All Rhodes lead to Oxford for Emirati student

The Emirati, who is studying biomedical engineering, is also the first student from Khalifa University to receive the honour.

Fahad Al Shaibani will pursue a postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford. Courtesy Khalifa University
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Twenty-one-year-old Fahad Al Shaibani has started this year on a good note, becoming the first Emirati engineering student to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

The biomedical engineering student is also the first Khalifa University student to win the scholarship. It will pay for his tuition fees, flights and a stipend.

Mr Al Shaibani, who will pursue a postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford, said the scholarship would allow him to be an ambassador for the UAE.

He said he was considering doing a postgraduate degree in both biomedical engineering and management or economics.

“One of the best things about this opportunity is being able to represent the UAE and Khalifa University at Oxford and show them we have students with the calibre to receive these awards,” he said.

Last year, Mr Al Shaibani was a finalist at the Drones for Good, a UAE competition to create drone technology to improve, among other things, healthcare and education services.

He is currently developing a smartphone application and device to alert diabetics to any potential damage to their feet.

A sensor placed in the shoes of diabetics monitors their feet’s temperature, humidity and pulse. The sensor sends a warning to the smartphone app when it detects abnormalities.

Mr Al Shaibani said his work and winning the Rhodes scholarship were thanks to the UAE’s world-class education as well as support from university staff and the country’s leaders.

In summer last year he interned at Stanford University in California. “While working at [Stanford’s] robotics lab, I saw no gaps between their facilities and ours, and they were impressed by the technical skills I obtained at Khalifa University,” he said.

“This gave me the confidence that we have world-class facilities right here in the UAE.”

Mr Al Shaibani said he was drawn to the facilities at Khalifa University and its practical focus on education.

Dr Hassan Al Muhairi, director of graduate studies at Khalifa University, praised Mr Al Shaibani as a role model for other students. “Not only is he a student that excels in classes but he is always involving himself in extracurricular activities,” he said.

Dr Mohammed Al Mualla, senior vice president of research and graduate studies at Khalifa University, said Mr Al Shaibani was a notable student. “Fahad is one of many gifted students at Khalifa University and his success is yet another testament to the UAE leadership’s commitment to providing cutting-edge education facilities and infrastructure,” he said.

Dr Al Muhairi said Mr Al Shaibani’s scholarship win reflected well on Khalifa University because it showed its significant progress since its founding eight years ago.

Since its inception in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarships, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious, has awarded 7,688 scholarships. Former US president Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar.

The application process involves several steps, with applicants having to secure university endorsement and have face-to-face interviews with the selection committee.

Of the eight UAE students shortlisted for the interviews, Mr Al Shaibani said he was proud to be Khalifa University’s sole candidate.

“They were looking at our personalities and characters as well as our knowledge,” he said.

Last year, Mr Al Shaibani had little time to celebrate winning the scholarship when he received the news during his examinations.

He and Farah Shamout, a 21-year-old Jordanian student of New York University Abu Dhabi, will begin a new academic year at Oxford.

“My advice to other students is to make the most of the opportunities provided for us here in the Emirates,” he said.