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King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

BEACON ‫املنـارة‬ at Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

October 2013 / Thul Qedah/ Thul Hijjah 1434 Volume 4, Issue No. 2


“Great research universities are transforming themselves into global universities, becoming not only active hubs of education, discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship, but also beacons of attraction for their region…these universities think and act globally, and they deliver both locally and globally.” – Dr. Chameau

On October 3, President Jean-Lou Chameau delivered a talk at the inaugural Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in Singapore entitled “Research Universities and the ‘Spotify’ Moment.” The summit brought together international leaders in education to explore the fundamental role that worldclass research universities play in driving the knowledge economy. His remarks focused on three topics – people, networks, and technology – as he attributes them to being drivers and indicators of change

“Coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots in the ocean, so they are very

in how universities engage with each other and

important because they sustain a high number of species. Corals are the

the world. “Research universities, especially those

nurseries for many fish,” explained Prof. Christian Voolstra from the KAUST

with a strong focus on science and technology,

Red Sea Research Center. But over the last few decades, marine scientists

have consistently evolved to respond to the

have observed the decline of healthy coral reefs around the world.

needs and demands of society,” explains Dr.

As a paper published in August by Nature through The ISME Journal

Chameau. “Around the globe, research universities

(doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.127), co-authored by Prof. Voolstra and

have evolved to play increasingly complex and

colleagues from KAUST and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand,

comprehensive roles in their nations. And today,

explains: “A major factor contributing to their decline is outbreaks and

the world’s research universities are evolving from

propagation of coral diseases.”

good to great to global, reflecting the mobility and

In their natural and healthy state, corals are very colorful organisms.

connectivity of talent and assets in a knowledge-

Once they become diseased, they lose these characteristic tissue colors.

and competition–driven world.

The group of scientists, also including Cornelia Roder, Chatchanit

“Great research universities are transforming

Arif, Till Bayer, Manuel Aranda, Camille Daniels, Ahmed Shibl, and

themselves into global universities, becoming

Suchana Chavanich, explains that “coral diseases appear in the form

not only active hubs of education, discovery,

of patches or bands in the coral surface.” “They either develop for

innovation, and entrepreneurship, but also

example, white spots, pink spots, white bands, or dark bands,” Prof.

beacons of attraction for their region,” Dr.

Voolstra further expounds.

Chameau says. “The global university functions as

While the underlying cause of the disease is not clear, marine scientists

a global web of knowledge, talent, and assets, and

know that bacteria are responsible in most cases. Therefore, the aim of the

becomes a point of differentiation for its home

study was to compare coral disease patterns of two coral species, from the

base. These universities think and act globally,

same coral reef displaying identical signs of disease. They analyzed the

and they deliver both locally and globally.”

bacteria inhabiting them and were able to determine that similar signs of

Dr. Chameau also points out that “not all

disease also correlated with the same bacterial footprint.

global universities are evolving from the pool

“This provides a framework in which we can further increase our

of historically great research institutions. New

understanding of coral disease by applying our analysis in a multi-species

entrants in higher education, responding to unmet

framework”, Prof. Voolstra explains.

demand for education and knowledge in the world, are attempting to leap-frog to the global arena by leveraging mobility and connectivity. It’s like bypassing hard-wired infrastructure and heading straight for the iPhone.” The Essential Ecology | Continued on p4


News 1-5

‫دراسة مقارنة ألمراض‬ ‫الشعاب املرجانية‬

Bacterial Footprint of Coral Reef Diseases

“If one wants to understand the sustainability, or resilience, of corals in other places, the Red Sea is indeed the perfect place to start a study.” – Prof. Voolstra Bacterial Footprint of Coral Reef Diseases | Continued on p5

Research 6-7

‫يقول البروفسور كريستيان فولسترا من مركز أبحاث البحر األحمر في جامعة الملك‬ ‫ "تمثل الشعاب المرجانية بؤرة التنوع البيولوجي في‬: ‫عبداهلل للعلوم و التقنية‬ ‫ حيث أنها مهمة جدًا لعدد كبير من األسماك والكائنات البحرية التي‬،‫المحيطات‬ ‫ ولكن العلماء الحظوا على مدى العقود الماضية انخفاض عدد‬."‫تتخذها مسكنًا لها‬ .‫الشعاب المرجانية السليمة في جميع أنحاء العالم‬ ‫وشرح البرفسور فولسترا أحد العوامل الرئيسية التي تساهم في تفشي أمراض‬ ‫الشعاب المرجانية وانتشارها وذلك في ورقة بحثية تشارك في كتابتها مع زمالئه‬ ،‫من جامعة الملك عبداهلل وجامعة شواللونغكورن في تايالند وهم كورنيليا رودر‬ ‫ وسوشانا‬، ‫ أحمد شبل‬،‫ كميل دانييلز‬،‫ مانويل اراندا‬،‫ تيل باير‬،‫تشاتشانيت عارف‬ ‫ إحدى منشورات‬،ISME ‫ و ُنشرت هذه الورقة في شهر أغسطس في مجلة‬،‫تشافانيتش‬ .Nature ‫مجلة‬ ‫ ولكنه يفقد‬، ‫يتميز المرجان في حالته الطبيعية والسليمة بألوانه الزاهية والمتميزة‬ ‫ وذكر العلماء في الورقة أن اعراض مرض المرجان‬.‫هذه األلوان بمجرد اصابته بمرض‬ ‫ حيث يقول البرفسور‬.‫تظهر في شكل بقع أو خطوط طولية على سطح المرجان‬ ‫ أو بشكل‬،‫ال ذلك "تكون اعراض المرض إما بصورة بقع بيضاء أو وردية‬ ً ‫فولسترا مفص‬ ."‫شرائط بيضاء أو ذات لون داكن‬ ‫ إال أن كل النتائج‬،ً‫وعلى الرغم من أن السبب األساسي لمرض المرجان ليس واضحا‬ ‫ لذا‬.‫التي توصل إليها علماء البحار تشير إلى وجود دور للبكتيريا في معظم الحاالت‬ ‫كان الهدف من هذه الدراسة هو مقارنة أنماط المرض في نوعين من أنواع المرجان‬ ‫ وتمكن العلماء من تحديد عالمات مشابهة للمرض‬.‫ومن نفس الشعاب المرجانية‬ ‫ترتبط بنوع واحد من البكتيريا األمر الذي كان له أثر كبير في زيادة فهمنا ألمراض‬ . ‫الشعاب المرجانية‬ ‫لوحظ انتشار أمراض الشعاب المرجانية بصورة أساسية في المناطق التي تتركز‬ ‫فيها النشاطات البشرية مثل المناطق والبيئات السياحية حيث يوجد مستوى عال‬ ‫ال عن‬ ً ‫من البكتيريا الضارة نتيجة التلوث من أنظمة الصرف الصحي من الفنادق فض‬ .‫العوامل األخرى كارتفاع درجة الحرارة‬ ‫ فإن الشعاب المرجانية في البحر األحمر بشكل عام وعلى طول شواطئ‬،‫ومن ناحية أخرى‬ ‫المملكة العربية السعودية بصورة خاصة تتمتع بحالة صحية جيدة نظرًا لخلو سواحل‬ ‫ وحتى مع تأثير النمو السكاني‬.‫المملكة العربية السعودية من البنى التحتية السياحية‬ ‫على الشعاب المرجانية حول مدينة جدة إال أنه يمكننا القول أن الشعاب المرجانية في‬ ‫المملكة بصورة عامة ال تزال في حالتها الطبيعية وهو أمر جيد لهذه الشعاب والتي‬ .‫يمكن أن تكون بمثابة أساس لدراسات أخرى كما يقول البروفسور فولسترا‬ 5 ‫تتمه صفحة‬

Community 8


The Essential Ecology of Research Universities



October 2013

The Beacon

As President Chameau explained in his recent talk at the Times Higher Education Summit

From student accolades on page 5 to recent papers relating to plant research on pages 6 and 7, our

highlighted on page 1 of this issue, the degree of higher educational institutional effectiveness

people are driven by a passion for discovery. This passion permeates our daily work, whether in the lab,

and success correlates to several key factors, including a relentless commitment to education

in the field, or at symposiums or conferences on campus or around the world.

and research excellence. In the pages of this issue, we highlight the amazing work of some of our students, faculty, scientists, and entrepreneurs; every day their endeavors demonstrate

We invite you to take part in this journey of discovery through these pages and celebrate October’s many achievements in the KAUST research and wider community. 

KAUST’s commitment to excellence.

