGSP Manager Colm Lynch, said. “To have KGSP students on campus during this major event is invaluable in showing them that the Kingdom is gaining an ever more important seat for issues that affect the world.” 


Zahraa Alkhayat, junior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Engineering.Image 1: Zahraa Alkhayat, junior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Engineering.

Along with the hundreds of educators and experts in attendance, KGSP students Zahraa Alkhayat and Taha Alnufaili had the opportunity of participating in and presenting at the event. Zahraa, a junior majoring in Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said being a part of the Congress presented an [incredible] opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals, experts, and to gain insight from other participants in improving her understanding and perspectives of sustainable development. Zahraa participated in a roundtable discussion on “supporting youth-driven solutions for our sustainable future” where attendees explored topics such as the role of higher education in fostering sustainable solutions, as well as the ethical considerations surrounding consumption practices, the potential for innovation through artificial intelligence, and the integration of sustainability principles into corporate strategies. “It was inspiring to witness the diverse range of perspectives and innovative approaches presented during the sessions,” Zahraa said. “The networking opportunities allowed me to connect with individuals who shared similar goals, fostering potential collaborations for future projects. Additionally, the congress reaffirmed the significance of holistic and multi-stakeholder approaches in tackling global sustainability challenges.” 


Taha Alnufaili, junior at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Computer Science.

Image 2: Taha Alnufaili, junior at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Computer Science. Taha gave a presentation on a machine learning model used to improve the detection of harvest events in Ukrainian grain fields. Taha said the model could help farmers, especially in war-torn regions, avoid resource waste.


Taha, a junior majoring in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park, gave a presentation at the Exhibition Hall in which he discussed his experience building a machine learning model to improve the detection of harvest events in grain fields in Ukraine using satellite imagery. “I wanted to join the congress to amplify the voice of the younger generation,” Taha said. “The younger generation should be more involved in the Congress because [its] goal is to highlight the importance of following sustainable practices to ensure a bright future.” 

“The KGSP is a platform that will realize the potential in the Kingdom’s most impressive young people in STEM,” Colm said, adding, “For their potential to be realized, our platform needs to be given opportunities to shine. In giving thanks to the Kingdom’s wise leadership, we are so proud that Zahraa and Taha are demonstrating to the global sustainability community that the future of the Kingdom is very bright indeed.” The KGSP is proud to see students at the forefront of a better, sustainable future, and the Program looks forward to supporting and amplifying the voices of the Kingdom’s youth as they push to secure a brighter future.