Zubaidah Sabah is beginning a journey at Florida Polytechnic University that she hopes will one day transform the agricultural future of her home country of Iraq.
“I just want people in my country to see how automation and using technology – robotics, aerial vehicles and drones in agriculture – will change our situation,” said Sabah, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechatronic engineering from Middle Technical University in Baghdad, Iraq.
She will begin working on her master’s degree in engineering with a focus on robotics this fall as a scholar in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. She is the first Fulbright Scholar from Iraq to study at Florida Poly. The program allows graduate students, young professionals, and artists from all over the world to study and conduct research at U.S. academic institutions.
Sabah said Florida Poly’s reputation for innovation was the deciding factor in her choice to pursue her graduate degree and thesis on automated farming at the University.
“I love how the education at this university goes. There’s lots of focusing on the practical, which I do need,” Sabah said. “I haven’t done much practical work – just a few projects on my own, but I didn’t get into the real environment of robotics and mechatronics.”
Sabah said learning how to improve the agricultural industry in Iraq by using the robotics and automation technologies currently used in U.S. farming could increase efficiency and output.
“I found there were lots of things in agriculture not even discussed in my country and no one had a clue about it,” she said. “I wanted to go for something that will have the most impact on my society and my country.”
For now, she is focused on adjusting to the United States, Florida Poly, and life 11,000 miles from home.
“This is my first time leaving my family. I was staying with them for my whole life and now they are too far,” she said in a telephone call from Syracuse, New York, where she began her pre-academic program in July. “It’s not easy facing the hard times, but I’ve made a lot of friendships and people here are pretty cool.”
After returning to work on agricultural projects in Iraq once she finishes her master’s program, Sabah hopes to come back to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree and advance her country’s agricultural capabilities even more.
“Everyone in the world knows the U.S. has the best education system and the top universities in the world,” Sabah said. “When people study here, they depend more on themselves. They start a project and are capable of succeeding. I want to do the same.”
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