—THE BEACON Editorial

The Beacon, Volume 4, Issue 2, October 2013. Published by The Communications Department, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia. Contact Salah Sindi, or Michelle D'Antoni © King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Printed on partially recycled paper.

KAUST Supercomputing Lab hosts NVIDIA and Intel workshops on cutting-edge high performance computing technologies

Funds (OCRF) and by the KAUST Industrial Collaboration Program (KICP), which invited several of

The Supercomputing Lab, NVIDIA (the world leader in visual computing technologies), and

and Dr. Pierre Beaujuge, Assistant Professor of Chemical Science, welcomed over 70 participants,

Intel (the world’s largest chip manufacturer) sponsored a pair of one-day tutorials on September

including leading research scientists, members of industry, engineers, and young researchers from

18 and October 2 on accelerating scientific applications using Graphical Processing Units

KAUST to the workshop.

(GPUs) and the Intel Xeon Phi, respectively. About 150 participants attended each workshop, with 20% of the attendees from local and regional universities, agencies, and industries.

its member companies to attend the event. The conference chairs, Dr. Husam Alshareef, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering,

Scientists working at the forefront of energy research gave two days of presentations, which were followed by a technical poster presentation and competition. Presentation speakers included

The tutorials’ purpose was to expose participants to emergent high

scientists from Europe, China, Korea, India, Singapore, and the US; industrial collaborators Saudi

performance computing technologies. As the scientific community

Aramco and SABIC; other Saudi institutions; and KAUST students and researchers. The MRS

anticipates exascale supercomputers capable of achieving a

Student Chapter at KAUST staffed the poster competition, which was led by PhD student and

quintillion floating point operations per second with a billion-

KAUST MRS Chapter President Nuha Al-Hebshi.

thread concurrency by the end of this decade, application and

In his welcome address to participants, Prof. Alshareef outlined the goals of the workshop,

library developers have to rethink and redesign their numerical

including discussing challenges in energy storage technologies, enhancing partnerships among

algorithms to match the underlying hardware architecture.

participating institutions, and identifying future collaborative research opportunities. He also

Today, a single accelerator-based hardware device (e.g., the NVIDIA Kepler GPU and the Intel

described the growth of the energy-storage research group at KAUST, which began in 2010 with

Xeon Phi) can sit under a desk with tens of cores and can deliver more than 1Tflop/s (a trillion

two members. The group now has six members and nearly 20 publications in leading academic

floating point operations per second). For perspective, the cumulative performance of just 200 of these

journals. Prof. Alshareef noted these publications have helped solidify KAUST’s position in the

lightweight accelerators outperforms the current sustained performance of KAUST's 2009-vintage

global energy storage research community.

Shaheen supercomputer. Accelerators will improve in maturity and productivity in the press toward

Topics covered during the workshop included materials issues for energy storage devices,

exascale systems. Most of the performance capability of future supercomputers will likely derive from

including Li-ion and Na-ion batteries, supercapacitors, flow batteries, fuel cells, and solar

them, as is already true of the top-ranked computer in the world today, the "MilkyWay", which is

hydrogen production and storage.

located in China.

Eighteen posters were submitted for the technical poster competition, with best poster prizes It is critical that students, postdocs, scientists, and faculty members

going to Angel Garcia Esparza, Lina Abdul Halim, and Guy Ndjawa, PhD candidates from the

acquire enough knowledge and training to cope with the challenges

Physical Sciences and Engineering Division.

and enjoy the opportunities of using these accelerators. The

The workshop “was successful in bringing together researchers from academia and industry,

tutorials provided an understanding of possible execution models

and provided an excellent opportunity for our students and researchers to learn about this

and basic details of both architectures. Technical sessions described

exciting field of research,” stated Prof. Alshareef. “It was a valuable venue for discourse between

various programming models (CUDA and OpenMP) and showed examples of

international experts and young researchers, and has helped promote collaborations between

scientific codes ported on the Kepler and the Xeon Phi architectures. Some of the currently

academia and industry.” 

supported software packages were highlighted by KAUST researchers. Dr. Hatem Ltaief, workshop chair, stated: “High performance computing is not only about reducing time to solution, but also exploring innovative research techniques and algorithms at an unprecedented scale for science breakthrough discovery. All this was not feasible before due to the

Technology Demonstration Day Exhibits Prof. Atif Shamim’s Tracking Tag Device for Saudi Companies

lack of computing power. These tutorials helped participants attain the knowledge they needed about

Atif Shamim, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, and a dedicated team from

new technologies to accomplish this end. ” 

Technology Transfer & Innovation (TTI) organized and hosted a technology pilot demonstration day on September 26 for Prof. Shamim’s inkjet-printable universal tracking tag device (see The

BESE Distinguished Lecture: Human Brain Project

Beacon, March 2013). The device provides novel integrated indoor and outdoor localization services on an inkjet-

Prof. Henry Markram from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland,

printed, wearable, lightweight, flexible, low-cost, and miniaturized tag. The tag is monitored over

discussed the Human Brain Project as part of a recent BESE Distinguished Lecture Series. Dr.

internet-enabled devices such as smart phones, iPads, and personal computers, and location data

Markram is a professor of neuroscience at EPFL and is founder of the Brain Mind Institute, founder

can be accessed on a user-friendly interface such as Google maps.

and director of the Blue Brain Project, and the coordinator of the Human Brain Project (HBP). In his address, Prof. Markram said that understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If the challenge can be met, it will be possible to gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain diseases, and build revolutionary new computing technologies. He continued saying that today, for the first

“Tracking tags have many potential applications, such as locating the elderly, children, or pets; monitoring crowds during large events; tracking products through a supply chain; or maritime tracking, for example,” Prof. Shamim explained during the event. The technology demonstration day gave Prof. Shamim and the TTI team a chance to show off the tag device to representatives from 12 Saudi companies in attendance.

time, today information and communication technology (ICT) has brought these goals within

“We’re using the pilot demo process to engage the companies and capture their imaginations,”

reach. The goal of the HBP is to translate this vision into reality using ICT as a catalyst for

stated Maria Douglass, Acting Director of TTI. “Hopefully this will start off a process that goes

a global collaborative effort to understand the human brain, its diseases, and to emulate its

beyond a traditional licensing agreement to develop the core technology platform, getting a new

computational capabilities.

product on the market and launching new business opportunities.”

The Human Brain project, one of two ten-year one billion euro projects selected in January

Added Raghid Shreih, Technology Portfolio Manager from TTI: “I was pleasantly surprised to

2013 for funding by the European Commission, launched on October 1. Prof. Markram said that

see the kind of companies that exist here in Saudi Arabia that work in advanced topics such as

the first three years will be devoted to designing, developing, and deploying the first versions

vehicle tracking and tracking of assets. These areas fit in very well with this technology.”

of six ICT platforms dedicated to neuroinformatics, brain simulation, high performance

“The importance and significance of the pilot demo is that we have a faculty member, Prof.

computing, medical informatics, neuromorphic computing and neurorobotics; to creating

Shamim, who is committed to walking the technology development pathway jointly with Saudi

a user community of research groups within and outside the HBP; and to developing a

companies,” said Douglass. “From our perspective in TTI, the ability and willingness of the faculty

framework for collaboration. 

member to participate in the process is extremely critical.” Douglass also noted that she and her team in TTI, Prof. Shamim, and interested Saudi companies

1st International Workshop on Energy Storage at KAUST a ‘Valuable’ Success The 1st International Workshop on Energy Storage was held at the University from September

“form a kind of triumvirate, building a knowledge base of how to commercialize technology.” Shreih explained: “Based on the demonstration, each company may be able to find an application for Prof. Shamim’s core technology, developing it in that direction. It could be applicable in many different markets and fields.”

23 – 25. Endorsed by the Materials Research Society (MRS), an international organization of

Added Douglass: “We’re talking about Saudi companies adopting and developing applications

interdisciplinary materials researchers from government, universities, and industry, the workshop

from this technology platform that will be globally competitive. We’re very excited about this

focused on the research challenges and opportunities in different energy storage technologies.

and about the potential of putting Saudi Arabia on the map as a hot spot of excellence in certain

The workshop was funded mainly by a competitive grant from the Office of Competitive Research

niche high-tech markets.” 


