Explore UAB

Saba AlsharifIn a new series, the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center (UCDC), a leader in the field of diabetes research, will highlight its dynamic faculty and trainees.

The UCDC has members from across several schools and departments at UAB. Diabetes research capabilities are made stronger by the diverse research focuses and innovations that members bring to the table. To better understand these research capabilities and discoveries, we will spotlight UCDC researchers throughout the year.

This month, we are spotlighting Haifa "Saba" Alsharif, a fourth-year graduate student in Dr. Sushant Bhatnagar's lab.

Tell us a little bit about you and your role at the UCDC.

"My name is Haifa Alsharif. I go mostly by my common name, Saba; I am a 4th year graduate student in Dr. Sushant Bhatnagar's lab. Before joining the lab, I worked in Saudi Arabia as a science teacher and a psychology counselor. I then moved to Birmingham to pursue my master’s in biotechnology here at UAB. After obtaining my master’s degree, I enrolled in the graduate biomedical science PhD program and joined the Bhatnagar laboratory in 2019. I have enjoyed working on many different projects; however, my favorite project involves elucidating the role of BAI3 in regulating whole-body glucose homeostasis."

What first got you interested in diabetes research?

"Initially, I started research work out of curiosity and to acquire new skills outside of teaching. Since joining, Diabetes research has become fascinating to me, and with time, it became a nice challenge to discover new things finding solutions to unanswered questions. Additionally, my family has a history of Type 2 diabetes, increasing the likelihood that I will get it. Therefore, my biggest motivation for continuing my research and understanding the pathogenesis of this disease is to help my loved ones."

Tell us a little bit about your own research.

"My research focuses on understanding the role of Brain Angiogenesis Inhibitor 3 (BAI3), an adhesion GPCR, in regulating whole-body glucose homeostasis, focusing on insulin secretion. In the beginning, we made a BAI3 knockout mouse model with the goal of studying the effect of BAI3 on insulin secretion. I was able to present my work at conferences, including Midwest Islet Conference (MIC), Trainee Research Symposium at UAB, and American Diabetes Association (ADA). In 2021 I competed in ADAs three-minute thesis competition and won 1st place! We have many exciting directions now that need to be uncovered. Till now, we have characterized the primary phenotypes of this mouse model, and we are soon submitting our first paper, stay tuned."

What does supporting the UCDC and its mission mean to you?

"Supporting the UCDC means that international students like me can get the chance to do research and obtain a great experience at one of the most well-known diabetes centers in the US. Also, it gives trainees the opportunity to go to conferences and discover more research areas of interest."