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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - RHODES HOUSE, Oxford — This year for the first time three students from Saudi Arabia have been selected to join the 2021 global class of Rhodes Scholars. Ghadah Alshalan, Mneera Abdullah Saud and Omar Alshangiti will join a total cohort of a hundred Rhodes Scholars who will travel to Oxford in October next year.
The Rhodes Scholarships are post-graduate awards supporting outstanding students, to enable two to three years of study, depending on the academic route taken, at the University of Oxford. The scholarship is not just a financial bursary, it is a life-changing opportunity for exceptional young people with the potential to make a difference for good in the world.
Rhodes Scholars are people who have a vision of how the world could be better and the energy to make a difference — whatever their sphere of interest.
The Scholars Elect for Saudi Arabia demonstrated their energy and commitment to making a difference during a rigorous selection process, which included three rounds of reviews before the final virtual interviews of several shortlisted candidates with an international selection committee.
The Saudi Arabia Scholarship was established in 2018 and funded by Muhammad Alagil, co-founder of Jarir Bookstores, with encouragement of the Ministry of Education Education is one of the core elements of Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s ambitious blueprint for the future.
The Rhodes Scholarship for Saudi Arabia will enable students across the Kingdom to fully develop their skills and knowledge in the fields that will help Saudi Arabia achieve its goals under Vision 2030.
Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, warden and CEO of the Rhodes Trust, said: “Two years ago and thanks to Muhammad Alagil's generous gift, we launched the Saudi Arabia Scholarship to ensure that more of world’s diversity would be reflected at Rhodes House.
“It has been a pleasure to meet the exceptional young scholars from Saudi Arabia selected in these two previous years and witness their enriching contribution to Rhodes House — cultural diversity is a core value of ours and one that we see benefit our cohort of scholars every day, as they learn from each other in profound ways.
“I am looking forward to welcoming these three inspirational and energetic young leaders – Ghadah, Mneera and Omar – to Rhodes House next year."
The applications for the next round of admission for the Rhodes Scholarship, in partnership with Muhammad Alagil, for Saudi Arabia will open in June 2021.
Ghadah will graduate next June with a Bachelor of Science in physics and a minor in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, she plans to pursue a master’s research program in condensed matter physics.
Physics captivated Ghadah in high school when she participated in national and international physics competitions and became Saudi Arabia’s first female medalist. She is currently developing computational models relevant to quantum nanoelectronics in the Department of Physics at MIT.
She also did a summer research internship at the University of Hamburg Centre for Quantum Technologies in Germany. Ghadah was president of the MIT Arab Student Organization and has served on committees for the MIT Arab Conference and the MIT Muslim Student Association. She also has been a teaching assistant for the physics department.
Born and raised between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Mneera graduated from Brown University with a BA in Computer Science in May 2020. She studied Persian, Hebrew, and Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and is interested in exploring how language influences identity formation and power dynamics in divided settings.
Mneera has been heavily involved in refugee advocacy during her studies: she co-led and tutored with the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment program (BRYTE), the university’s largest community service organization, and has also provided direct services to asylum seekers in New York City. She aspires to work towards protecting migrant and refugee rights in the MENA region, and hopes to explore how digital platforms have facilitated social movements.
Omar currently studies Materials Science & Engineering and Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His passion for science emerged as he took part in the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), where he won the first silver medal for Saudi Arabia.
At Illinois, he worked on the rapid manufacturing of elastomers and thermosets at the Moore and Sottos labs. He also interned at ARAMCO Research Centers at Boston, where he worked on developing polymeric surfactants for enhanced oil recovery.
When not in the lab, Omar enjoys reading Arabic literature, hiking, writing, and volunteering at local schools as a math and science tutor. At Oxford, he hopes to pursue his passion in studying soft materials, and to move closer to his dream of developing sustainable and recyclable polymers. — SG
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