Seed Fund Entrepreneurs: From the Lab to the Boardroom The KAUST New Ventures and Entrepreneurship

October 2013


‫رواد مشاريع صندوق التمويل‬ ‫ من املخترب‬:‫التأسيسي‬ ‫إىل حجرة االجتماعات‬

Group recently organized a panel discussion on entrepreneurship moderated by Prof. Mootaz Elnozahy, Dean of CEMSE, and featuring four members of the University faculty: Profs. Gary Amy, Klaus-Victor Peinemann, Helmut Pottmann, and Prof. Michael Berumen. Each panel member shared his personal insights and experiences with the Seed Fund program and the entrepreneurial journey in general. “It’s really been a pleasure to work with the Economic Development and the Seed Fund team,” said Prof. Amy, Director of the Water Desalination and Reuse Research Center. He described KAUST as an ideal environment to connect research to industry, since through the intermediary of Economic Development, “KAUST researchers don’t need to chase industry, as they come to us.”

“KAUST researchers don’t need to chase industry, as they come to us.” – Prof. Gary Amy In addition to a favorable entrepreneurship culture fostered at the University through partnerships and MOUs with leading corporations, Prof. Amy and the other panelists further highlighted KAUST’s unique focus on “goal-oriented research that

Standing from left to right): Prof. Mootaz Elnozahy, Prof. Michael Berumen, Prof. Helmut Pottmann, Prof. Klaus-Victor Peinemann, Amin Al-Shibani, Teo Uysal Sitting (from left to right : Ibrahim Faza, Prof. Gary Amy, President Jean-Lou Chameau .‫ والسيد تيو أوسيل‬،‫ السيد أمين الشيباني‬،‫فيكتور بينيمان‬-‫ البروفسور كالوس‬،‫ البرفسور هيلموت بوتمان‬،‫ البرفسور مايكل بيرومين‬،‫ البروفسور معتز النزهى‬:)‫(من اليسار الى اليمين‬ ‫لو شامو‬-‫ والرئيس جان‬، ‫ البروفسور جاري أمي‬،‫ السيد إبراهيم فازا‬:)‫(من اليسار الى اليمين‬

requires deliverables.” Sharing a common vision to develop the fruits of their research into tangible technologies offering

Berumen of the Red Sea Research Center said, “I

solutions to real-world needs and challenges, the

was determined to find a way to make my research

faculty members described the Seed Fund program

life easier.”

as an invaluable tool in helping them navigate the

As a marine biologist, he realized that scientists

process of taking their technological innovations

in his field work with simple technology that is

to market.

about two hundred years old. “During dives, we use

Prof. Peinemann a member of the Advanced

a pencil with underwater paper and literally spend

Membranes and Porous Materials Center and part

hours taking notes while we’re under water. Hundreds

of the four-member Seed Fund-winning project

of thousands of records are typed into a computer

Isoporous Membranes, told the audience that while

manually after we spend hours in the water recording

part of his work as an academic is to produce

data," he explained.

scientific papers for publication in high-impact journals, his main motivation is to see the work he’s developing in application and working in a real-world setting. He gave the example of a company he started with two friends in Germany in 1995 with a small loan of $50,000. From a single machine, the company began

“Professionally, it makes you look at your research in a different way…it really forced me to look carefully at how we do things and think about where there are solutions.” –Prof. Michael Berumen

producing and selling membranes on a small scale. Today the business has twenty employees. “I’m

He recounted how his idea for his Seed

always thinking when I’m developing something

Fund-winning project, iDive, came about as he was

about how it can be later transferred into a product,"

having a conversation with someone about the

he said. Prof. Peinemann’s advice to potential Seed

size of the data they had collected. So he invented

Fund applicants is to make use of KAUST’s resources

a housing device to allow him to take an iPad

to patent their great ideas right away.

underwater while maintaining the touch screen

Prof. Pottmann, Director of the Geometric

functionality. To his surprise, it worked.

Modeling and Scientific Visualization Research

“Professionally, it makes you look at your research

Center, also highlighted the benefits of the

in a different way. I really think it has been true for

Pre-Seed Fund program available to those who,

me. It really forced me to look carefully at how we

like himself, are exploring ideas to submit for Seed

do things and think about where there are solutions,”

funding. Speaking of two groups who have worked

he added.

locally-focused initiatives with the Seed Fund program

The Seed Fund is a product development funding

within his center (Makkah Window and Hachid), Prof.

mechanism that can help move promising ideas

Pottmann added: “I really like to see all these research

further toward commercialization and ultimately

scientists in the center develop during the coaching

lead to the formation of a new business. The Seed

phase of the Seed Fund. You can really see how they

Fund is open to all KAUST faculty, students, staff,

start to think like businessmen.”

researchers, and postdocs, and offers funding of up

Echoing the other panelists’ belief that research should be goal-oriented and provide solutions, Prof.

to US$ 200,000, as well as advisory, support, and mentorship for up to 24 months. 

‫ال لشركة أسسها مع‬ ً ‫ وضرب مثا‬.‫على أرض الواقع‬ ‫ بقرض‬1995 ‫اثنين من أصدقائه في ألمانيا عام‬ .‫ دوالر‬50.000 ‫صغير مقداره‬ ‫وأوضح البرفسور بينيمان أن شركتهم بدأت انتاج‬ ‫األغشية وبيعها على نطاق صغير باستخدام جهاز‬ ‫ ويقول‬.ً‫ واليوم تضم الشركة عشرين موظفا‬،‫واحد‬ ‫البرفسور بينيمان " دائمًا أفكر بعملية الوصول الى‬ ."‫المنتج النهائي عندما أعمل على تطوير شيء ما‬ ‫ثم نصح البرفسور بينيمان المشاركين المحتملين‬ ‫في برنامج صندوق التميل التأسيسي باستخدام‬ ‫موارد الجامعة في تسجيل براءة االختراع ألفكارهم‬ .‫العظيمة على الفور‬ ‫ مدير مركز‬،‫كما قام البرفسور هيلموت بوتمان‬ ‫النمذجة والتصوير العلمي بتسليط الضوء على‬ ‫فوائد البرنامج االخرى المتاحة والتي تسبق برنامج‬ ‫صندوق التمويل التأسيسي لمن لديهم أفكار‬ ‫ ثم تحدث عن فريقين في مركزه‬، ‫يرغبون تقديمها‬ ‫قدموا مبادرات محليه مع برنامج صندوق التمويل‬ .)Hachid ‫التأسيسي (نافذة مكة و‬ ‫وركز أعضاء هيئة التدريس المشاركين في النقاش‬ ‫على ضرورة أن تكون األبحاث موجهة نحو تحقيق‬ ،‫أهداف محددة و أن تضع الحلول للمشاكل القائمة‬ ‫حيث قال البرفسور مايكل بيرومين من مركز أبحاث‬ ‫البحر األحمر "كنت مصممًا على ايجاد وسيلة لجعل‬ ‫ وتحدث البرفسور بيرومين‬."‫دراستي البحثية أسهل‬ ‫عن مجال عمله كعالم أحياء بحرية و أن العلماء‬ ‫في مجال دراسته يستخدمون في الغالب تقنيات‬ ‫بسيطة جد ًا قد يكون عمر بعضها حوالي مائتي‬ ‫ كما تحدث أنهم يستخدمون قلم الرصاص مع‬.‫عام‬ ‫ورقة تحت الماء خالل الغوص لتدوين المالحظات‬ ‫ ويتم إدخال مئات اآلالف من‬.‫لعدة ساعات‬ ‫البيانات المسجلة بعد ذلك في الكمبيوتر بصورة‬ ‫ وتحدث عن بداية فكرته لمشروع صندوق‬.‫يدوية‬ ‫ حيث كان يتحدث مع‬،iDive ‫التمويل التأسيسي‬ ‫أحد األشخاص عن كبر حجم البيانات التي كان‬ ‫يجمعونها تحت الماء لدرجة أنه اخترع غالف‬ ‫خاص يتيح له استخدام جهاز آيباد تحت الماء مع‬ ‫الحفاظ على كامل وظائف شاشة اللمس؛ ولم يكن‬  .‫يتوقع نجاح فكرته من ناحية تسويقية‬

