Sara Aldahabi’s 22nd birthday wish came true – she got into the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry.
“Decision day was the day before my birthday,” the honors biological sciences major says. “That was the best birthday gift ever.”
From a young age, Aldahabi has aspired to become a dentist. Her father worked in a dental technician lab, which she often visited. Her mother had also gotten into dental school, but because of cultural norms that came with being Syrian and Lebanese, she did not attend.
“Going to dental school was something I wanted to carry forward for my mom,” she says.
Aldahabi sought a predental education at UMass Lowell because of the university’s rigorous coursework, research opportunities, affordability and proximity to her home in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where she helps take care of her two younger brothers.
Whenever Aldahabi had to miss a class to get her siblings on their school bus or needed extra help with a chemistry course, she always felt the support of her professors.
“The faculty go out of their way to make sure their students succeed,” she says. “They all genuinely care.”
As Aldahabi excelled in her courses (at one point taking eight classes in one semester), she got involved in organizations to help other students. She became a learning assistant for Principles of Biology, a chemistry tutor, a tutor for the Medical Profession Admission Gap Initiative and Collaboration program, a mentor for the Pre-Dental Society and a Kennedy College of Sciences ambassador. Aldahabi also served on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force to help create a campuswide diversity action plan.
“I really liked that the university had student representatives,” she says. “They cared about our insight and what we had to say.”
The diverse student body at UMass Lowell is a quality that Aldahabi appreciates. Spending her early years living in Stoneham, Massachusetts, she says she never really felt like she belonged because not many of the residents understood her Middle Eastern culture.
“Coming to UMass Lowell, I looked around and was like, ‘There are people just like me everywhere. This is amazing,’” says Aldahabi, who joined UML’s Muslim Students Association and went on to create the Middle Eastern Student Union.
When Aldahabi is not busy on campus, she is getting experience as a dental assistant at MSG Dental in Tewksbury. Her goal is to make people feel comfortable when they visit.
“A lot of people have negative connotations when it comes to seeing a dentist,” she says. “I want to be somebody who’s able to break that stigma.”
Aldahabi has also conducted research in the labs of Biological Sciences Assoc. Prof. Rick Hochberg and Asst. Prof. Nicolai Konow.
“UML is so great when it comes to research because there are so many different labs,” she says.
Aldahabi says she made the right choice when she came to UMass Lowell.
“UMass Lowell is more than a school,” she says. “It’s a home.”