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. 

  • Rabab Wereda

    Growing up in Egypt to loving parents who shared a passion for altruism, Rabab Wereda learnt to be a community builder at a young age. She was a member of the volunteer committee in her middle to high school years and continued to be an active volunteer in local and international organizations as an adult. In 2009 she moved to KAUST with her husband Rajneesh Pandey as founding members. It is no surprise that she continued to pursue volunteering avenues here, looking to serve the people of the KAUST community. 

    Rabab organized and led the pilot Computer Skills course under the Saudi Initiatives Social Responsibility umbrella for the Thuwal Female Center. The program was very successful, and was replicated in both the female and male centers. She also relaunched the Sewing Club in 2017 by conducting workshops herself as well as inviting local and expat tutors from Jeddah to deliver workshops. In 2018, she hosted KAUST’s first Quilt Exhibit in partnership with Jeddah’s Quilting Guild, inviting four sponsors from around the kingdom and guests in the fine arts field. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rabab led the Maskateers volunteer group, whose members made thousands of facemasks for the community. She continued to make hundreds of facemasks at no charge for our community, focusing on the junior community members. Additionally, she delivered zoom workshops guiding participants to make their own masks.

     “KAUST is the first home that my husband and I have known together, and as such, it holds a special place in our hearts. We feel well protected, sheltered and catered for in the KAUST community. Over the years, it has been described as the gift that keeps giving; hence it is our duty to give back. We receive a lot of care from KAUST’s generosity and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at large. When KAUST calls for a contribution, you do whatever you can to stand in solidarity with and for the community. The act of giving nourishes my soul, hence, volunteering opportunities bring me joy. Rajneesh provides me with continues support in the background, and for that I am truly blessed.”

    Rabab is Egyptian.

  • Adeel Nazir Ahmad

    As the Medical Director and Head of Family Medicine at KAUST Health, Dr. Adeel Nazir Ahmad is closely involved in our community. For several years now, he has been looking out over the health and wellbeing of the KAUST community. In 2020, his work got dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the year, he led the fight against this novel coronavirus to keep our community safe. Along with his team, he devised specific infection control policies and guidelines. He also led the positive case management as well as the quarantining and contact tracing processes within KAUST. Besides his job on the frontline, Adeel is also one of the mosque volunteers who ensure compliance with the infection control guidelines, making sure community members can pray safely.

    Adeel loves the uniqueness of our KAUST community and finds that the blend of different nationalities, backgrounds, experiences and cultures makes it quite an amazing place to live and an exciting place to work. He is grateful for the excellent initiatives and all the hard work that’s going into this special community. With all the dining, sports and recreational facilities at our doorstep in KAUST, he’s glad he can easily socialize and have fun. Coming home to his family after work instils a sense of ease and belonging on him, which is complemented by the feeling of physical and emotional safety thanks to the community’s policies, kind people and lovely places. For Adeel, KAUST truly feels like a home away from home. Being part of the community also helps him understand the healthcare and psychosocial needs of the community and hence, makes his work more inclusive and rewarding.

    “KAUST is a close-knit community of wonderful people with multiple skills and talents. But there’s no way that we could have known how close, caring, and helpful our community really is, if we hadn’t experienced it during the pandemic. I have found that people are keen on helping, encouraging, and just being there for one another. That’s the KAUST spirit of being stronger together and why our community is so dear to me.”

    Dr.Adeel is British.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.​

  • 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​.

  • 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.​

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