‘They all care a lot about science’
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‘They all care a lot about science’

Local Orthodox students go to Israel for summer research internship program

From left, Bar-Ilan master’s student Ariel Simon, Eliana Farkas, Ph.D., student Shalhevet Azriel, and Dr. Nissan Yissachar. (Ayelet Pearl)
From left, Bar-Ilan master’s student Ariel Simon, Eliana Farkas, Ph.D., student Shalhevet Azriel, and Dr. Nissan Yissachar. (Ayelet Pearl)

Eliana Farkas, 21, of Bergenfield spent her summer helping two Israeli graduate students investigate how chemotherapy treatment in breast cancer patients disrupts the composition of their gut microbiota, and how these microbes may contribute to the development of severe chemotherapy side effects.

Her work in the lab of Dr. Nissan Yissachar at Bar-Ilan University — isolating and culturing bacteria from patient samples and preparing them for genetic sequencing — was part of the 10th annual Summer Science research internship program, a joint Bar-Ilan University/Yeshiva University initiative.

This year, 26 Orthodox undergraduates from the United States and Argentina are participating in the six-week program, which ran through August 5. These young men and woman are students from Yeshiva University’s Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women, Queens College, Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, and the University of Buenos Aires.

Ms. Farkas is entering her third year at Stern. A graduate of the Frisch School in Paramus, she is a premed molecular and cellular biology major and hopes to live in Israel one day. 

She wasn’t the first in her family to get a Summer Science research internship.

“Both my brothers did this program in the past and spoke very positively of it,” Ms. Farkas said. “It was such an easy connection between YU and Bar-Ilan and there is so much great research coming out of here. I felt it’s a very safe place to be during covid, and I love Israel in general.” 

This year’s mentors were Bar-Ilan faculty members involved in nanotechnology, brain research engineering, life sciences, mathematics, chemistry, physics, psychology, and English literature and linguistics.

Ms. Farkas said the lab members communicated with her mainly in English. “They helped me cultivate new skills. I feel I learned a lot and got a lot of lab experience working on a very interesting project. It opened my eyes to how research is conducted.”

“Eliana is scientifically curious, a quick learner, and a great team player,” Dr. Yissachar said. “It was a pleasure to host her in my lab, and I have no doubt that she will greatly succeed in her future studies in medicine and/or biomedical scientific research.” 

Outside of the lab, Ms. Farkas enjoyed bonding with the other participants. They were housed on Yeshiva University’s Jerusalem campus and commuted daily to the Ramat Gan campus outside Tel Aviv, taking advantage of their time on the bus to socialize and learn daf yomi, a daily page of Talmud. 

Talya Erblich, left, and her supervisor, Odem Harel. (Ohr Nachum)

The program also included half-day trips to places including Israel Aerospace Industries, the Agriculture Research Organization-Volcani Center, the Tell es-Safi/Gath archaeological site, and Teperberg Winery. They also had the option to participate in lectures by Bar-Ilan scholars, nighttime activities such as a challah bake, and Torah classes.

Talya Erblich of Elizabeth, who is going into her senior year at Rutgers as an electrical and computer engineering major, was placed in the lab of Professor Adam Teman, co-director of a collaborative research program in the emerging nanoscaled circuits and systems labs at Bar-Ilan.

“I’m making aliyah next year or the year after, and this is my chance to learn some of the lingo in Hebrew, especially the special technological phrases used in my field,” Ms. Erblich said. “The research that the Bar-Ilan professors were doing in the engineering field was very interesting to me.” 

Dr. Teman said that Ms. Erblich worked on a central project of the EnICS Labs: a unique system-on-chip — SoC for short — designed to enable students of all the EnICS Labs’ research groups to demonstrate their innovative projects.

“This chip, nicknamed LEO-I, arrived at the labs from fabrication last month and is currently in the ‘ramp-up’ phase to test, characterize, and analyze the various research blocks, eventually leading to publications and continued research,” he said.

Ms. Erblich, who teaches computer science to seventh-graders part time at her alma mater, Elizabeth’s Bruriah High School for Girls, joined the characterization efforts, starting with the SoC’s embedded memory block. 

“I was troubleshooting, helping to create a code that would help find bugs on the chip,” she said.

Although she had been to Israel many times, including for a gap year, “this is my first academic experience in Israel,” she continued. “I was involved with electrical and computer engineering and connecting with the amazing people on my program. They all care a lot about science and we have had great scientific discussions.”

Professor Arlene Wilson-Gordon of Bar-Ilan’s department of chemistry directed this year’s internship program. Based on the students’ academic background and interests, she paired them with faculty members and research assignments that would best enhance their summer experience and promote individual growth and career development.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to experience a state-of-the-art lab in Israel and to get to know students from all the diverse sectors of Israeli society,” Dr. Wilson-Gordon said.

The internship is free of charge for the participants. 

Since its inception in 2011, the YU/Bar-Ilan Summer Science Research internship program received financial support from the late Dr. Mordecai D. Katz, honorary chairman of the Bar-Ilan Board of Trustees, and from the J. Samuel Harwit and Manya Harwit-Aviv Charitable Trust. The Barbara and Fred Kort Foundation supported this year’s program.

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