KAUST Alumni

Change Makers

Award Recipients 2022

Leadership and Impact

Ahmad Showail, PhD ‘16, MS ‘10

KAUST founding class student Dr Ahmad Showail graduated with a PhD and MS in Computer Science. Dr Showail has made a significant impact within Saudi Arabia as an academic leader, mentor and innovator. An Assistant Professor in computer engineering at Taibah University, his career includes establishing and leading the College of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Prince Mugrin as its Vice Dean, with more than 200 staff and 6,000 students. Throughout 2022, Dr Showail has been conducting research on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of California Irvine (UCI) in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. The Fulbright Program is considered one of the most competitive, widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world. 

Ahmad Showail
PhD ’16, MS ’10

Social Impact

Grant Hill-Cawthorne, PhD ‘15  

Medical microbiologist Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne is Managing Director of Research and Information, and House of Commons Librarian in the United Kingdom. His positions in Parliament have allowed Dr Hill-Cawthorne to play a key role translating science into policy decisions.  After completing medicine and medical training at the University of Cambridge, he moved to KAUST in 2010 where he established a laboratory specializing in pathogen genomics, as well as completing a PhD on the use of genomics for public health microbiology. Dr Hill-Cawthorne left KAUST for Australia where he spent five years as the Senior Lecturer in Communicable Diseases Epidemiology at the School of Public Health the University of Sydney.

Grant Hill-Cawthorne
PhD ‘15

Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Luisa Javier, PhD ‘21, MS ‘11  

Dr Luisa Javier is CEO and Co-Founder of KAUST start-up WAYAK Group, and founder of the Mexican company Sin Acqua. Dr Javier was a founding class student at KAUST. On graduating in 2011, she returned to Mexico to found Sin Acqua with fellow KAUST alumni. Saudi Arabia, and KAUST, were never far from Dr Javier’s mind; she supported KAUST from Mexico, giving her time to initiatives include the WEP Alumni Lecture Series and student recruitment. She later returned to KAUST in 2018 to commence her PhD in the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC), graduating in 2021. During her PhD studies, Dr Javier co-founded WAYAK, a KAUST start-up, with KAUST alumna Dr Sandra Medina, PhD ’20. As a scientist and entrepreneur, she is able to translate water science challenges in sustainable commercial products. In 2020, she was honored as a Distinguished Mexican in the Exterior, has won multiple international awards, and is sought after as a speaker in scientific and entrepreneurial forums. 

Luisa Javier
PhD ’21, MS ‘11

Dr Abeer Al Doghaither, PhD ‘15 

Dr Abeer Al Doghaither is the President of Dar al-Hekma University in Saudi Arabia. She graduated with a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science from KAUST. Dr Al Doghaither is highly regarded within Saudi Arabia for her commitment to strengthening the quality of teaching and learning at Dar al-Hekma, with a focus on expanding the faculty research output and widening community partnerships. Her vision as a university president is to “change lives, transform perspectives, develop our society, and prepare a brighter future for generations to come by graduating accomplished women, leaders, and entrepreneurs." 

Abeer Al Doghaither
PhD '15

Jian Pan, MS ‘11

Jian Pan is General Manager of Hangzhou Bertzer Catalyst Co., Ltd., and President of KAUST’s Chinese Alumni Chapter. A KAUST founding student, he completed his MS in Environmental Science and Engineering in the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC).  Pan has provided significant leadership to KAUST’s globally located Chinese alumni community in his role as the Chinese Chapter President, connecting alumni and students community with KAUST and each other in China and internationally. In 2020, the Chinese Alumni Chapter donated 2,000 surgical masks for KAUST’s community of frontline workers with support from the Hangzhou Association for Science and Technology.   

Jian Pan
MS '11

Luca Passone, PhD ‘18, MS ‘11

Dr Luca Passone is the Co-founder, CTO and General Manager of FalconViz in Saudi Arabia. Passone arrived at KAUST from Europe in 2009 as a founding student to pursue his goal of working with supercomputers. His graduate studies, in Computer Science and Earth Science, were the foundation for his entrepreneurial success in 2015 when he co-founded FalconViz, one of KAUST’s oldest and most successful start-ups. 

Luca Passone
PhD '18, MS '11

Yasmeen Najm, PhD ‘19, MS ’13 

Dr Yasmeen Najm is the Innovation Lead, Hydrogen and E-Fuels, with NEOM in Saudi Arabia. An alumna of the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP), Dr Najm completed her PhD and MS at KAUST in Environmental Science and Engineering. Dr Najm is passionate about her research focused on preserving the climate and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She is an active volunteer leader contributing back to KAUST, and has sat on the alumni board of KGSP, was the alumni speaker during KAUST Research Week in 2021, and speaker at KAUST’s tenth Commencement in 2019.

Yasmeen Najm
PhD '18, MS '11

Lina Eyouni, PhD ‘21

Dr Lina Eyouni is the Physical Science Environmental Manager with The Red Sea Development Corporation in Saudi Arabia. Dr Eyouni was the first Saudi woman to graduate with a MS in Marine Physics from King Abdulaziz University; the first Saudi woman to graduate with a PhD in oceanography from KAUST; and the first Saudi woman to become a certified remotely operated vehicle pilot.

Lina Eyouni
PhD '21

Yu Li, PhD ’20, MS ‘16

Dr Yu Li is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where his research in the Computer Science Department is in developing algorithms to solve problems health care. Dr Li was named among the Forbes “30 Under 30 Asia List 2022”, for which he was acknowledged for work developing computational tools to identify antibiotic-resistant genes. 

Yu Li
PhD '20, MS '16

Aubrie O'Rourke, PhD ‘15

Dr Aubrie O’Rourke graduated from KAUST with a PhD in Marine Science. She is a Project Scientist with The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Kennedy Space Center in the United States. Her research is focused on the microbiology associated with space crop production, and water processor assemblies. Dr O'Rourke is fascinated by microbes and microorganisms, and how they behave and exist in the ocean and space.

Aubrie O'Rourke
PhD '15


Contact Alumni Affairs with any questions on the Alumni Change Makers Awards.