Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life is Full of Changes

It is hard to believe that the first KAUST masters student graduation and commencement is tomorrow! An impressive majority (more than 50 percent) of these graduating students have chosen not to leave, but to continue their education at KAUST this coming year - either by beginning a thesis project or going straight to Ph.D. research.

Other students are pursuing diverse and exciting employment opportunities around the globe. Saudi Arabian companies, such as SABIC and ARAMCO, have offered jobs to Saudis and non-Saudis alike, and even to the female students; other students will be working at high-caliber multinational corporations such as Dow Chemical and Proctor and Gamble; and, not surprisingly, an impressive number of students are beginning to join start-ups or to create a new company with the help of KAUST's seed fund to further an idea or discovery which was made here. Whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad, pursuing a Ph.D. or a career, the graduates have an exciting future.

In other news, the labs are looking much better. This Professor is proudly posing in a stocked biological laboratory. Reagents are now arriving within weeks rather than months, and equipment has steadily cleared procurement and customs - a huge leap ahead from only one year ago when almost all research materials seemed to be held-up indefinitely by a disorganized procurement supply chain and a tight-fisted national customs office.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Return to KAUST!

It is good to be back at KAUST and among friends after many months away. A lot has changed since I left the KAUST campus six months ago - for one thing, construction on campus is significantly reduced, and most of the fences have been removed as work is completed. The sound of birds is now more common than jackhammers here.

This is a view of campus from the oposite side of the Harbor, which was previously inaccessible because of construction.

The Yacht Club (a dining area) is finished, and new spiffy signs help to direct new members of the community.

The Yacht club sports an impressive mural on one side wall.

More random art: this one looks like it is inspired by a Norwegian longboat.

A new venue for events in the same area.

Hibiscus flowers grow where there was only sand before.

Another piece of weird art - perhaps an ostrich?

There has definitely been improvement... and the most important changes are not in the buildings.

While I was away...

Life has been busy - and blessed - since returning to the USA in May. I spent some time with my wife in New York, got a job as a process engineer for a start-up company called e2e Materials, and have generally just been living life.

Just because I have entered the work force, my education has not stopped. Being part of a dynamic and growing company and working to engineer a process for material which has never been produced at scale has been challenging and rewarding.

On another note - my home has had snow all month. There was quite a bit on the ground when I left... Saudi Arabia's mild, warm winter is a pretty nice break for now.

The Last Dive Trip

I just recently ran across these old photos from the last dive trip I made in May with KAUST friends. This was one of the most beautiful yet, but halfway through it my camera batteries died so I only have these three to show for it.

Diving is the one activity I have missed most since being away, and I don't think I will get another chance to go again.

The coolest thing I saw (which I do not have a picture of) was two clown fish swimming at me and all around me to distract me from their tiny little baby in a nearby sea anemone.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Home Again!

It was nice to come back home to Texas. After meeting the new students in College Station, I met up with my wife and we whirlwind tour visiting my parents in Houston, two friends who were married in Victoria (below) my grandparents near Corpus Christi and my grandparents and Carissa's parents and grandmother who are from Waco and the College Station area.

Congratulations, Steve and Amanda!

It was fun hanging out with the old folks in Texas, and a blessing too. Love y'all lots!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Next KAUST Class

Just two days after completing my last final, I was whisked away to College Station in my home state of Texas to help with the KAUST Pre-Departure Orientation for next year's class of graduate students who are currently in the USA and Canada.

Here they are! This is only a small fraction of the incoming students, there will also be orientations in London, Mexico City, Beijing, Cairo, and Jeddah.

The new class endured two full days of informative speaking and question sessions hosted by KAUST administrators Najah Ashry and Faizi Ghodsi, KAUST professors Michael Berumen and Alyn Rockwood, KAUST students Justine and myself, and a keynote address from MIT Professor / KAUST Investigator Ahmed Ghoniem shown lecturing above.

Congratulations to the new incoming class! Your accomplishments will be many, I am sure, and the new challenges will be different than those of the founding class which I was privileged to be part of. I look forward to hearing and reading more from you as your adventure unfolds...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

I am sorry I haven't had much time to post, but life really isn't that exciting these days. I am working long hours to finish the final assignments of the semester: two research review papers and three finals.

My research paper topics are:

"Comparing membrane bioreactors with conventional activated sludge treatment for organic micropollutant removal"


"State of the art wastewater treatment and biological degradation mechanisms for microbial fuel cells"

My final exams will be:

Reaction Engineering
Physical and Chemical Treatment Processes
Clean Fossil Fuels and Biofuels

Sounds exciting, huh?

I took a few hours for lunch with friends and a basketball game yesterday, and I plan to play a little frisbee this evening, but life at KAUST is mostly work right now... I am learning a lot.

I am not the only busy student. One of my mechanical engineering friends complained of four engineering projects that would be due in the next two weeks, the computer scientists are always programming something, and many of the other biologists and marine scientists are also writing frantically these days.

Busy times.