Fulbright scholars from Iraq explore research connections with Institute

Ten scientists from Iraq—among them physicists, computer engineers and molecular biologists—toured on Thursday parts of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, expressing interest in establishing research connections with EPI faculty, including recruiting Iraqi Ph.D. students for further academic study at the Institute.

Fraidoon Salih, a microbiology professor at Salahaddin University, said the possibility of establishing academic ties was promising, noting the importance of working with an institute focused on diseases affecting the Middle East and other regions with similar climates.

“(Collaborations) would be good for Iraq because we’re a tropical country,” Dr. Salih said.

Iraqis are often confronted with infectious diseases such as cholera and typhus.  A 2007 outbreak of cholera persisted in at least nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the World Health Organization reported.


Creating ways to mitigate these problems often requires an international research effort.

“Scientists in the United States are moving more and more to interdisciplinary teams,” said EPI director J. Glenn Morris, Jr., to the group.  “The idea is to have as interactive of a space as possible.”

For EPI, that “space” includes research projects in more than 50 countries.

Nidhal K. El-Abbadi, a professor of informatics at the University of Kufa, said he would like to establish links with the University of Florida that could also advance cancer research. He and his colleagues are trying to understand the potential environmental causes of high rates of cancer among people living in southeastern Iraq.

“Why is it concentrated in the Basra province?” Dr. El-Abbadi asked rhetorically, referring to the clusters of cancers that are appearing in the area.

The scientists, professors at several colleges and universities in the country, are part of the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program for Iraq, an initiative established two years ago by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to help Iraqi scholars establish professional and academic relationships with researchers in the United States. Florida State University is currently hosting these scientists.