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Sahba Seddighi, who graduated from UT in May 2016, has been named to the highly prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholars program. The first UT graduate to receive this honor, Seddighi will be continuing the research about Alzheimer’s disease that she began as an undergraduate.

Sahba Seddighi

Seddighi is one of 90 students from about 6,000 applicants worldwide to win the scholarship, which will allow her to pursue international graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England beginning in October.

“I am thrilled and deeply humbled by this opportunity to join the Gates Cambridge community and collaborate with a cadre of diverse and visionary leaders while gaining a broader public health perspective on dementia,” said Seddighi, a Knoxville native who graduated from Farragut High School.

A Haslam Scholar honored as a 2016 Torchbearer, Seddighi graduated from UT’s College Scholars program with a self-designed multidisciplinary major in neuroplasticity and neurodegenerative disorders. Her undergraduate research focused on factors influencing brain and behavioral adaptations throughout the lifespan. She has spent the past year studying risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease as a fellow at the NIH National Institute on Aging.

“The Gates Cambridge is among the world’s most competitive scholarships—what a moment this is for Sahba and for UT,” said Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. “This award recognizes Sahba’s accomplishments and her vast potential to improve people’s lives around the world. It also demonstrates UT’s ability to recruit and develop world-class student talent.”

At Cambridge, Seddighi will pursue an M.Phil.—the most advanced research degree before the Ph.D.—in epidemiology. She will study epidemiological concepts, data appraisal, and biostatistics, and apply those concepts to population-based studies in order to understand the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Currently there is no way to prevent, cure, or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. I hope this research will ultimately lead to the development of more accurate diagnostic and prognostic tools as well as novel targets for disease-modifying interventions to help alter the trajectory of this growing global health concern,” Seddighi said.

In addition to work at UT, Seddighi did research during her undergraduate years at the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University, and the Cajal Institute in Spain.

“As an undergraduate student, I was offered incredible flexibility and support to pursue my developing academic interests in various settings, and I extend my warmest gratitude to my many mentors along this exciting journey.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 with a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge. This year’s scholars represent 34 nationalities.

Read more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship program and the 2017 scholars here.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,