People of KAUST

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Celebration of ​Citizenship & Pride

Irrespective of their national origins, the people of KAUST are “people of the world” who uphold our values of achievement, passion, inspiration, citizenship, diversity, integrity, and openness.​

The people are what makes KAUS​T so unique and the passion "KAUSTians" have for their friends, neighbors​ and community never fails to impress. ​This page is dedicated to sharing stories that demonstrate the KAUST values in action and bring to the​​​ fore, stories of community, citizenship, compassion and pride. If you know an individual, a young leader, a student, an activ​e spouse or a dynamic volunteer who is an ambassador or champion of our community, we want to hear about them!

​Fill in the People of KAUST form to share their story. 

  • Christine Nelson

    ​Christine Nelson grew up in Sussex on the south east coast of England.  Early on she had two heroes that influenced her passion for scuba diving;  her father, who was a diver in the British Royal Navy, and famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.  Christine left Sussex for her first job and has been in academia ever since.  Christine joined KAUST in 2011 and currently works in the Red Sea Research Center.  She learned to scuba dive with Coastline and has since become a dive master and instructor.  She goes diving each week and enjoys seeing a variety of marine creatures.  She has also been diving abroad including the Philippines, Egypt, Maldives and Sudan.  Christine regularly picks up rubbish on the reefs.  His Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Turki al-Faisal presented her with an appreciation award for her involvement in the preservation of marine life.  As a dive instructor, she loves to share her passion with others.   Christine is the founder and president of the Scuba Divers community club.  The club's Facebook page has over 300 members that network, offer advice and coordinate diving trips outside KAUST. 

    Read Christine's full story here

  • Mohamed Abdel-Aal

    Mohamed Abdel-Aal grew up in a very similar environment as KAUST during a different era.  Son of Egyptian parents, he was born and raised in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia at the, then newly opened, King Fahd University.  Later on, as an adult he migrated to the USA, where he became a citizen, and established a career in IT.   He learned about KAUST through a colleague that had already joined and encouraged Mohamed to apply.  Mohamed found the vision of KAUST inspiring and decided that he wanted to be a part of it!  So, he, and his family, took a leap of faith when he joined KAUST as a founding member in 2008. He is the Technology Infrastructure and Research Computer Manager for the IT Division.

    Three years ago, his son joined the Boy Scouts of America Troop 13, community club, at KAUST.  The club founders asked him to support and volunteer for some of the activities.  This led to him taking on the role as a Scout Master.  When the club founders left KAUST two years ago, the leadership mantle fell upon Mohamed and his colleagues Maan Amad, Chris Motter, and Skylar Arbuthnot.  The troop has reached full capacity with 25 boys from Grade 6 and higher.  Mohamed has enjoyed his involvement with the troop.  As it's been a way for him to spend time with his son, teach life skills to youth, contribute to the community through scout service projects and explore amazing remote camping locations throughout Saudi Arabia! 

  • Linda Sapolu

    ​Linda Sapolu was born in Auckland, New Zealand, to Samoan parents.  When she was 14 years old she and her family moved to Brisbane, Australia which she calls home.  She joined KAUST as a founding member in 2009.  At that time, she and fellow resident Anne Hewiston, both had an interest in the sport and wanted to start a community club.  However, she accepted an opportunity back home in Australia before the club launched.  There she joined the local Dragon Boating club and had an absolutely fantastic experience!  In 2016, she returned to KAUST, in her current role as the Graduate Program Coordinator with the Division of Physical Sciences and Engineering.  She was delighted to join the Red Sea Dragon Boat Club that was up and running by then.  Complete with two top of the line champion boats that have the drums, dragon heads and tails.  When President Anne left KAUST, Linda decided to fill the vacancy to ensure that the sport would continue to be available to the community.  The club meets three times a week to train for 45 minutes (Mondays & Wednesdays at 5:30 pm and Saturday at 4:15 pm).  The club has also provided opportunities for children at KAUST and Thuwal to try the sport.  Linda enjoys participating in the club as it fosters team work and social ties, an opportunity to "get away" and be on the water, a great workout and unique views from the KAUST (Beacon) harbor and Safaa canal.  Linda is hopeful that community members will regularly participate in trainings with the goal to have 10 core members to enter upcoming competitions abroad!

  • Alison Rankin

    ​Alison grew up in the beautiful countryside of Marlborough on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand.  When she was four years old she started riding horses and rode regularly till her mid-thirties.  At that time, she moved away to the city of Christchurch for work where it became a challenge to ride regularly.  In 2001 when she relocated to the Middle East, she was able to resume riding regularly at stables in Riyadh, and later Bahrain.   But when she moved to Dubai, again it was a challenge to go riding frequently with the stables located far from the city. 