‫نظمت مجموعة ريادة األعمال والمشاريع الجديدة‬ ‫مؤخر ًا في جامعة الملك عبداهلل للعلوم والتقنية‬ ‫حلقة نقاش عن ريادة األعمال بحضور عدد كبير‬ ‫ وقاد النقاش البروفسور معتز‬.‫من المهتمين‬ ‫ عميد قسم العلوم والهندسة الحاسوبية‬، ‫النزهي‬ ‫والكهربائية والحسابية باالضافة إلى أربعة من‬ ‫ البروفسور‬: ‫أعضاء هيئة الدريس في الجامعة وهم‬ ،‫فيكتور بينيمان‬-‫ البروفسور كالوس‬،‫جاري ايمي‬ ‫البرفوسور هيلموت بوتمان والبرفسور مايكل‬ ‫ وشارك كل عضو في حلقة النقاش‬.‫بيرومين‬ ‫بأفكاره وخبراته الشخصية عن برنامج صندوق‬ .‫التمويل التأسيسي وريادة المشاريع بشكل عام‬ ‫ مدير مركز أبحاث تحلية‬،‫وقال البرفسور ايمي‬ ‫ " إنه لمن دواعي سروري‬: ‫وإعادة استخدام المياه‬ ‫العمل مع التنمية االقتصادية وفريق صندوق‬ ‫ ووصف جامعة الملك عبداهلل‬،"‫التمويل التأسيسي‬ ‫كبيئة مثالية لربط األبحاث بالصناعة عبر التنمية‬ ‫ حيث ال يحتاج باحثو جامعة الملك‬،‫االقتصادية‬ ‫ ألنهم هم من‬،‫عبداهلل مالحقة مسؤولي الصناعة‬ .‫سيأتون إليهم‬ ‫وتحدث البروفسور أيمي وبقية األعضاء عن ثقافة‬ ‫ريادة المشاريع التي تدعمها جامعة الملك عبداهلل‬ ‫بواسطة إقامة الشراكات ومذكرات التفاهم مع‬ ‫ كما تطرقوا إلى التركيز المتميز‬، ‫الشركات الرائدة‬ ‫للجامعة على االبحاث الموجهة نحو تحقيق أهداف‬ .‫محددة‬ ‫وتحدث أعضاء هيئة التدريس عن رؤيتهم المشتركة‬ ‫لتطوير ثمار أبحاثهم إلى تقنيات ملموسة تضع‬ ،‫حلول لالحتياجات والتحديات االقتصادية العالمية‬ ‫كما وصفوا برنامج صندوق التمويل التأسيسي بأداة‬ ‫بالغة األهمية تسهل عملية نقل االبتكارات التقنية‬ .‫إلى السوق‬ ‫وقام البرفسور كالوس بينيمان من مركز األغشية‬ ‫المتطورة والمواد المسامية وأحد أعضاء مشروع‬ ‫الغشاء ��و المسام المتجانسة الفائز بجائزة صندوق‬ ‫التمويل التأسيسي بمخاطبة الحضور حيث تحدث‬ ‫عن أن الدافع الرئيسي له في عمله كأستاذ جامعي‬ ‫ليس فقط كتابة األوراق العلمية لتنشر في المجالت‬ ‫العلمية المشهورة بل بمشاهدة نتائج أبحاثه تطبق‬



October 2013

The Beacon

Saudi National Day Art Competition a ‘Spectacular Exhibition’ of Community Talent

KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau and Nadhmi Al-Nasr, Executive Vice President of Administration and Finance, present a certificate of appreciation to Edwige Boutry, a judge at the First Annual Saudi National Day Art Competition.

celebrate Saudi Arabia’s National Day,

“The art exhibition is an ideal way to honor and recognize the

but we also sought to engage different

rich history and culture of the Kingdom,” said Maha Aldubayan,

members of our community and to

coordinator of KAUST’s Social Responsibility Programs, at the

encourage creativity, and through

opening of the event. “The artists’ work documents not only the

this, promote the places, traditions,

life and surroundings of the Kingdom, but also communicates a

and culture of Saudi Arabia.”

love and passion for Saudi Arabia and its people.”

Open to all KAUST residents age

Winners of the competition were announced by KAUST

16 and above, artwork in one of three

President Jean-Lou Chameau. Nadhmi Al-Nasr, Executive

categories – photography, art and

Vice President of Administration and Finance, acknowledged

drawing, or calligraphy – featured

the kind participation of the judges at the conclusion of the

in the competition came from 21

awards ceremony.

members of the KAUST community,

Winners of the competition were: David Ketchson,

including students, faculty, staff, and

photography category; Vincent Guillerm, photography category

family members.

(two pieces); Ashvitha Sirdharan, art and drawing category;

In honor of Saudi National Day, KAUST’s Social Responsibility

Five judges from the community acted as a panel to select six

Department, a part of Saudi Initiatives, organized the First Annual

winning pieces of artwork from the competition. The judges were:

Saudi National Day Art Competition. The competition’s opening

Faizi Ghodsi, Graduate Affairs; Edwige Boutry, the KAUST Schools;

Cathrine Buttner summed up the event, stating: “The

reception was held on September 23 in the Al Marsa Restaurant.

Damián San Román Alerigi, Graduate Student Council; Caitlin Clark,

competition was greeted with much enthusiasm as we celebrated

“The mission of the Social Responsibility office is to improve the

Communications Department; and Cathrine Buttner, Saudi Initiatives.

the winners and all those who participated at a spectacular

quality of life for individuals and communities,” explained Dr. Najah

Nine pieces, including the six winning pieces, were selected to be made

exhibition. We look forward to seeing what our KAUST artists

Ashry, Vice President of Saudi Initiatives. “We not only wanted to

into postcards.

have to share with us next year!” 

Saudi Initiatives’ Outreach – Extending Helping Hands to Neighbors “We at KAUST have an opportunity to share the considerable intellectual and social capital of our community members with those around us, particularly our neighboring villages and towns.” - Dr. Ashry

Jiang Tong, art and drawing category; and Belkacem Houari, calligraphy category.

families. Enhanced vocational skills could lead to better jobs and increased economic opportunities. “We encouraged community spirit with the Saudi National Day Art Exhibit and Competition,” she said. “We invited the community to share

were distributed to 1,087 students in nine neighboring elementary,

original photography, drawings, paintings or Arabic calligraphy of

intermediate, and secondary schools in Thuwal and Qadimah during

places, traditions, and Saudi people and culture for an art competition

the first week of September.

celebrating Saudi National Day. We had over 35 submissions and

Ms. Brophy was involved with both projects. She shares, “It was my pleasure to participate in the English program in Thuwal. The girls

a large crowd for the opening reception and announcement of the winners on September 23.”

I met were bright, enthusiastic, and engaging – a teacher’s dream.

And then there are the water heroes, a group of PhD students

Social responsibility is the obligation of individuals, corporations,

When I accompanied the KAUST delegation to deliver school supplies,

from the KAUST student chapter of the International Desalination

and organizations to act in a way that benefits the welfare of society

my summer students ran up to hug me. It was truly a heartwarming

Association. They encourage environmental awareness about the

and the environment. Good citizenship is one of KAUST’s core values.

experience for me.”

conservation of water by targeting KAUST school children. “The

The Social Responsibility Division of Saudi Initiatives spearheads

The KAUST School (TKS) helped neighboring teachers by conducting

program increases awareness of the importance of lowering water

KAUST’s citizenship efforts with the help of the faculty, students,

two workshops for Thuwal teachers, one for 11 top-evaluated male

usage by creating healthy attitudes in the next generation,” said

staff, and community members. “ We at KAUST have an opportunity

teachers and one for 11 top-evaluated female teachers. The KAUST

Mohanned Al-Ghamdi, leader of the group. “We conducted a water

to share the considerable intellectual and social capital of our

Teacher Development Program (TDP) Saudi interns and their master

awareness day in Discovery Square in June. Children played water

community members with those around us, particularly in our

teacher mentors shared knowledge about motivating students,

games and signed a pledge to conserve water.” In one of the games

neighboring villages and towns,” said Dr. Najah Ashry, Vice President

classroom behavior management, and engaging learning activities.

the water heroes asked children to see how little water they could use

of Saudi Initiatives. “We are attempting to accomplish this by focusing

Thuwal teachers left with gifts of teaching aids for the classroom,

to clean dishes with and a sponge. The children loved the games and

on four areas: education, prosperity, community, and environment.”

such as balls and laminated cards to use in motivational games. Dr.

understood the importance of limiting water use, Al-Ghamdi noted.

Several educational programs to inspire the youth of Saudi

Jacqueline Phillips, head of the Teacher Development Programs at

The group is planning a program at TKS in November or December.

