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2021 Innovators under 35 List Names Two Winners from Khalifa University

February 22, 2022

MIT Technology Review and Majarra have jointly revealed the list of the 2021 Innovators under 35 MENA winners. Khalifa University’s Dr. Ali AlHammadi, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Yasmin Halawani, Postdoctoral Fellow, System-on-Chip Lab (SoCL), were among the 15 innovators recognized.


The Innovators under 35 list highlights the contributions of the most brilliant researchers, experts, and scientists who are breaking new ground in creating solutions for challenges in their communities.


Dr. Ali AlHammadi is recognized for his geospatial insights for smart cities. He developed deep learning models with remote sensing-capable satellites for object detection and features extraction and detailed semantic segmentation with more than 95% accuracy. Some examples of what these models can do are:

  • Detect car numbers and density to determine urban statistics for infrastructure planning;
  • Identify plant yield and soil content to determine harvest production and desertification extent;  and
  • Monitor oil spills and their density to determine its marine and ecological impact and what interventions can be applied.


These solutions are more efficient and with fractions of the previous cost and time needed. 


Dr. AlHammadi has more than 10 years of experience in computational modeling and has extensive research experience in molecular dynamics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. He is passionate about converting research into tangible solutions for startups. He has lent his hand in establishing companies such as Ennova and Frontiers in the US, while being one of the founders of Farmin, a startup that specializes in space AI. Dr. AlHammadi has also co-developed several industrial codes including Automated Characterization (AC), Crude Oil Property Real-time Analyzer (COPRA), and Asphaltene Deposit Tool (ADEPT), which are being used by ADNOC, Nalco, and Chevron.


“Winning this award is another recognition of the achievements of Emirati innovators and a testimony on our advanced technology and its great potential in servicing the UAE and supporting the local innovation ecosystem,” Dr. AlHammadi said.


The other Innovators under 35 winner from KU is Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Yasmin Halawani for her work on “Data Compression Using a Memristive Crossbar” that can help efficiently exchange images, which is essential especially for resource-constrained platforms such as edge devices. The technology proposed by Dr. Halawani and her team accelerates the computationally demanding compression algorithm critical for many applications including those in the healthcare, smart cities, and space industries. The memristor crossbar consumes less energy and occupies a smaller area compared to traditional methods of compression. This smaller form enables nodes to have more space for other functionalities, reduce costs and extend the battery lifetime.


Aside from her work at KU’s System-on-Chip Lab, Dr. Halawani also serves as a board member of the Arab Youth Research Council under the Arab Youth Center. She is also a member of the Women in Sustainability, Environment, and Renewable Energy (WiSER) Pioneers Program, an initiative led by Masdar to encourage women to play an active role in addressing global sustainability challenges.


Dr. Halawani believes that scientific research is more critical now than ever. “The global pandemic accelerated the need for timely innovative solutions. And the epidemic’s wake-up call reminded us that individual responsibility and desire to have a positive impact is vital.”


“To KU students, I encourage you to take advantage of the positive and active environment Khalifa University is providing, invest your energies in the youth initiatives crafted to create opportunities and help in developing our beloved communities,” she said.


Ara Maj Cruz
Creative Writer
22 February 2022