Noor Zaouri (PhD ’17, MS ’13)

26 Dec, 2022

Alumna Noor Zaouri currently works as a senior research scientist at DOW and shares how KAUST was an essential piece to getting her there.

“My first application attempt was rejected, but I didn’t let that discourage me,” she said. “I gained more experience in the biomanufacturing field by working as a quality control lab specialist, then applied to KAUST again and was accepted. I even remember the exact date – June 15 – I quit my job and started my masters in environmental science and engineering.”

Once at KAUST, Zaouri needed to learn both new academic material and another language.

“Starting classes at KAUST was the first time I was immersed in an international community,” said Zaouri. “There were many things to learn, including how to think like a scientist, how to connect with classmates who came from diverse backgrounds, and how to learn and communicate in English. Fortunately, KAUST provided support and programs for each of those new skills from the start.”

Zaouri graduated with her masters which focused on how to manage and identify pollutants in waste water treatment in 2013 and started her PhD with Professor Jean-Philippe Croue.

For my PhD, I was working on investigating Different Approaches to investigate interactions between natural organic matter and metal oxide,” said Zaouri. “My advisor was leaving KAUST to teach at Curtin University, and I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and conduct research with him and experts at the university, using an Atomic Force Microscope, a piece of equipment requiring great technical skills and essential to my work.”

The research experience abroad gave Zaouri new perspectives on nature, culture and the values of networking.

“I appreciated the beaches and forests,” she said. “I also fell in love with the kangaroos! And, I formed great relationships with other scientists who have continued to collaborate with me on research projects.”

“Going abroad helped me diversify my way of thinking, taught me new techniques, provided alternative solutions, and even increased my ability to think creatively. Now, I feel I can contribute much more to the larger scientific community.”

But after a full year away, she was ready to come home.

“While I do enjoy travelling, there is nothing like coming home to your own country and culture,” said Zaouri. “I was really excited to get back to Saudi to see my family and friends and finish my PhD at KAUST.”

After completing her PhD, she worked as a post doc at KAUST and then in a managerial role at SaudiVax. Since then, she accepted a job at DOW, allowing her to stay in the KAUST community.

As she thinks back on her time as a student at KAUST, Zaouri provides some advice for current students.

“Never underestimate the skills you gain, and they don’t need to come from a degree program or class,” she said. “As you learn new skills and take on projects, make sure to ask yourself how each thing will bring value to you. That will help you prioritize your time. While stress is part of grad school and life, know your limits and form hobbies outside of work to balance your life. Hobbies also give you time to think creatively and that mindset will help you tremendously in your work life.”


Noor Zaouri (PhD ' 17, MS ;13) - by Melissa Pappas

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