Students from across the Kingdom and around the world complete the 2nd KSC Summer School and Internship Program

Sep 24 2019


Following the success of the initial summer school, July saw the launch of the second KSC Summer School and Internship Program. Aimed at undergraduates in their final year, interested in pursuing a career in the field of solar energy conversion, this year's program attracted students from across the Kingdom (King Abdulaziz University, Taibah University, Islamic University of Medinah) as well as internationally (UC Berkely, Imperial College London and the Universities of Washington, Bologna, Petras, Glasgow).

The four day summer school comprised lectures on photovoltaic (PV) fundamentals as well as silicon, perovskite and organic PV technologies with practical lab sessions addressing device fabrication & characterization and the properties of light. In addition to the KSC summer interns, the lectures were opened up to the broader KAUST research community. Selected students then went on to complete summer internships, conducting research projects in our laboratories.

The whole summer program was made possible by KSC faculty, postdocs and operational lab staff who mentored the students not only during the short summer school but throughout the summer. To complement our in-house capability we also draw upon external expertise and this year we again welcomed to the KSC summer school Professors Miro Zeman (MZ) and Olindo Isabella (OI) from the Technical University of Delft.

Professors Zeman and Isabella have been running a photovoltaic summer school for a number of years at their home university and we took the opportunity to ask them about the value of such educational programs.

When did you first become aware of KAUST?

OI: It was in 2012 during my time as a postdoc in Japan.  Friends of mine moved to KAUST and since then I have been aware of the university's development. I am also aware of the progress being made by KSC in photovoltaics through numerous presentations given by Stefaan De Wolf at global conferences.

MZ: Several years ago there was a KAUST call for international projects and many colleagues in the broader field of solar energy conversion were excited about the prospect of making a joint application due to the ideal and different weather conditions in Saudi Arabia. KSC is now much more visible and known to me for material science, engineering and processing aspects of PVs.

Why is it important to you to provide PV courses beyond standard university educational offerings? 

MZ: Global education is about all our futures. We all share a hope for a better future. We need a vision about how people treat each other and the need to live in balance with nature.  Education serves both of these goals and I consider myself fortunate to be involved with a technology that can provide answers. Our motto is: 'Reliable, sustainable and affordable electricity for everyone'. We truly believe that PV technologies can deliver this and we are happy to pass on our knowledge because it serves our overall vision for the future.

OI: Our vision about 'global education' includes bachelors, masters and postgraduate research, both on-campus and online, but also extends to courses for PV engineers to keep abreast of processing and system design, as well as in-the-field training. In a university setting it is worth remembering that most postdocs don't stay in academia but pursue industry careers, so it is important to provide them with relevant on-going training. In Delft we run courses that are didactically aligned: Courses are provided every quarter, building up along a logic chain of theoretical knowledge.

We were pleased to be invited back to support this year's KSC summer school. Didactically Miro started the lectures with the broader picture of the importance of solar energy and fundamental aspects. I was able to build on this, lecturing on PV technologies and the week was rounded off by KSC lecturers addressing topics such as Perovskites and organic photovoltaics.

As part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 the country is looking to shift away from an oil based economy. What role can we play?

OI: To achieve a sustainable economy any nation needs knowledge. As a university, KAUST can help shape the change and make it possible. The university needs to take on this responsibility to contribute to the shift and bring young people together to rise to the challenge.

MZ: I like the quote from Robert Kennedy: "Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not."  I would challenge students at KAUST to dream and make their futures come true.  Dreaming is necessary to achieve change and young people are full of dreams that can be realized.

How can the younger generation be empowered?

MZ: It is important that they recognize the issues and realize that they can be part of the change.  This is the job of global education. We need young people to recognize that what they can achieve together is exciting and to be motivated by that.

OI: To empower young people, I would encourage them to see the world and to look at what different societies are doing and achieving.  The young students I've met this week from both Saudi Arabia and abroad have had their interest in future solar technologies ignited and I hope we have created a hunger for global education.

Finally, what impressions will you take home with you?

OI:  It has been most natural to wander around the campus. The campus facilities and education are fantastic and there is the infrastructure here for world class research. I enjoy each visit to Saudi Arabia and take home to Europe very positive images for the future.

MZ: That we can come and support the KSC summer program shows me that this university takes its global role importantly and I look forward to continued collaboration.