Arabia and support life-long learners are underway and have

TKS and creator of the workshops, said, “The workshops were quite

“We will ask the children to measure the amount of water they use

proven very effective and popular. English classes at the Thuwal

successful. The Thuwal teachers were very receptive to the material

to brush their teeth and shower by timing their usage. After they

Female Community Center this summer were well-received.

and methods presented and asked for more of everything in the next

complete their experiments, we will invite them to ask their neighbors

KAUST community member Trish Brophy taught English that could

series of workshops, which will be held in November.”

to do the same and have them distribute water conservation pamphlets.

be used in everyday life to 15 intermediate and secondary female

Another series of workshops called Springboard is slated to take

students for two weeks. The response was positive. “We now have

place for females at the Female Community Center. The workshops

many more students and housewives hoping to take part in classes

are designed to increase confidence, self-esteem, develop goals, and

as well,” said Maha Al-Dubayan, coordinator of KAUST’s Social

motivate participants. The program is a leading UK-based women’s

Responsibility Programs.

development program designed by women, for women. Certified

Another project was the voucher program for school bags.

trainers will conduct the sessions for 10-15 females.

We also will ask them to describe a day without water in an essay” said Al-Ghamdi. The Social Responsibility Group plans other projects with the KAUST students as well. “We have just begun,” said Al-Dubayan. If you are interested in helping Social Responsibility as a volunteer, please complete a form at:

Community members bought vouchers at Tamimi and Tihama stores

“We hope the Female and Male Community Centers will be the


that were used to purchase school supplies. KAUST contributed by

hubs of some of our proposed programs, like courses in computer

For more detailed information about the volunteer program, contact

matching the funds collected and purchased quality school bags that

skills and math and vocational training,” said Al-Dubayan. “These

Al-Dubayan at;

community volunteers helped assemble with the supplies. The bags

courses like ‘Springboard' could help increase the prosperity of local

sa; or call her at 808-3432. 

The Essential Ecology | Continued from p1 In addition to the talk, Dr. Chameau was invited

innovation and prosperity of a region to

endeavor, it has some risk and will require hard

international culture will be the foundation

by Times Higher Education (THE) to share further

several key factors, including a relentless

work and sustained efforts. However, we have

of its success, but ultimately, the greatness of

reflections on the key strategic and leadership

commitment to education and research excellence;

several assets to build upon, such as a great vision

the institution resides in our faculty, staff, and

characteristics behind the success of his previous

having the discipline to focus research; and

and commitment to excellence; opportunities for

students. It is an exciting time to be a part of a

two institutions, Caltech and Georgia Tech. In a

supporting exploration and innovation through

faculty and students to aim high as we support

global research university and it is our shared

brief article he wrote for the THE magazine, titled

diverse industry collaboration.

their research both financially and operationally;

commitment to the KAUST values and our hard

"Air of Innovation," he outlined characteristics and

“As I reflect upon these values, I recognize that

and an international DNA which links our future

work and collaboration that will lead to success

values that stimulate and sustain the innovation

they are basically the same ones KAUST must

to global partnerships with academia and business.

now and in the future.”

ecosystem of great and now global science and

nurture to be a great and global university. KAUST

“KAUST’s resources and infrastructure provide

If you would like to read the speech in its

technology universities. He correlated the degree

is a worthy endeavor with a historic potential

the context for a new center of discovery and

entirety, you may find it at

of institutional effectiveness and impact on the

for Saudi Arabia and the world. As any worthy

innovation; and its collaborative, diverse, and

on the President’s Office page. 


October 2013

PetroBowl 2013 an Enriching Learning Experience for KAUST Students


students’ learning experiences, and also enabled the student chapters to earn credits to become distinguished student chapters. In the first round of the competition, the KAUST team competed against the team from North Dakota State University. Despite a good

Members of the KAUST Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

Exhibition, the leading technical conference in the oil and gas

start, they lost to North Dakota State’s team, which advanced into the

student chapter, represented by KAUST students Klemens

exploration and production world.


Katterbauer, Sultan Safin, Ayrat Abdullin, and Ibrahim Gawish,

The KAUST team successfully qualified in April as the only SPE

The winning team was from the Colorado School of Mines, the

participated in the XII PetroBowl competition on September 30 in

student chapter from Saudi Arabia to secure one of the 36 spots

competition’s defending champion, with second place taken by the

New Orleans, Louisiana, US.

for the competition. Other participating teams came from leading

University of Texas.

PetroBowl pits SPE student chapters from universities around the world against each other to answer a series of technical and

worldwide universities, including Stanford, Texas A&M, TU Delft, and

“We learned a lot from the competition and the conference,” stated Katterbauer after the event. “We are really looking forward

the Colorado School of Mines.

non-technical quiz questions about the oil and gas industry. This

The day before the competition, SPE officers met to take part in

year the event was held at the Annual Technical Conference &

interactive sessions and tutorials. These helped enrich participating

to competing again in next year’s PetroBowl, which will be held in the Netherlands.” 

ACCOLADES Former KAUST MS Student Shortlisted for 2013 ‘Young Engineer of the Year’

Badar Al Saadi

Badar Al Saadi, a 2009 master’s degree

Research & Development center as a Technical Service and Development

greatly honored to have been a finalist for the award. Working at Dow’s

graduate from the Chemical and Biological

Engineer for Refinery and Gas Processing. Although he did not win the

R&D center at KAUST has given me the opportunity to work closely with

Engineering program at KAUST, was

award, he was praised for the nomination by his manager at Dow, Henk

and learn from Dow’s world-class gas treating experts, which has been

shortlisted for the “Young Engineer of the

Pool, Director of R&D for Middle East and Africa.

instrumental in my growth as a professional. This accolade has served

“The engineers we recruit [at Dow] are of the highest caliber,” Pool stated.

Year” category at the Oil & Gas Middle East

“We selected Badar due to his outstanding academic achievement and

Awards 2013.

to further motivate me to leverage my skills and knowledge to become a leader in the region’s energy industry.”

Held in Abu Dhabi on October 9, the awards celebrated outstanding

knowledge in chemical engineering. Badar has made an excellent

“We are very pleased that our partnership with KAUST is

organizations, projects, and people in the upstream and downstream

transition from KAUST into Dow and has had an excellent start

producing the next generation of industry leaders,” Pool concluded.

industry. They attracted nominations from major corporations such

at Dow. He is a tremendous asset to the team and we are very

“Dow’s commitment to community development and supporting

as Saudi Aramco, GE, Maersk Oil, SABIC, and Eni.

pleased by this award nomination.”

local talent is one of the ways our organization is working to

Al Saadi is currently based at KAUST, where he works for Dow’s

Al Saadi also expressed his gratitude for the nomination, stating: “I am

address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” 

fresh creative ideas on how to improve the organization.

MS Student Participates in 2013 Student Leadership Symposium

Sultan Safin

Sultan Safin, a master’s degree student in

Safin is an officer of the KAUST SEG Student Chapter, and

Earth Science & Engineering, was awarded

presented the chapter at the symposium. “I wanted to participate in

“GeoSlam,” a presentation competition for attending students,

a grant from Chevron to participate in the

the SLS to make our chapter more productive and to also become a

was a highlight of the event. Safin won GeoSlam and was awarded

2013 Society of Exploration Geophysicists

better leader,” he explained.

the golden special recognition pin from SEG.

(SEG)/Chevron Student Leadership Symposium (SLS).

During the program, students participated in a series of lectures,

Events like the SLS “are one of the best things we can do,” Safin

presentations, workshops, team competitions, and other activities

stated. “Through these, we … bring together new minds, fresh ideas,

The SLS took place during the SEG’s Annual Meeting in Houston,

to develop leadership and teambuilding skills. They also took part

and innovations for our industry. This will help us succeed today,

Texas, US, from September 21-26. Fifty students from SEG chapters

in a “Strategic Problem Solving Session” with the SEG’s Executive

guaranteeing a sustainable future for tomorrow.” 

from 25 countries around the world attended the event.

Committee, contributing to the development of SEG by providing

Bacterial Footprint of Coral Reef Diseases | Continued from p1 Coral disease patterns mainly develop where

study. So we wanted to target the Indo-Pacific

human influences are heavily concentrated.

and Caribbean basins as well as the Red Sea,”

Different opinions also suggest that a single

says Prof. Voolstra.

pathogen is at the root cause of coral disease. It’s a

Because the Red Sea is very warm, it also serves

generally acknowledged fact that a concentrated

as good barometer for the study of how other coral

touristic environment, where higher incidences of

reefs from around the world will adapt to warming

coral disease are observed, will generate a high

temperatures in years to come. As Prof. Voolstra

level of harmful bacteria, such as from a hotel’s

explains, “The Red Sea experiences conditions that

sewage system. Such factors as higher ocean

are projected to be at other places in the year 2100.

temperature, sewage, and human affluence all

So we assume it’s a natural laboratory or test tube

contribute to increase coral disease incidents.

for what we are going to see in other places. If one

On the other hand, the Red Sea corals along

wants to understand the sustainability or resilience

the shores of Saudi Arabia are remarkably well

of corals in other places, the Red Sea is indeed the

preserved. A major reason for this is that Saudi

perfect place to start a study.”

