240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program

240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program
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Updated 28 August 2020

240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program

240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program
  • ‘Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose’

JEDDAH: A Saudi space education program for students has proved a stellar success after attracting more than 240,000 online participants.
The “9 Space Trips” initiative, launched by the Saudi Space Authority (SSA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, was run during the summer to promote space science and its related fields among middle and high school students.
The program included a variety of space-orientated topics and scientific experiments aimed at youth wishing to learn more about the sector.
Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the SSA’s chief executive, noted the large number of students who had taken part on different interactive platforms and pointed out that through the Space Generations Program (Ajyal) for the development of human capital, the authority aimed to provide an inspirational education environment to encourage the Kingdom’s space scientists of the future.
To help achieve the program’s strategic goals, a number of projects and initiatives have been designed to empower young people to lead and develop the sector. The Ministry of Education is the SSA’s strategic partner, and the “9 Space Trips” summer program marked the start of a joint cooperation project between the two bodies.
Over a three-week period, it included nine virtual and interactive trips on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays lasting two hours per session.
Program participant Mahmoud Al-Hamoud, a 12th grade student from Jeddah, told Arab News that prior taking part he knew little about space, but the experience had enriched his knowledge on the subject.
“Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose. Before, I thought that there was only one galaxy, the Milky Way. We were told that there are 12 trillion galaxies, and this reflects the greatness of the Creator,” he said.
Al-Hamoud added that the program taught students how they could become the astronauts of the future and what NASA’s requirements were for becoming a space pilot. “We also learned about the training courses that astronauts receive, in addition to other interesting information about space.”
Although planning to study pharmacology, Al-Hamoud said that participating in the “9 Space Trips” project had made him think seriously about space travel and possibly pursuing a career as a space scientist.
He added that the program mirrored Saudi Arabia’s ambition to produce a generation that could further space exploration.
“The Saudi Space Authority and the Ministry of Education offered an inspiring program that will pave the way for many ambitious students to study space and contribute to international efforts to discover the outer world.”

Saudi women making their mark in science

Saudi women making their mark in science
Updated 19 January 2021

Saudi women making their mark in science

Saudi women making their mark in science

JEDDAH: Just 30 percent of women worldwide work in science, but Saudis are challenging this long-standing trend.
Women represent 58 percent of university students in Saudi Arabia, with many studying in science, technology and engineering and furthering their careers with studies overseas.
In a report by the Saudi Education Ministry, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology, mathematics, statistics, and physics.
Universities and research centers have adopted measures to support the inclusion of female scientists.
Ambitious, driven and facing challenges along the way to their success, here are the Saudi women scientists who have made a mark in the field for their extraordinary work.
Suha Kayum
Research engineer

With a career spanning 10 years, Kayum — a research engineer with Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center — was tasked with accelerating the evolution of software algorithms to enhance Aramco’s reservoir simulator, which helped the company cut costs.
Kayum was a developer for the company’s in-house basin and seismic simulators. In 2016, she designed and received a patent for an algorithm that enabled the first 1-billion cell basin simulation run.

Dr. Elaf Ahmed
Lab scientist

With a keen research interest in nano-organisms, Ahmed’s main focus while conducting postdoctoral work at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology was synthesis of environmental nano materials using electrochemically active biofilms.
She later joined the company’s Oil and Gas Treatment Division at Aramco’s Research and Development Center.
Her main focus at the division is to conduct research projects for water treatment technologies and find new ways to treat water found in oil and gas reservoirs.

Dr. Ilham Abuljadayel

In what could be one of the most profound achievements by a Saudi scientist, Dr. Ilham discovered the process of retrodifferentiation, a method also known as retrograde differentiation that treats blood diseases.
A common process for the maintenance of cell integrity against damaging agents, Dr. Ilham applied her findings in the first preclinical study in 2000 in collaboration with George Washington Medical Center, US, in two animal models of human diseases to study the utility of retrodifferentiated stem cells.
Her research has helped treat 390 patients with diseases ranging from sickle cell anaemia, multiple sclerosis, thalassaemia, and hepatitis C among others.
Dr. Abeer Al-Olayan
Petroleum scientist

With an academic and industrial background in various fields of chemistry spanning over 20 years, Dr. Abeer is a research scientist at Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center and is responsible for leading its chemicals development initiative.
As a fellow at MIT, she submitted a fellowship research abstract that focuses on reducing dependency on food-based chemicals to tackle drilling and subsurface challenges. She has 10 registered patents with the US Patent Office for the development of methods, materials and compositions in drilling and fluid transfer.

Dr. Malak Abed Althagafi

Diagnosed with a rare genetic disease at a young age, Althagafi got a first glimpse of what her future could be during her treatment. Her educational path started with the study of genetic diseases in children and led to molecular pathology before she focused on surgical oncology, molecular genetics and neuropathology.
Dr. Malak is one of the few American board-certified molecular neuropathologists in the world and has conducted research that focuses on decoding genetic mutations in tumors, specifically brain tumors in children.
She became part of the Saudi Human Genome Program in 2014. Her clinical and research interests are mainly in surgical oncology, pathology, molecular genetics pathology and neuropathology, especially its application for treating brain cancers.

Dr. Hind Al-Johani
Scientist of physical chemistry

Her research interest is in nano-catalysis. In 2017, this Saudi scientist discovered that by using the simple molecule of citrate ions (from citric acid) you could stabilize and control the structure of gold nanoparticles.
Using this new discovery, the findings showed that gold can carry drugs through the body without chemical side effects. Attaching antibodies can guide the nanoparticles to specific cells that need treatment. Her findings have had an impact on environmental chemistry where it may also be used for water purification or methods for capturing CO2 emissions.

Dr. Nouf Al-Numair
Molecular bioinformatics scientist
Dubbed the DNA decoder, her research focuses on predicting the early emergence of diseases through genetic mutations.
She has achieved this by merging molecular genetics and computer programming to predict the effects of mutations and provide patients with a personalized medical approach to treatment.
Using more than seven programming languages to analyze human genes, she has successfully published a number of papers with the findings.
Dr. Nouf pursued her career in STEM and is the first Saudi scientist to major in molecular genetics and programming biological information.