    Alison started working at KAUST on Jan. 1st, 2011 overseeing the PSE Division's websites and marketing materials.   In 2015 one of her nieces invited her to come along on a charity horse ride across Mongolia, the longest endurance horse ride in the world that covers 700 kilometers over 10 days!  In preparation for that trip she became a member of the Kingdom Equestrian community club so she could go riding every weekend.  She also trained by completing a 7 day horse ride in Sharm-El-Sheik Egypt that included galloping across long stretches of sand and riding in the sea. Two years ago, she completed the journey in Mongolia with her niece!

    Alison is the current President of the Kingdom Equestrian community club that is very inclusive as it caters to riders of all ages, experience level and disabilities.  Non-riders are also welcome to come along to the ranch where they can interact with the animals.  Her passion for horse riding, opportunities to interact with the animals and meet amazing people at the ranch, are all motivators for her dedication to the club and its members.

    A special thank you to Alison for her efforts to provide year round opportunities for horse riders and animals lovers at KAUST!

    Alison is New Zealander

    Thinking to start a community club at KAUST?  Don't wait!  Get Engaged

  • Chris Newns

    ​Chris Newns and his wife Gayani came to KAUST in 2009 as founders, to teach at the KAUST Schools, joined by their son Adam.  This wasn't Chris's first international teacher post, having taught at schools in Greece, Dubai, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Japan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and back in his home nation of England.  Six years ago, Chris retired from teaching but continues to stay busy as current President of the Fine Arts and co-leader of the Cub Scouts (ages 8 to 11) community clubs. 

    Chris has been involved with the Fine Arts club since it's early days.  He loves the arts and the opportunity to share his artistic passion with the community. The Fine Arts Club has a membership of 500 that participate in a variety of workshops and activities offered throughout the year by one of the club's three branches: Ceramics, Art and Stitching (Sewing).  As an outdoor and building enthusiast, it was a natural fit for him to be a Cub Scout leader.  The troop currently has 36 members, boys and girls, aged 8-11 years old that enjoy weekly outings and annual campouts.

    Chris's advice to someone considering to start a club is to not wait, but just go for it!  He explains that it's about setting time aside during your week to do something you love and you get to meet lots of people from the community in the process.

    Thank you Chris for your years of volunteer service to share the arts and cub scouting with our community! 

    Chris is British.

    Contact Community Life to find out how we can help transform your idea for a community club or event into a reality!  Don't wait!  Get Engaged!


  • Heiko Langner

    ​Heiko Langner joined KAUST in June 2014 as Director of the Analytical Chemistry Core Lab.  He is originally from Germany but lived in the USA for twenty years.  Heiko and his wife have three children, two are studying abroad at university and their youngest just completed his senior year at TKS, and will soon be off for college too. Heiko is the current President of the Red Sea Cyclists community club and also the most experienced mountain biker in the group. There are 100 community members that are part of the Red Sea Cyclists club.  The group caters to all cycling skill levels from Beginners to Advanced.  There are two types of rides available to members each week.  The "In" rides are bike trails located within KAUST that include off-asphalt paths. These rides are meant for Beginner and Intermediate level riders to enjoy.  Members meet up Wednesday evenings at 5:40 p.m. in front of the Harbor Sports Club. Intermediate and advanced cyclists have the option of going on "Out" rides that occur every weekend on trails located 30 minutes to 1.5 hours away from KAUST.  Riders meet up in the before sunrise to load their bikes onto the club's bike trailer and head out while the weather is still cool.  The riders get to enjoy stunning mountain scenery along the trails, and have even encountered camel herds and Bedouins on some of their adventures.  If mainly advanced riders are amongst the group, the group can choose a more difficult path, gaining one kilometer in altitude on their ride. The club also partners with similar cyclist groups in Jeddah to participate in competitive races in the area.  Heiko has found his experience as President of the Red Sea Cyclists to be very rewarding.  He is able to enjoy a sport that he is passionate about, share the experience with friends, help others advance their skill level and enjoy the natural surroundings outside of KAUST. 

    Heiko's advice to others who are thinking about starting a community club is "just do it!" Take Heiko's advice, don't wait, Get Engaged today!  Contact Community Life to find out how we can help transform your community club idea into a reality! 

    Heiko is German.

