After graduation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, senior Omar Alshangiti will continue his academic career at the University of Oxford in England following his selection as a Rhodes Scholar.
A double major in chemistry and materials science and engineering, Alshangiti's passion for science evolved in high school when he took part in the International Chemistry Olympiad, winning the first silver medal for Saudi Arabia. Alshangiti is one of an international group of Scholars from more than 60 countries around the world who will join the 32 Rhodes Scholars from the United States at Oxford next October to study in fields across the social, biological and physical sciences, the humanities, and public policy.
At Illinois, Alshangiti works as a research assistant at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology in the lab of professor Jeffrey Moore, the Stanley O. Ikenberry Endowed Chair and Professor of Chemistry and director at Beckman, and in the lab of Materials Science and Engineering professor Nancy Sottos. Alshangiti does research in the rapid synthesis of elastomers and thermosets via frontal polymerization. He also interned at ARAMCO Research centers at Boston, where he worked on developing polymeric surfactants for enhanced oil recovery.
When he is not in the lab, Alshangiti enjoys hiking and camping in the wilderness, reading Arabic literature, or volunteering as a mathematics and science tutor. At Oxford, he hopes to pursue his passions in studying soft materials, and to continue exploring the hidden gems of materials science and chemistry.
"I feel really grateful and humbled for receiving this opportunity, and I’m really honored to represent both Saudi Arabia and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at this prestigious scholarship," Alshangiti said. "I hope this chance will help me contribute more effectively to the scientific fields I’m most interested in, and to make a positive impact to my close communities and beyond. I also feel grateful for the preparation and experience I got at the U of I. The professors I met, the friends I made, and the RSOs I joined, they all shaped who I am and are all part of this accomplishment."
The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest (first awarded in 1902) and perhaps most prestigious international scholarship program, enabling outstanding young people from around the world to study at the University of Oxford.
The fellowship of Rhodes Scholars, worldwide and across generations, is active and over 7,000 strong. Rhodes Scholars enter a life-long fellowship with ongoing opportunities to connect with current and Senior Scholars and, beyond that, a warm and engaging community within Scholars typically develop enduring friendships. The Rhodes Scholarship opens up opportunities for Scholars before, after and during their time in Oxford.
“The MatSE Department is proud of Omar’s accomplishments, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him personally," said department head Nancy Sottos. "Omar took the initiative to get involved in an interdisciplinary research project involving rapid synthesis of elastomer and thermosetting polymers with tunable mechanical properties – his important contributions to characterize these materials are featured in a recent publication in which he is co-author.”