ubadah in a blue sweater, looking at the camera, smiling wide.

ubadah sabbagh, phd(he/him)

Postdoctoral Associate, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard


When I was 16 years old, I came to the United States and started college. As an immigrant, my objectives were simply to find opportunity and pursue an education. 

I attended Longview Community College in Kansas City for three years before transferring to the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) to pursue a bachelor's degree. At this time, I was interested in ways that computational methods could inform bench research, and developed experience in this while working with Dr. Gerald Wyckoff (my first research experience). In 2015, I earned my bachelors of science degree in biology, with an emphasis on bioinformatics. It was my undergraduate professor who saw in me the potential for being a PhD scientist and told me to apply - something I never before considered.

I joined the interdisciplinary Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program at Virginia Tech. Working with Dr. Michael A Fox, my doctoral research was focused on studying the connections between the eye and the brain. Specifically, my thesis centered on mapping the distribution and neurochemistry of principle neurons in the ventral lateral geniculate nucleus (vLGN), a visual region of the thalamus. In my work, I used trans-synaptic viral tracing, single nucleus transcriptomics, proteomics, and other molecular and cellular neurobiology techniques. In addition to the vLGN, I also studied other visual brain regions including the superior colliculus and the dorsal LGN. In May 2021, I successfully defended my thesis and earned my PhD.

I'm now a postdoctoral associate and an NIH K00 Fellow at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Working the laboratory of Dr. Guoping Feng, my current research interests center on understanding the role of inhibitory neurons in thalamocortical circuits in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric illness (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Schizophrenia). In my work, I develop new biological tools (virus engineering and genome editing) and use single cell multiomics, molecular biology, systems neuroscience, and rodent behavior.

Outside of the lab, I am heavily involved in science outreach, advocacy, and policy. I co-founded and serve on the board of Black In Neuro, and have published articles at the intersection of science and policy in the Washington Post, Scientific American, and other outlets. My contributions over the years have been recognized with numerous honors from several organizations including the NIH, the Society for Neuroscience, the American Society for Neurochemistry, and being named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 list of scientists (the first Syrian), and being named to the 2023 15 Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review Arabia. 

read my full CV here

miscellaneous sTUFF.

currently reading: Restating Orientalism: a critique of modern knowledge by Wael Hallaq

favorite food: Chicken Shawarma (specifically the Syrian style though - toom sauce, pickles, french fries)

favorite dessert: Kunafe

favorite drink: I have perhaps 3-5 espressos a day

favorite cartoon: Rick and Morty

favorite sitcom: Curb your Enthusiasm. According to friends, I'm Larry. 

favorite sport: Soccer. Love to play and coached for a couple of years. 

positions & education

Postdoctoral Associate

Laboratory of Dr. Guoping Feng
2021 - Present

Graduate Student
Virginia Tech

Laboratory of Dr. Michael A. Fox
2016 - 2021

Undergraduate Student
University of Missouri - Kansas City

Laboratory of Dr. Gerald Wyckoff
2013 - 2015

Undergraduate Student
Longview Community College

2009 - 2012

honors & awards (select)

2023 15 Innovators Under 35
MIT Technology Review MENA


2023 Young Arab Pioneer
The Arab Youth Center


2022 Lifetime Appointed Member
Scientific Arab Forum (saf)


2021 30 Under 30
Forbes Magazine


2020 Young Investigator Award
American Society for Neurochemistry

2020 Early Career Policy Fellow
Society for Neuroscience

2019 Ben Barres Fellow
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

2019 DSPAN F99/K00 Award

2018 Neuroscience Scholars Fellow
Society for Neuroscience

leadership & service (select)

2023 - present Advisory Board
Community for Rigor (C4R)

2022 - present Advisory Group to the NIH Director
Re-envisioning postdoctoral training WG


2022 - present Chair, Training Advisory Committee
Society for Neuroscience

2020 - 2022 Member, Training Advisory Committee
Society for Neuroscience

2020 - present Co-Founder & Board Member
Black In Neuro

2017 - 2020 Director of Judging
Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair

2016 - 2019 Founding Chair
VTC Student Outreach Program