  • Peter Rautek

    Peter Rautek is the driving force behind the Maker Space SDG, which promotes the "Do-it-Yourself" culture at KAUST and enables builders, tinkerers, and innovators to create and connect. The SDG is sponsored by Innovation & Economic Development and has a purpose built space containing tools and gadgets for people to play with technology and to tinker on their projects. The idea grew out of the frustration that it was so hard to create and build things at KAUST. Finding tools, machines and materials was difficult and so the idea developed to create a place where community members could make things and meet like-minded people to exchange knowledge and ideas. The Maker Space SDG also delivers a whole host of interesting workshops for the whole community - adults and children alike. You can follow the Maker Space on Facebook,

    Peter - thank you for sharing your passion for innovation and creativity and your expertise and mentorship with our community.

    Peter is Austrian.

  • Sami Al Uariachi

    ​​​​​​​Sami Al Uariachi is a grade 12 TKS Student and avid and skilled basketball player. Sami plays for the TKS Sharks, Jeddah United and the U18 National Team in Morocco. For Sami, the development of young children through basketball is a passion. Back in November, Sami decided to give back to the boys living in our neighboring community of Thuwal by supporting a 3 day basketball camp with his friends. With the support of Saudi Initiatives to get through the administrative hurdles, Sami focused on developing a lesson plan for the boys that would enable them to develop improved teamwork ability, basketball skill and greater ability to interact with others. It took a while to gain their trust and respect and the language barrier was initially tough, but the impact was immense​. The camp not only established a strong connection between TKS and the Thuwal schools, but more importantly the kids were able to enjoy the experience, particularly displaying growth in their sportsmanship abilities. For e.g. one thing that was emphasized throughout the camp was the importance of cheering on your teammates when they scored and encouraging them to improve when they missed. Gradually, they all became louder and louder until it eventually became a competition for who the more enthusiastic team was! Sami believes giving back to the community and passing on your knowledge/skill is a civic duty and it was great for the kids to see and experience the amazing facilities that KAUST has to offer.

    ​Sami – you are a great role model for the young people of KAUST and Thuwal.

    Sami is German/Moroccan.

  • Genevieve McCabe

    ​​Genevieve McCabe has been at KAUST for over 4 years and is an active member of our community. Genevieve represents community interests on the KAUST Medical Board, as well as being an active member of the KAUST Community Advisory Committee. Every Wednesday, Genevieve coordinates and hosts a coffee morning for ladies at KAUST, where all ladies are welcome. It's a great place for people to make new friends, socialize and enjoy time together. With all this and 3 young children to care for, Genevieve still finds time to get engaged in the community and engage and involve others. She led a team of community members/volunteers in organizing KAUST's first Abaya Fashion Show and Expo this past May and is already planning a community Artisan Fair for this September.

    Genevieve - we applaud your efforts and tireless commitment to the community!

    Genevieve is Australian.​

  • James Tulley

    Many people know James Tulley, but what not so many people know is the quiet, unassuming way in which James contributes to the community. He has been an active member of the Golf Club since 2012 and organizes two inter-departmental golf tournaments each year. He has recently taken on the official, voluntary role of Golf Club Captain. When a Spin instructor stepped down and there was disappointment that classes would be cancelled, James stepped in and volunteered to lead the class. He now leads two Spin classes a week at the Harbor Sports Club, which have grown in popularity and now you need to get there early to ensure you get a bike!! He has many musical talents and, once word got out about his drumming expertise, he has been called upon by many individuals and groups to help out. He is a member of the Ukes group and a member of the Jeddah Jazz Quartet, who have performed at a number of venues and events. Recently he accompanied the Angklung at a Community Concert, played drums to accompany David Keyes in the 2016 Talent Show (which David won) and accompanied Sara Spade (the Ukulele lady), in her recent performance at KAUST.

    James - you exemplify the KAUST values of passion and citizenship. Thanks for all you do. 

    James is Scottish​.

  • Claire Sale

    ​​Claire Sale lives at KAUST with her husband and 2 young children. She is a passionate member of our community who has been writing her blog, Claire's Ale for over 8 years. The blog is an invaluable source of information for residents and particularly for new hires and their families, who want to understand more about life at KAUST before they relocate. Claire is posed with questions by people who are excited and intrigued about their impending move. Claire has served on the KAUST Community Advisory Committee for 4 years. She see's the two-way program planning that the committee facilitates - departments/ service providers and community members, as an essential component to a happy and healthy community. Claire served as Vice-Chair and Community Engagement Coordinator for the President's Task Force on Arts, Culture, and Community Life in 2015 and has launched a successful support group for pregnant and new parents with over 500 members. Claire recently delivered a TEDx talk which aimed to inspire scientists to communicate beyond their scientific ecosystems and engage with the general public.

    Claire - thank you for your service. You are an indispensable member of our community. 

