What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.
Ubadah Sabbagh came to Roanoke four years ago from Syria as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. His job is “essentially figuring out how we make sense of the visual world around us. As a neuroscientist, I study the connections between the eye and the brain to figure out how those two pieces of the visual system are wired up.”
He loves that aspect of his work, as well as being able to share it with the community through STEM outreach and giving talks around town.
5 Questions with Ubadah Sabbagh
What brought you here?
After I applied to grad schools, my choices came down to two cities, Roanoke or Hanover, New Hampshire. I got to visit Roanoke as part of my interviewing process and immediately fell in love with the vibe of the town. Most people here are kind, the nature is gorgeous, and it just felt right. So, I chose Roanoke as my home as I started my doctoral research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.
What’s your favorite part about living in the Roanoke Region?
Honestly, my favorite thing is probably the relaxed vibe of this city. Sure, life and work can get stressful and overwhelming (definitely happens to us in science), but when that happens, I got trails all around me to hike and the greenway to run (which I often do). The nature surrounding us here is gorgeous and something I didn’t have living in bigger cities before.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I really enjoy playing pickup soccer and ultimate frisbee in the fields across from the hospital. I also love running around the city, usually between downtown and Grandin. Other than that, I spend time hanging out with friends, going on picnics or barbecues at the lake, and hanging upside down at Cirqulation downtown.
Where is your favorite place to hang out/work out/eat out?
One favorite place is tough, so I’ll give two. When I want to meet up with a friend, Roasters Next Door has quickly become a favorite coffee shop. Their atmosphere is great, their coffee and food excellent, and the owners and staff are just wonderful people. When I want to write, Sweet Donkey is the spot. My routine is usually sitting outside Sweet Donkey in the morning, having a latte while I inhale their waffle with fruit, then getting to work.
What do you say as a conversation starter?
Given the situation we’re in, my conversations usually start with “I hope you don’t mind, I’m not shaking your hand.”