Arabia’s coastlines have remained undisturbed due to the absence of major international tourism infrastructures. While urban population impacts

Future Applications of Comparative Study

on coral reefs can be observed around the Jeddah region, Saudi Arabia’s reefs are mostly still in

Looking ahead at future projects and applications,

pristine condition. "This is good because these

Prof. Voolstra explained: "Our next step is to sample

corals can serve as a baseline for other studies,"

different coral species from all over the world,

says Prof. Voolstra.

collect the diseased species that show the same signs

For this reason, Prof. Voolstra and one of his PhD students, Chatchanit Arif, travelled to

of disease and then look at the underlying bacterial communities the corals are associated with.”

Thailand to collect samples of diseased corals.

Prof. Voolstra aims to eventually develop a

Prof. Voolstra is also finishing a study in Puerto

marine health chip to monitor coral diseases

Rico. These research findings cover two large

through the use of the technology of 16S rRNA gene

bodies of water: the Indo-Pacific basin and the

microarrays he applied for his comparative study.

Caribbean basin. One of the objectives is to

Such a long-term monitoring device can be useful,

then apply this knowledge to the Red Sea. “Our

for example, to government agencies as they assess

research was always laid out as comparative

the environmental impacts on coral reefs. 

Prof. Voolstra

،‫فإذا أراد أحد دراسة استدامة أو مرونة الشعاب المرجانية‬ ‫فإن البحر األحمر في الواقع هو المكان المثالي لبدء مثل‬ ." ‫هذه الدراسة‬ ‫يقول البرفسور فولستر في مطلع حديثه عن تطلعاته‬ ‫ والتطبيقات المستوحاة من هذه‬،‫ومشاريعه المستقبلية‬ ‫ " خطوتنا التالية هي أخذ عينات من مختلف‬:‫الدراسة‬ ‫ وجمع األنواع‬،‫الشعاب المرجانية في جميع أنحاء العالم‬ ‫المصابة بالمرض التي تظهر عليها نفس االعراض المرضية‬ ." ‫وبعد ذلك ننظر في المجتمعات البكتيرية المرتبطة بها‬ 16S rRNA gene ‫وفي سعيه لالستفادة من تقنية‬ ‫ يهدف‬،‫ التي طبقها في دراسته المقارنة‬microarrays ‫البرفسور فولسترا في نهاية المطاف إلى تطوير شريحة‬ ‫اليكترونية لمراقبة األمراض المرجانية ورصدها لفترة‬ ‫طويلة وتقييم اآلثار البيئية على الشعاب المرجانية‬ ‫والتي يمكن أن تستفيد منها جهات معينة مثل‬  .‫الوكاالت والهيئات الحكومية‬

:‫تتمة الصفحة األولى‬ ‫ولهذا السبب سافر البرفسور فولسترا مع أحد طالبه لدرجة‬ ‫ تشاتشانيت عارف إلى تايالند لجمع عينات من‬،‫الدكتوراه‬ ‫ كما انتهى أيضًا من‬.‫الشعب المرجانية المصابة بالمرض‬ ‫دراسة بحثية أخرى في بورتوريكو شملت دراسة المحيط‬ ‫ وأحد أهداف‬.‫الهندي والهادي وحوض البحر الكاريبي‬ ‫الدراسة هو تطبيق النتائج والمعلومات التي تم التوصل‬ ‫ يقول البرفسور فولسترا " تعمدنا‬.‫اليها على البحر األحمر‬ ‫أن تكون أبحاثنا بصورة دراسة مقارنة بين المحيط الهندي‬ ."‫ فضال عن البحر األحمر‬،‫والهادي وحوض البحر الكاريبي‬ ‫تكيف‬ ّ ‫ فإنه مناسب لدراسة‬،ً‫وألن البحر األحمر دافئ جدا‬ ‫الشعاب المرجانية األخرى من جميع أنحاء العالم على‬ ‫ كما أوضح‬.‫ظاهرة االحتباس الحراري في السنوات القادمة‬ ‫ "يمر البحر األحمر اآلن‬: ‫البرفسور فولسترا ذلك بقوله‬ ‫بظروف من المتوقع أن تحدث في أماكن أخرى في العالم‬ ‫ أو بمثابة‬،ً‫ ولهذا نعتبره مختبرًا طبيعيا‬.2100 ‫في عام‬ .‫أنبوبة اختبار لما قد يحصل في بحار أخرى في المستقبل‬



October 2013

A Primer on Molecular Biology

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine provides an example of how these fields are related to each other. Yale's Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences James E. Rothman, UC Berkeley's Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology

How we understand life at its most fundamental level

Randy W. Schekman, and Stanford's Professor of Molecular and

Advances in molecular biology impact our lives in many ways.

has helped elucidate the inner workings of the cell’s transport

For example, molecular biology has been vital in shaping the

system, which uses vesicles, small, membrane-bound “bubbles,”

latest progress in preventive medicine and vaccine production;

as packaging for molecules to be transported within and outside

pinpointing the accuracy of drug treatment and delivery; and

the cell. Their discoveries have shed light on how cells use their

engineering plants that are drought and salt tolerant.

cargo system to precisely deliver molecules to the right place at

Molecular biologists study living things at the most basic,

Cellular Physiology Thomas C. Südhof were jointly awarded

DNA Polymerase

the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their research

the right time.

molecular level, which forms the foundation of life. Because there

Their collective research in the fields of cellular and molecular

are not defined lines separating the related disciplines of molecular

biology and cellular physiology provides a wealth of evidence for

biology, biochemistry, and genetics, molecular biologists employ a

a new model of traffic inside a cell. The model offers scientists

wide range of techniques common to all these fields to carry out

a way to predict and even influence that traffic. This is of major

their research.

importance for different physiological processes where correct

At KAUST, the interdisciplinary nature of this study is celebrated.

The Beacon

Molecular biology is the study of the molecular underpinnings of the processes of replication, transcription, and translation

Replication (DNA->DNA)


Transcription (DNA->RNA)

RNA Polymerase


control of vesicle transport and fusion is critical; if it goes wrong,


Protein (RNA->Protein)

a number of diseases can result, such as nervous and immune

Relationship to other biological sciences


system disorders and diabetes. Fig. 1: The central dogma is the passage of information from DNA to RNA to protein through the processes of replication, transcription, and translation.

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

of the genetic material, and other areas of cellular function.

In addition to health and medicine, molecular biology

Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in humans; this

The central dogma of molecular biology illustrates the flow of

techniques have applications in agriculture. These techniques

vitamin is essential for humans, and vitamin A deficiency-

genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein (see Fig. 1).

can be used in combination with genetic engineering to produce

related diseases affect hundreds of thousands of children in developing countries each year.

Biochemistry is the study of the chemical substances and

new traits in crops. The science behind engineered crops exhibits

vital processes occurring in living organisms. Biochemists study

the benefits of these crops’ drought tolerance and increased

the role, function, and structure of biomolecules, including the

yield, and a reduced need for pesticide use, for example.

chemistry behind biological processes and the synthesis of

The co-inventor of Golden Rice, Professor Ingo Potrykus will visit KAUST as part of the upcoming 2014 Winter Enrichment

Genetic engineering can also be used to produce biofortified

Program (WEP). The WEP program, running from January

crops like Golden Rice. Golden Rice, a new variety of Oryza sativa

12 – 30, will host a keynote lecture by Prof. Potrykus as part of

Genetics is the study of the effect of organisms’ genetic

rice, has genes inserted into the rice genome which cause the

its celebration of the UN International Year of Family Farming.

differences. Geneticists scrutinize the function and composition

production and accumulation of beta-carotene in the grain

Look for more details about his lecture in forthcoming issues

of genes and study organisms’ genomes.

(edible part) of rice, producing the grains’ “golden” color.

of The Beacon! 

biologically active molecules.

