UAE: Nothing is impossible, says Emirati AI graduate with rare disease

26-year-old Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi passes out from MBZUAI, despite being on wheelchair with SMA - Type 2


Ashwani Kumar

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Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi receives his certificate from Sheikh Theyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan during a grand ceremony in Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo
Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi receives his certificate from Sheikh Theyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan during a grand ceremony in Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo

Published: Mon 30 Jan 2023, 9:45 PM

The UAE can look forward to the future with great level of confidence, because it’s driven by inspiring nationals like Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi.

The 26-year-old with SMA Type 2 – a rare genetic disease — has battled all odds with his will power, determination and zeal to be among the first cohort of students passing out from the world’s first graduate research university in artificial intelligence.

“I am a graduate from the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI),” a beaming Al Zaabi told Khaleej Times after receiving his certificate from Sheikh Theyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan during a grand ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s a great honour to be part of this inaugural class. And hopefully, I would be an inspiration for all those who are to come and graduate in the future.”

Al Zaabi did his bachelor's in petroleum engineering from the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. For the past few years, the 26-year-old native of Ras Al Khaimah has been living in Abu Dhabi, where he works as a reservoir engineer with state-owned Adnoc. It was then that he decided to take some time off to pursue masters in machine learning. “I have now completed my major. I am back at work at Adnoc.”

Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi. — Supplied photo
Mohammed Jasem Al Zaabi. — Supplied photo

Asked why an individual in a well-settled government job would go on to study further, Al Zaabi underlined that artificial intelligence is the future and he wanted to be at the forefront shaping it.

“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Adnoc, but for all different government authorities. Artificial intelligence is here to help us do our jobs more efficiently, faster and in a better way. When I first heard about artificial intelligence, especially at work, meetings and announcements, they were all mentioning it as the future. So, I was like, why don’t I get a step ahead of the curve, and pursue this dream. It is also a better way to advance my career. I can have the better opportunity in the future. So, I took this decision (to study at MBZUAI). And thank God, everything worked out for me,” said Al Zaabi while sitting in his wheelchair.

“I was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) since my birth. It’s Type Two. Even though I have all the difficulties, I want to be an example of the saying, nothing is impossible. I would also like to set an example for other people with this or other types of disabilities. Nothing is impossible, as long as you set your mind to it,” Al Zaabi said, while stressing on the catchphrase often used by the leaders to describe the spirit of the UAE.

SMA is an inherited neuromuscular disease affecting nerves and muscles, causing muscles to become increasingly weak.

The Emirati engineer is now more focused and determined to contribute to taking Adnoc to new heights. “I am already back at work. I’m trying to be part of the data visualisation and the artificial intelligence team at Adnoc and use my knowledge to help them in the future. In terms of data visualisation, and production, using artificial intelligence to create new programmes can help the oil and gas sector. All these things are going to help us as engineers, and as Adnoc as a whole,” he said and highlighted the strong support from family members.

“My mother, father, brother and sister, all supported me throughout this journey. I’m thankful to them,” Al Zaabi added.

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