Amani Alonazi (PhD '19, MS '14)

9 Feb, 2022

Amani Alonazi joined KAUST in 2011 as a student enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus program, Europe’s higher education program awarding top performing students the financial support to travel and receive a MS degree in collaborating universities. Alonazi was a part of a select group of students to visit KAUST, and after attending one of Professor David Keyes’ lectures, she knew that KAUST was where she belonged.

Alonazi’s experience was very involved since she was enrolled in MS programs at both KAUST and the University College Dublin in Ireland, working in the field of computer science.

Opportunities through Erasmus Mundus and KAUST

“While my background was purely computer science, I always had the freedom to choose the most challenging and interesting problems and try to solve them throughout my MS,” said Alonazi. “That type of thinking was supported in both the Erasmus program and at KAUST.”

Alonazi’s MS research encompassed development of faster solver calculation in a well-known computational fluid dynamics software library to enable executing the computation on heterogenous computers.

Next steps in Dr Alonazi’s academic journey: a PhD from KAUST

“As I was finishing the MS programs, the decision to do a PhD was extremely clear,” said Alonazi. “I started a project in Professor David Keyes’ lab on multi-level algorithms on large-scale supercomputer and large-scale data analysis.”

To create more efficient computing, she mapped the calculations of scientific computations in a new programming model that expresses the solve cycle as a task dependency graph, and relies on a dynamic runtime system to asynchronously and simultaneously execute the tasks on a wide variety of supercomputers.

A Career as an AI Scientist with Boeing – and inspiring future young women in science

In 2019, Alonazi graduated from KAUST but didn’t go far physically in her new position at Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company. Taking her next step, Alonazi joined the Boeing team as an Artificial Intelligence (AI) scientist at their KAUST office. She is leading AI research and technology in the middle east region. As a team leader, Alonazi uses the skills she gained in her graduate school career as her foundation.

Since starting her work with Boeing, her algorithms have enabled autonomous systems to understand the surrounding environment and extract insights that help the pilot or the uncrewed aerial vehicle operator protect passengers.  Read more here.

“During my MS degree, I was president of two scientific societies, ACM and SIAM student chapters and a student ambassador for KAUST,” said Alonazi. “These experiences were invaluable and I highly recommend students at KAUST take advantage of these volunteer positions to gain important leadership skills.”

While leading a team, Alonazi is currently working on AI, robotic vision, and the creation of collaborative robots.

“Now, many types of robots exist, but there are few that truly collaborate with humans,” said Alonazi. “In our endeavor to create collaborative robots, we are highly aware of the safety and ethical challenges that are involved in making machines more human friendly as well as effective team members. We also have to design robots in a way that instill trust in the human user.”

As she reflects, Alonazi realizes she has lived at KAUST for over eight years. She shares that her goal for the KAUST-Boeing partnership is to make her office a well-known research hub for the entire region.

Advice for current and future PhD students

To students, she says, “try to look at your PhD as a marathon, not a sprint. Be consistent in your work, as well as work hard and smart, rather than taking the quick wins or low hanging fruit.”


Amani Alonazi (PhD '19, MS '14) by Melissa Pappas

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