Collaborative Work on Stress-Tolerant Crop Plants drought, heat, high salt, and the effects of bacteria and viruses,”

N-terminally truncated SE protein to stimulate DCL1 activity

says Prof. Hamdan. Understanding miRNA biogenesis is very

suggests that it does so directly and that RNA binding is not

important because “it could greatly contribute to modifying crop

required for this stimulation,” the researchers state.

plants to confer stress tolerance, leading to an increase in crop yields and productivity.” Prof. Fedoroff’s lab developed the first in vitro miRNA processing system, starting with outlining the genetic definition of miRNA

Profs. Nina Fedoroff and Samir Hamdan

manner,” Prof. Hamdan says. “We propose that this could provide a potential point for regulation of miRNA processing.” He and his team were “surprised with the complexity of the

molecular characterization with Prof. Fedoroff,” Prof. Hamdan states.

interaction of SE with RNA and DCL1 because it involves RNA-

The researchers examined miRNA production in Arabidopsis

promoted protein conformational changes and switches,” he says.

thaliana, a model plant often used in molecular genetics studies. In

“This tells us that decoding the molecular mechanism of miRNA

Arabidopsis, the production of miRNA is controlled by an enzyme

biogenesis is going to be difficult and exciting future research.”

called DICER-LIKE 1 (DCL1) and two other proteins, HYPONASTIC

professors Samir Hamdan, Assistant Professor of Bioscience, and


Nina Fedoroff, Distinguished Professor of Bioscience, has resulted

By examining the mechanism that produces primary miRNA (pri-

in a paper published recently in the journal Nucleic Acids Research

miRNA), the precursor of miRNA, the researchers discovered that SE


is integral to the processing of pri-miRNA by DCL1.

crop plants to better tolerate stressful conditions.

SE becomes integral for DCL1 activity in a substrate-specific

processing pathways. “I feel very fortunate to work on miRNA’s

A significant collaboration between the labs of KAUST

gkt667.full.pdf). The paper describes research that could help modify

“Our work shows that under physiologically relevant conditions,

“SE is a conserved gene that plays a critical role in the biogenesis

“This research could greatly contribute to modifying crop plants to confer stress tolerance, leading to an increase in crop yields and productivity.” – Prof. Hamdan

of miRNA in both plants and animals,” says Prof. Hamdan. “In our

“In collaboration with Prof. Fedoroff’s lab, my lab started a major

study we have provided the first characterization of the interactions

Collaboration with Prof. Fedoroff’s lab is important because

initiative two years ago to significantly increase our contribution to

of SE with RNA and with DCL1 and the mechanism by which SE

it brings together two “powerful complementary experimental

the University’s four main research thrusts of food, water, energy,

promotes the activity of DCL1.”

approaches at KAUST,” says Prof. Hamdan. Prof. Fedoroff’s

and the environment,” explains Prof. Hamdan. Prof. Hamdan

By using highly purified proteins, the researchers found that DCL1

lab provides expertise in growing plant suspension cells and

and his team began investigating the biogenesis at the molecular

cleaves pri-miRNA, but SE “substantially enhances” the processing

conducting plant genetics and cell biology studies, while Prof.

level of a specific type of RNA (ribonucleic acid) called microRNA

of the pri-miRNA, interacting directly with DCL1 and RNA. SE

Hamdan’s lab “is expert in applying unique approaches that

(miRNA) in plants.

mainly interacts with RNA using its conserved N-terminal region,

combine conventional biochemical and biophysical techniques

the end of the protein that terminates in a free amine (-NH2) group,

with the real-time observation of single molecule imaging

with “minimal contribution” from other regions.

techniques to study the mechanisms of nucleic acid-binding

In cells, genetic information is “transcribed” from DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) to messenger RNA (mRNA), and is then “translated” into proteins, which carry out certain functions. miRNAs

“Both SE’s N-terminal region and its conserved zinc finger

are short, non-coding RNA sequences that function by binding

domain, a protein structural motif, are required for the interaction

In the future, Prof. Hamdan hopes that he and his team will be

to specific sequences in “target” mRNAs, acting to regulate their

of SE with DCL1 in the absence of RNA,” explains Prof. Hamdan.

able to provide molecular images of miRNA biogenesis at the single

translation and usually silencing them.

When DCL1 is bound to RNA, only SE lacking its N-terminal

molecule level with high spatial and temporal resolution. Then they

“miRNA is central throughout plant development and in a number

sequence can bind to DCL1 to stimulate processing, but if SE

may be able to fully “decode what appears to be a highly complex

of responses to stressful environments, including responses to

lacks its zinc finger domain, it cannot bind. “[T]he ability of the

and dynamic mechanism,” he states. 

multiprotein complexes,” he explains.


October 2013


Prof. Liming Xiong and colleagues examine plants grown in the laboratory at KAUST.

Controlling Plant Stress Response and Stress Tolerance “Plants cannot talk,” says Liming Xiong, Associate Professor of Bioscience. “So how do you

RS41, in the nuclear speckles. HOS5’s correct subnuclear localization depends on FRY2/CPL1;

know whether they are happy or stressed?”

If FRY2/CPL1 is absent or non-functional, HOS5 is mislocalized to the nucleoplasm. Through

Prof. Xiong and his colleagues Tao Chen, Peng Cui, Hao Chen, Shahjahan Ali, and Shudong

genome-wide RNA sequencing, the researchers also found that the interactions of HOS5, FRY2/

Zhang from the Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering examined

CPL1, and the two splicing factors regulate the pre-mRNA processing and splicing of stress-

this question in a paper recently published in the journal PLoS Genetics (http://www.plosgenetics.

responsive genes.


When the researchers examined hos5 mutants under salt stress conditions, they found that

“Plants, like humans, do respond to stress by activating the expression of many stress-responsive

mRNA export from the nucleus was affected and excessive mRNA accumulated in the cells’ nuclei.

genes,” Prof. Xiong explains. “Products produced from these genes can mitigate the damage

Mutations in both hos5 and the CTD phosphatase caused the mis-splicing of stress-responsive

produced by stressful conditions and enhance stress tolerance. The

genes, affecting the plants’ stress tolerance. RNA-seq analyses of the

response is highly regulated, and the accurate processing of the

“Understanding how plants sense expressed genes is critical for plant stress resistance. Understanding stress and activate stress responsive how plants sense stress and activate stress responsive genes is genes is instrumental for bioengineering instrumental for bioengineering stress-resistant crop plants.” stress-resistant crop plants.” Through studying the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the - Prof. Xiong

mutants under salt stress showed retention of introns, nucleotides that are

researchers identified a protein called HOS5 (High Osmotic Stress

splicing factors and RNA-binding proteins. These help in the regulation

Gene Expression 5) that binds to RNA (ribonucleic acid). HOS5 is

of the processing of transcripts that deal with different stresses in the

a type of protein called a K homology (KH)-domain RNA-binding protein which “plays important roles in stress gene regulation and stress tolerance,” the researchers state.

removed by splicing before a final RNA product is produced. Results of the study show that HOS5 is a “novel factor involved in splicing and stress response,” state the researchers. They believe that FRY2/ CPL1 may assist in the recruitment of RNA processing factors such as

environment (such as salt stress, for example). “We were surprised to discover that several seemingly unrelated protein components in stress

In the plant cell, HOS5 localizes to nuclear speckles, nuclear domains where splicing factors that

signal transduction all came together in this study,” says Prof. Xiong. “We discovered not only

“splice” pre-messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) are stored and modified. In cells, genetic information

several important regulators of plant stress signaling and stress tolerance, but our results also

flows from DNA to RNA to protein, and the maturation process of messenger RNA (mRNA) in the

showed us that there may be an unexpected role of CTD phosphatase in co-transcriptional pre-

nucleus is an important step in the eventual production of proteins.

mRNA processing. This role may also apply in other organisms, as well.”

The researchers discovered that HOS5 interacts with FIERY2/RNA polymerase II (RNAP

Prof. Xiong and his team hope that the study will “help people see how smart plants are, and how

II) carboxyl terminal domain (CTD) phosphatase-like 1, or FRY2/CPL1. RNA polymerase is an

advances in technology have enabled us to make plants ‘tell’ us about their ‘feelings’ under stress

important enzyme in the process of transcription, during which RNA is produced from DNA. “This

conditions such as drought and salt stress,” he states. In addition, he notes that knowledge of the

interaction is mediated by the first double-stranded RNA-binding domain of FRY2/CPL1 and the

importance of posttranscriptional processing of stress-responsive genes will enable the researchers

KH domains of HOS5,” state the researchers.

to “develop new approaches to engineer plant stress resistance in the future.” 

