KACST conducted 193 research projects on nanotechnology in four years

Updated 12 November 2012
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KACST conducted 193 research projects on nanotechnology in four years

RIYADH: During a period of four years ending in 2011, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) conducted 193 research projects in the field of nanotechnology. These cost SR 574 million, said KACST President Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsuwaiyel yesterday.
Alsuwaiyel inaugurated the second Saudi International Nanotechnology Conference at KACST headquarters in Riyadh.
More than 300 delegates including speakers from various parts of the world took part in the conference.
Between 2007 and 2011, KACST initiated partnerships with local and international bodies and supported researchers to build partnerships with local and international organizations. It has been cooperating Saudi universities such as King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) and Princess Nora University, said Alsuwaiyel.
He indicated that nanotechnology has recently attracted the attention of experts for its scientific and business advantages that could benefit society in areas such as medicine, energy, electronics, and the pharmaceutical industry.
KACST has taken practical steps to introduce this technology through the National Plan of Science and Innovation (NPSI) with research findings of strategic importance to the Kingdom, he said.
He added that KACST has set up a national center for nanotechnology to act as a link between governmental and industrial sectors to meet the nation’s needs.
Since 2007, KACST has undertaken infrastructure projects for this technology including laboratories, researches and had also invited Saudi universities to attend specialized courses on nanotechnology, he noted.
Alsuwaiyel referred to applications KACST has developed, including technologies related to solar cells used in water desalination technology, which fall within the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on water desalination using solar energy.
KACST set up a unit to produce 3-megawatt flat solar panels at the solar village in Al-Aiyyna, where it began production as from the year 2011 with a production capacity of 12,000 panels per year.
He said KACST aims to set up a world class plant to produce solar panels with a capacity of 120 megawatt in Al-Aiyyna solar village on an area of 75,000 square meters.
KACST researchers applied for registration of 49 patents on nanotechnology. It aims to build a generation of technicians and researchers equipped with the latest technologies to run and implement such projects.
With the help of nanotechnology, plans are underway to have a high-speed camera to monitor different transformations that occur on cancer cells compared to healthy cells, and to take advantage of this feature to distinguish between carcinogens and other cells, said Alsuwaiyel.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”