Neuroscience Major Wins Research Experience Scholarship

Associate professor of biology Travis Bailey and Muwafaq Ibrahim ’25

Associate professor of biology Travis Bailey (left) and scholarship winner Muwafaq “Moe” Ibrahim ’25 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

McNair Scholar Muwafaq "Moe" Ibrahim '25, a neuroscience major from Rochester, NY, has won a scholarship for the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine Experience in Research during Summer 2023. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the program is an eight-week residential research, education, and mentoring experience in laboratory or clinical research. Participants explore medical and research ethics, health care disparities, statistics, and research tools. 

“Mentorship from Pritzker medical students and staff will be very impactful because I will get direct guidance and advice from those people walking the path I want to take to achieve my medical dreams,” says Ibrahim. He plans to pursue a MD/PhD or MD/MPH, which will allow him to practice medicine in underserved communities with large immigrant populations.

Born to Sudanese parents, Ibrahim is himself an immigrant, coming to the US from Saudi Arabia at nine years old. His passion for medicine was inspired by Dr. Khalid Elhaj Ibrahim Abdelgadir, a physician and mentor in the local Rochester Sudanese immigrant community.

“Combining an MD with a public health degree will allow me to play the same role that Khalid played in my life,” Ibrahim says. “I will be able to care for community members personally and treat them, while at the same time advocate for their needs by pushing for policies that would help educate kids without mentors and provide them with access to resources.”

At Geneseo, Ibrahim has worked in the lab of another mentor, associate professor of biology Travis Bailey, an experience that has helped him understand the significance of medical research. Their project, “Localization of Sonic Hedgehog Protein in Zebrafish Retina,” examines the species’ unique ability to continually regenerate retina cells, an ability humans lack.

“We are trying to find and identify which cells have the receptors for the protein, which will give us insight into why humans cannot regenerate retina cells,” Ibrahim says. “Basic research like Dr. Bailey’s is a cornerstone of medical science, providing knowledge of diseases and possible treatments. Without it, medicine would not have progressed to the level that it has today.”

"I'm really glad Moe joined my research group,” says Bailey. “He engages learning with infectious enthusiasm and makes others feel welcome. I'm sure he will benefit the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine just like he has SUNY Geneseo."

“Role models such as Dr. Khalid and Dr. Bailey have made all the difference in my success,” Ibrahim says.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program is a Department of Education funded TRIO program at 151 US institutions designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies. Student participants are chosen for their academic potential and are either first-generation with financial need and/or from traditionally underrepresented groups. The program offers research-intensive experiences, mentoring and support, grant-funded stipends for research work, opportunities to visit graduate schools and professional conferences, and monetary assistance. For more information, contact

Read more about Prof. Bailey’s zebrafish research in Scene magazine

—Michael Mills