Both HOS5 and FRY2/CPL1 were found to interact with two novel splicing factors, RS40 and

Workshop on Seawater Intakes and Outfalls

environmental issues with people from other academic and research institutions.” For instance, Prof. Bleninger specializes in the design and modeling of outfalls in the environment. This aspect examines the process through which power plants or desalination plants outflow water back into the ocean. As water drawn in to cool power plants, the resulting outflow returns heated water to the ocean, which can be harmful to the marine environment. On the other hand, the outflow of desalination plants returns heavily concentrated brine extracted from the

Two of KAUST’s research centers, the Red Sea Research Center and the Water Desalination and

intake seawater back into the ocean.

Reuse Center, recently collaborated to host a workshop on seawater intakes and outfalls. The

“That’s why in some places around the world desalination plants are put right next to power

workshop, which focused on intake and outfall processes for both water desalination and wastewater

plants,” Prof. Jones explains. “The advantage of a desalination plant working with a power plant

management, was attended by an international group of 13 academic and industry specialists,

is that the brine discharge can be mixed with the heated discharge. It’s a way to disperse the water

including three keynote speakers: Prof. Tobia Bleninger from Federal University of Paran´a in Brazil,

in hopefully a more effective way,” he adds.

Prof. Philip Roberts from Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr. Donald Anderson, who works as senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US. Prof. Burton Jones from the BESE Division’s Marine Science program explained that the workshop “brought together people who are working in industry on designs, technology, and

The primary advantage and potential result of the recent Seawater Intakes and Outfalls Workshop is that it brought together people from academia and industry who may not typically work with each other, but whose fields of expertise, when merged together, can lead to improvements in current water treatment approaches. 



October 2013

The Beacon

From Food Scraps to organic mulch

to Phothe of nth mo

The proper disposal of food waste is a

To optimize use and share best practice

major environmental challenge for many

methodologies, the Environmental team has been

communities around the world. In light of

in contact with the University at Buffalo, New

limited recycling infrastructure within the

York (US) as it has deployed a similar FWDM.

region, this has also been a challenge for KAUST Waste Management Services.

The FWDM uses a combination of metal rotating blades and high temperatures to

In May, KAUST Facilities and Community

physically break down the food waste, remove

deployed the Food Waste Dehydration Machine

moisture, and reduce the overall volume by

(FWDM), an environmentally friendly technology

approximately 85%.

that can treat up to 200 kg of food waste in one

As the temperature in the machine reaches a

12-hour cycle. This creates approximately 30 kg

peak of 180˚F, any harmful bacteria are removed

of nutrient-rich, organic, mulch-like material.

to ensure a safe, dry, dark, mulch-like material

“The use of this technology demonstrates the

rich in organics and nutrients is produced every

University’s commitment to sustainability,” says

12 hours. This material is then used on KAUST

Dr. Mohamed Omar, KAUST’s Environmental

plants and flowers.

Protection Manager. “We would like our

Soft Services Specialist Mohammed Al Shawaf,

Raghu Jana, a postdoctoral fellow in the Numerical Porous Media SRI Center, captured this

community to be a living laboratory of

who is responsible for managing the FWDM,

photo of lighting found across the parks within our community. “I was drawn to these globes

environmental well-being. The deployment of

notes that 4,400 kg of food waste was recovered

because they look like replicas of planets. I was amazed at how much it resembles the moon.”

the FWDM is in line with the recently approved

over a three week period. This generated

University Environmental Stewardship Policy. We

approximately 900 kg of soil enhancement

are not only thinking about recycling, as waste

material. “By deploying technologies such as the

minimization and avoidance are key elements of

FWDM,” says Al Shawaf, “KAUST will soon lead

KAUST’s Environmental Stewardship approach.”

the recycling sector within the Kingdom.” 

Would you like to see your photo published in The Beacon? The editorial team carefully reviews submissions and chooses the photo that best captures our attention. Keep them coming!  Email your photos to

‘Music Friends’ Gather to Enjoy First Sunset Concert of Fall Semester A large group of KAUST community members turned out to hear beautiful music performed by the University’s talented musicians at the first Sunset Concert of the 2013-14 academic year, which was held in the University Library on September 29. The concert featured performances by KAUST MS and PhD students, faculty members, staff, and teachers from the KAUST Schools (TKS). They presented works including classical pieces by Antonin Dvorák, Franz Schubert, and Giovanni Pergolesi. Master’s student

KAUST’s talented Sunset Concert musicians pose after the concert on September 29.

Istikiantsoa Randrianantenaina from the Electrical Engineering program sang Pergolesi’s baroque aria, Se tu m’ami, se sospiri, accompanied by David Keyes, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science, on the piano.

Musicians also treated the audience to several pieces with a more contemporary, world-music flair.

of the lute family, and sang an original composition called “Still Waiting.”

“I am really excited about the musical opportunities at KAUST,”

Yuxin Chen, an MS student from the Computer Science program,

“The Sunset Concert is the most joyful and relaxing moment of

said new community member and K2 Teacher Melanie Agustina,

and Andrew Yip, a PhD student from Applied Mathematics and

the month for me,” said Steffi Guan, a PhD student in the Center

who performed J.C. Schultze’s Suite No 1 in F Major with Wendy

Computational Science, performed “Summer,” a violin and piano

for Desert Agriculture. Guan performed Dvorák’s Slavonic Dance,

Keyes, Coordinator of Arts Programming, and Eduardo Regula, TKS

piece from the 1999 Japanese movie Kikujirô no natsu. Marcos

op. 72, no. 2 with Prof. Keyes on the piano. “I enjoy nothing more

ECC Performing Arts Teacher. “I look forward to more opportunities

Bracchitta, English Language and Writing Specialist from Graduate

than performing with music friends and sharing music with the

to perform in the future,” Agustina said.

Affairs, played the charango, a small Andean stringed instrument

community during the beautiful sunset.” 

My University Claire Morris

Although not a "founder" of KAUST, Claire explains, “As many

He first heard about KAUST from his MS thesis supervisor, Dr.

Claire first arrived at KAUST in May 2010

‘early birds’ will probably reiterate, we all feel a great sense of joy,

Andrea Fratalocchi, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, who

and currently works as a Technical Writer with

ownership, and protection towards KAUST; just cycling to and from

invited him to visit the University and suggested he become a PhD

the Planning Office team in the Facilitates and

work every day on roads that were not built, living in a house that was

student here.

Community department.

still just a drawing, working in a building that was just a shell when

“On my first visit to KAUST, I was stunned by the beauty of

Before coming to KAUST, Claire was working in London. Although she

I first started – to now, stuns me at times. The progress of KAUST to

the place and by the incredible resources provided to students and

was born in England, she spent her childhood in Nigeria and Namibia,

date is nothing but remarkable and this is down to every individual,

researchers,” Juan says. “I immediately realized that the University

and has lived and worked in Australia and Thailand. When asked about

every hour, every thought of us all.

and the PRIMALIGHT group led by Prof. Fratalocchi were the perfect

her move to Saudi Arabia, she shares, “I have always been curious about

“Overall, KAUST is a living, breathing entity that is the standard

Saudi Arabia and its people. This was the perfect opportunity for me to

bearer for the ‘one-world’ philosophy, living proof that borders and

Since beginning his studies at KAUST in September 2012, Juan

meet and immerse myself in the fascinating traditions of the country, as

nationalities are irrelevant when the goals are noble and global. My

has been researching phenomena involving light propagation in

well as be part of such a unique and groundbreaking center of learning.”

experiences at KAUST and the wonderful friends that I have made will

complex and disordered systems. He hopes his work, which involves

always remain with me.” 

collaborations with researchers from other top universities in the

Since her arrival, Claire has also embarked on her own learning journey and credits KAUST for “unleashing an otherwise undiscovered passion for learning.” She is enrolled in a distance learning master’s program through York University, UK. On campus, Claire notes that she has tried new things that she would have never considered back in the UK, from sailing (and screaming at each turn), to paddle boarding, to

combination for a successful and enriching PhD program.”

world, will result in a number of high-impact journal publications in

Juan Sebastian Totero Gongora

the near future. Juan has been most impressed with the Arab culture and hospitality he has encountered in Saudi Arabia, which he says “are precious, and I will keep them forever in my heart.” He also

joining the photo club, and "spinning!" “The common denominator for

Born in Colombia, Juan Sebastian Totero Gongora

appreciates the international community at KAUST, which has

each has been and always will be great friends and laughter - lots and

grew up in Italy, graduating from Sapienza University in Rome in

allowed him to “get in touch with so many different cultures and

lots of laughter!”

2012 with an MS degree in Theoretical Physics.

people from all over the world.” 

2013 October Beacon