The biology chair at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recently shared highlights of her six day trip to Saudi Arabia.


Anissa Evans Buckner, Ph.D, spoke to an enthusiastic audience of UAPB STEM Academy students and Basic Academic Services students, according to a news release.


Buckner was on a four member team sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) International Center Grant. Awarded to Salish Kootenai College (Montana), the grant is designed to increase international research opportunities for U.S. STEM students, especially LSAMP students.


“The experience reminded me of all the wonderful benefits of STEM,” said Buckner. “When people come together in a truly collaborative effort, great work can be produced to help future scientists and engineers on a global platform.”


Buckner began her discussion with the 22-hour flight to Saudi Arabia, 7,400 miles from the U. S. The host institution was King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), an ultramodern campus located on 22,000 acres by the Red Sea. The team met with administrators, faculty, researchers and students, toured the expansive research facilities, and were housed in an on-campus hotel.


In addition to its educational and general budget, King Abdullah awarded KAUST a $200 million endowment to help support its research programs. Buckner noted that the attire at KAUST and its surrounding residential and commercial area was cosmopolitan.


“There were a variety of foods including the popular dates and kapsa,” said Buckner. “Alcohol and pork are prohibited.”


Buckner also noted that designated time for prayer was signaled by chimes at KAUST and participation was optional. Accompanied by their tour guide, Lucy Okumu, Director of International Programs office at KAUST, Buckner and the team traveled to Historic Old Town Jeddah where the traditional Islamic culture prevails. In Jeddah, native women and women on the tour wore abaya style dress.


Salish Kootenai College is the lead campus for this NSF-LSAMP International Center Award. Three other campuses have co-principal investigators on this project: Jackson State University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Louisiana State University. Mary E. Benjamin, UAPB Vice Chancellor Emeritus for Research, Innovation and Economic Development, serves on the advisory Board for this very innovative research initiative.


At the conclusion of her presentation, Buckner was excited to share next steps with the group. Now that the Memorandum of Agreement has been signed between LSAMP-NICE and KAUST, students from the STEM Scholars Academy and UAPB should be able to travel for an initial short visit to explore research areas of interest mid-late next year and apply to graduate school as early as next year.


For more information on STEM international research opportunities or to invite Buckner to share her Saudi Arabia travel experience with students or organizations, email bucknera@uapb.edu or call 870-575-7044.