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VT Fralin student recognized by Forbes ‘30 Under 30’

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 4:35 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Ubadah Sabbagh came to the United States from Aleppo, Syria at the age of 16 to attend college.

Now, 11 years later, the Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate has been named to the Forbes ’30 Under 30′ list in the field of science.

“It’s been very overwhelming and humbling,” said Sabbagh.

Sabbagh studies neuroscience at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke.

His work focuses primarily on how vision is translated within the brain.

“I look at how wires leaving the retina enter the brain and what kinds of connections they form, and those connections are really important for us to understand how we make sense of the visual world around us,” said Sabbagh.

The 27-year-old says being recognized among other top young scientific minds that he respects so much has been a great honor.

He says it’s also been special for family and friends - as far away as back home in the Middle East – as well as colleagues in Roanoke.

“He brings a zealousness and a dedication and a spark of energy to the institute that permeates almost everything: our outreach activities in the community, educational initiatives, equity and inclusion initiatives, and science in the lab,” said Fralin Executive Director Michael Friedlander.

So what’s next for Sabbagh?

“I’m looking to transition away from just studying sensory inputs to the brain, in this case vision, and looking more about how that sensory information is transformed by the brain into action, into some kind of innate behavior,” said Sabbagh.

He will defend his Ph. D. dissertation in May before beginning a post-doctoral fellowship this summer.

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