    Claire is American.​

  • Tariq Al Yahya

    ​​​​​​Tariq Al Yahya (to the right of the photo), is a founder who has worked at KAUST since 2008. Tariq has become somewhat of an 'informal tour guide' for people who want support and advise on organizing an excursion or camping trip into the heart of the desert, to get a real taste of Saudi and enjoy the warm Arabian weather. However Tariq not only advises, he happily take people out to the desert. Word of mouth means Tariq is contacted quite regularly, taking trips out in his own time and on weekends. It is not unusual for Tariq to cook up a tasty treat of chicken and rice around the camp fire, let people enjoy a ride on his quad bike or drive them up and down the sand dunes.​

    Tariq - thank you for all you do to help community members explore our beautiful surroundings.

    Tariq is Saudi Arabian.​

  • Abril Rivera

    ​​​Abril Rivera is a 10th grader at TKS, who has a passion and endless energy for community service, actively volunteering for all manner of projects and events, whether at school, community or at the University​. She has an unbounded passion to get engaged, to either develop her own learning and skill, help others, or inspire people to take action. Abril has had a key role as Communications Chair for the annual Parade of Nations for the past three years - since she 14 years old!  She volunteers her time to deliver activities like storytelling, tutoring and helping to organize birthday parties for our community's children. She has worked as a Summer Camp Counsellor and is one of only two TKS students on the Community Chorus. Recently Abril volunteered at the KAUST Ted​x event, helping out on the Entertainment Team. At school, Abril is just as active. She has served on the GSS Student Council for 3 years (hoping to succeed as the school's first-ever female President next year!) She has volunteered for the school musical year on year, helping backstage and playing a key role in this year's musical. Abril is Editor-In-Chief of the student journalism club ​and part of the school's Action & Service Team, partnering recently with the Green Group to create a community video on sustainable choices. In preparation for a Global Issues Service Summit, Abril organized an array of school and community events to inspire KAUST community members to live compassionately and take action on local and global issues, before heading out to Tanzania to attend the Summit. These activities included organizing a Film Festival, a Knitting for Syria event and a Peace Forum.

    Abril - you demonstrate to others the importance of community service and that one can never be too young to be a leader!

    Abril is Mexican/American/Indonesian

  • Mariam Awlia

    ​​Mariam Awlia is a PhD student and active and dedicated KAUST volunteer. She provides selfless service to social responsibility community projects in Thuwal, such as the Back to School backpack initiative for school children and a project called Springboard, where Mariam shared her life story with Thuwal ladies in order to inspire and motivate them to think about their future. Back at KAUST, Mariam has helped out with science activities during WEP, is active in the Graduate Student Council and Green Group and has been involved in projects that help improve the daily life of students, so they achieve a good balance between university and home life. Mariam is described as a role model for young Saudi's - she understands the importance of education, works hard and is open minded and respectful as she interacts with people from all cultures.

    Mariam - you provide selfless service to the KAUST and Thuwal community. Thank you for sharing your time and skills.​

    Mariam is Saudi Arabian.

  • Mary Fowler

    ​​Mary Fowler recently won a Community Spirit Award for her work with our community's children, coaching the TKS Swim Team. She works above and beyond her job role, delivering coaching before and after school 5 days a week. Mary has successfully recruited a team of community coaches to support the program. In addition, Mary offers her time and expertise on weekends in coaching students at the pool or beach, or helping with water polo activities at the IRC.  Mary fosters behavior in our young people, that is reflective of TKS, resulting in students who are risk takers, caring towards one another and principled in their training. Mary has helped develop competitive swimming for our advanced swimmers, with many of our children taking part in National and International competitions and Swim Camps/Meets.

    Mary - you have contributed so much to the children of our community - thank you for your passion, dedication and leadership.

    Mary is American.

  • Cooks of KAUST

    ​Melanie Balkner-Zielke came up with the idea of developing a KAUST community cookbook when a close friend of hers was planning to leave KAUST and she couldn't let her go without first learning her famous lasagna recipe! She then started discussing an idea of collecting recipes from around the world with friends Erik Bakken and Philippa Arkley and the KAUST cookbook was born!  They wanted to have a collection of recipes from friends and colleagues from KAUST that represented their time living here amongst this wonderful and diverse community. They were excited by new flavors and new experiences and discovering new foods and stories from all over the globe, and the cookbook allowed them to make new friends, and visit countries they had only dreamed of going to – just through eating their food.  Their aim is that the finished book will be a true reflection of life at KAUST, covering as many of the nationalities that make up our community and allowing people a chance to showcase their home food. They also hope to make the cookbook into a beautiful souvenir to remember their time here and the friends they have made.

    Melanie, Philippa and Erik – an amazing initiative that has bought together people, cultures, community, and of course food.​

    Melanie is German, Eric is American and Philippa is British.