-By Rose Gregorio
On March 1, KAUST held an open house for a group of professors, lecturers and students from Taif University, Department of Computer Science (Female Section). Part of their tour of KAUST included a visit to the CBRC labs, where representatives from three research groups talked about their research.
Ph.D. students Afaque Momin, Rayan Naser, Safia Aljedani and Abdullah Aldehaiman from the Structural Biology and Engineering Group (StruBE) led by Associate Professor Stefan Arold, explained how they express proteins in bacterial cells and purify them using different types of chromatography. They then showed the group how they use the purified protein to perform biophysical experiments such as Isothermal Calorimetry (ITC), Microscale Thermophoresis (MST), Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM), Fluorescence anisotropy.
Research Specialist Mohammed Alarawi and Ph.D. student Amani Almaabadi from the Comparative Genomics and Genetics Lab (CGG) led by Distinguished Professor Takashi Gojobori, talked about the CGG lab's main research areas of developmental biology and metagenomics. They also explained how they conduct experiments on DNA isolation and sequencing environmental and extreme environmental microbes for novel genes and functions.
John Archer, Principal Research Scientist and Principal Investigator of the Microbial Technology Group (MTG), along with his Ph.D. student Yi Mei Ng, talked about their work in cultivating and developing microalgae and cyanobacteria that are isolated from the Red Sea. They showed the group colorful flasks and glass tubes containing samples of cyanobacteria and explained that apart from cultivation, they also do a lot sequencing and analytical chemistry work using KAUST Core Labs facilities.
After the lab tour, two professors of Computer Science, Professor Panos Kalnis and CBRC Assistant Professor Robert Hoehndorf, talked to the group about their research. Many students expressed their interest in applying to KAUST to pursue graduate studies.
Two current members of CBRC were teaching assistants at Taif University before joining KAUST. Maha Thafar is a Ph.D. student majoring in Computer Science under Professor Vladimir Bajic. She worked at Taif University for five years teaching courses such as Introduction to Computer Science, Structured Programming and Artificial Intelligence. In 2012, she left to pursue a Master's degree at Kent State University in Ohio, U.S.A. before coming back to Saudi Arabia to continue her Ph.D. studies at KAUST in 2016.
Azza Althagafi is a Master's student in Computer Science under Assistant Professor Robert Hoehndorf. She first heard about KAUST through the news and social media. She visited the campus twice before applying—once in the last year of her Bachelor's degree and another in her first year as a teaching assistant at Taif University. She believes that applying to KAUST is not as difficult as others may think. She says, "All you need is a clear vision of what you want to do, fulfillment of degree requirements, and more importantly, very strong confidence in yourself and ability for pursuing your dreams until they come true!"