The KAUST Microelectronics Winter Camp: Inspiring a passion for research

KAUST Microelectronics Winter Camp students pose with their CEMSE Student Internship Specialist, creating a memorable moment during their internship experience

By David Murphy

On Thursday, March 2, the KAUST Microelectronics Winter Camp (MEWC) research program for 2023 came to a close. A selection of undergraduates and master’s students from around the world participated in the six-week program, which began Sunday, January 22.

As MEWC participants, students received full support throughout their stay at KAUST, including access to the University’s facilities, faculty and research staff.

Along with attending technical workshops and improving their research and presentation skills, MEWC students participated in a hands-on research project focusing on key microelectronics research areas. KAUST faculty and experts mentored the students' research projects, which benefited from state-of-the-art on-campus tools, including micro, nanofabrication and additive manufacturing tools. 

One of KAUST’s many student internship initiatives—along with the Visiting Student Research Program (VRSP), the Saudi Summer Internship (SSI) and the Work Internship Student Experience in Research (WISER) Summer Program—the MEWC brings the best young academic minds to campus to collaborate with the University’s world-renowned faculty on high-impact projects.

“Pursuing a research degree is a major life decision that many brilliant minds hesitate to take," emphasized Professor Nazek El-Atab, one of the MEWC hosting faculty. “We [the KAUST faculty] hope experiences like MEWC will inspire students and allow them to discover their passions and what areas they are most interested in further exploring.”

“Of course, we wish to keep these brilliant minds at KAUST; however, ultimately, we want to ignite their passion for research wherever they are so they can create research for the benefit of humanity,” El-Atab added.

In a recent interview, students Yazmin Hernández Mustafá, Isabela Buitron Burbano and Mattia Fabiani discussed their motivation for joining MEWC, their research projects and whether the program has influenced their plans.

Yazmin Hernández Mustafá, Bs.Sci. in Biomedical Engineering, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Why I applied to the KAUST MEWC

I have found that the most insightful lessons are gained through experiences outside the classroom and through engaging with different cultures. The MEWC program at KAUST gave me a unique opportunity to combine my passion for research with my love of travel and exploring new cultures.

MEWC research project

In my project, I studied pluripotent stem cells and their potential to differentiate into cardiac cells. My research was focused on finding a way to stimulate their growth. To that end, I used electrical stimulation to see how different variables of the applied stimulation affected their growth.

What you gained from the MEWC experience  

I have been greatly enriched by this experience and have acquired a set of skills I will carry throughout my life. It was a fantastic opportunity to be part of an international research program at a prestigious university and to be exposed to a different culture, country and belief system. Developing an openness to the unfamiliar and learning to be comfortable with the unknown has been invaluable professionally and personally.

I also learned about cardiac pluripotent stem cells, their usefulness in research and different ways of stimulating them to grow. I got to work with resin 3-D printers, which helped improve the device used for stimulation, making it fully autoclavable.

Future plans 

This experience has given me more confidence in myself and my capacity to strive for more as a woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I am now more determined than ever to pursue my master’s degree, and KAUST is top of my list for achieving this goal.


Isabela Buitron Burbano, Bs.Eng. in Electronics Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá D.C, Colombia

Why I applied to the KAUST MEWC

I saw KAUST’s MEWC as the best place to cultivate my fascination for innovation. I am inclined to bring science and engineering into our daily lives, so MEWC’s objective of designing a gadget prototype, exposing its results and engaging with the best people in the engineering field caught my attention.

MEWC research project

I am very grateful to have worked at the KAUST Integrated Microwave Packaging Antennas and Circuits Technology (IMPACT) Lab, as their field aligns with my research area. I worked on developing dual-band electromagnetic shielding using screen printing with conductive transparent ink based on silver nanowires for GSM bands for mobile communications. 

 A proof-of-concept prototype involved the design of a neonatal intensive care unit profiting from the optically transparent property of the conductive ink to use on windows or glass. Applications for this technology include physical layer security (as an approach to cybersecurity), 5G and 6G communications, reducing electromagnetic interference between devices, and even attenuating health risks associated with electromagnetic exposure for humans.

What you gained from the MEWC experience  

I have achieved more accuracy in shielding certain frequencies within a band thanks to the design process methodology I learned during my visit to KAUST. I worked in laboratories from different areas (like the KAUST Core Labs) that allowed us to integrate various technologies into one gadget.

 I had previously worked on additive manufacturing techniques such as fused deposition modeling in 3-D printing for electromagnetic shielding with nanocomposite-based filaments. During my experience at KAUST, I learned high-resolution and rapid manufacturing techniques, such as screen and inkjet printing. I am impressed by the IMPACT Lab’s ability to create its conductive inks, as they are a multidisciplinary team who can keep up with the latest developments in the field.

Future plans

It is astonishing how every person you meet [at KAUST] is enthusiastically working on impactful projects. Being surrounded by this environment has definitely nurtured and motivated me to pursue a career in science and engineering toward innovation. More concretely, the IMPACT Lab has further expanded my research scope toward active frequency selective surfaces.


Mattia Fabiani, M.S. in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering for Energy, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Why I applied to the KAUST MEWC

I applied to the MEWC because I was eager to have the opportunity to work and interact with people from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds. The program’s focus on cutting-edge research and innovation in various fields of science and technology was also a big draw for me.

I wanted to challenge myself and step outside of my comfort zone by participating in a program that was both rigorous and rewarding. Overall, I saw the MEWC as a chance to expand my knowledge and grow personally and professionally, and I am grateful for the experience.

MEWC research project

My research project focused on developing a deep neural network for cell-free massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) power allocation. The aim was to allocate power to access points in a future wireless system without needing plenty of labeled training data. I developed an unsupervised learning approach that could distribute the correct power for each access point.

What you gained from the MEWC experience  

I developed a greater ability to manage complex projects and work under tight deadlines. I learned to prioritize tasks and allocate my time effectively while delivering high-quality work. This internship allowed me to build my self-confidence and see things from different perspectives. I was fortunate to have the support and guidance of experienced mentors who helped me to navigate complex challenges.

I gained a deep understanding of how to apply machine learning to solve real-world problems, which I found to be the most interesting and rewarding part of the experience. I could study and analyze various works in the field and apply that knowledge to develop practical solutions.

 Future plans

This experience has been incredibly valuable to me and has given me a new perspective on the potential of machine learning in telecommunications. Through my work on the project, I developed a deep interest in exploring the intersection of these fields, and I hope to make further contributions in this area in the future.