First Multidisciplinary Research Day Highlights Undergraduate Students’ Work in Wide Range of Fields
On November 15, Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women hosted their first joint Research Day across multiple disciplines. The event celebrated the research of undergraduates in fields ranging from the humanities to natural and mathematical sciences and allowed students to share their work and hone their presentation skills, while providing attendees an opportunity to learn from their peers and get a taste of the rich, exciting world of research.
The program began with keynote presentations from students representing the social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities. Yael Farzan, a Stern College student whose research focused on religion and expressive writing as predictors of prosocial behavior, noted that despite their differences, researchers in these fields shared similar qualities. “To be a good psychologist you need to ask questions, open your eyes and be curious about the world around you,” she said. “We are all by nature psychologists and sociologists.”
Yeshiva College student Dov Levine, who studied “Preliminary Explorations into Bacterial Swarming” this summer as a Roth Institute Scholar, funded by the Ernst and Hedwig Roth Institute of Biomedical Science Education, shared what had originally drawn him to research. “Imagination and demand for hard evidence,” he said, inspired him. “Without repeated experiments and hard evidence, ideas remain theoretical models.”
A double major in Judaic studies and English literature, Rachel Renz’s research focused on the biblical flood narrative. Addressing recent concerns that interest in the humanities is fading, she said, “This is a really important and crucial time for the humanities as a whole to come together and vouch for its legitimacy and fight for its own role in the world of research today.”
After students’ remarks, conference participants attended a poster session in Furst Hall showcasing the work of about 35 undergraduate students, many of whom collaborated with faculty mentors. Topics ranged from “Plasma Imaging in the Columbia Non-Neutral Torus” to “Perceptions of Jewish Criminality and the Jewish American Gangster in the Early 20th Century.”
Benyamin Ben-Zvi, a student considering a PhD in organic chemistry, conducted researched on organo-metallic chemistry. Describing his evolution as a researcher, Ben-Zvi said, “I got to a point where I was able to come up with my own experiments to test. My mentor gave me the tools to be able to make inferences and correlations of my own.” His mentor of two years, Dr. Fabiola Barrios-Landeros, assistant professor of chemistry, felt the process of compiling and sharing findings was a critical part of a scientist’s work. “Your research is not complete until you can put it into words,” she said. “These posters help students see how their small contributions fit into the larger project. Science is done one experiment at a time; you need bricks to make the house.”
Three prizes were awarded for excellence in research. First place was awarded to Jennifer Herskowitz and Rachel Leah Victor for their work on “Daptomycin Interactions with TOCL Containing Membranes.” Michael Shulman, the second place winner, researched “Alteration of Current Induced by a Line Failure in a Random Grid.” Atara Siegel (“Factors Associated with Adherence to Gynecologic Screening Recommendations in Young Orthodox Jewish Women”) and Mia Guttman (“Gerhard Richter: Combating the Post Medium Condition”) tied for third.
“On a broader level, Research Day is the celebration of the human spirit, giving expression to human curiosity and our belief in our ability to better understand the world by conquering one’s environment and attempting to solve challenging existential issues through research and discovery,” said Dr. Barry Eichler, dean of Yeshiva College. “It was thrilling to see the excitement of the students as they spoke of their research during the student presentation and poster session of the program. It was evident that all the student researchers gained much from their close collaboration with their mentors and shared with them their joy of learning and discovery.”
Dr. Rachel Mesch, associate professor of French and chair of the Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department at Yeshiva College, one of the three judges, applauded the students’ efforts. “It’s crucial for undergraduates to be involved in research in the fields that they are exploring, as it allows them to experience firsthand the excitement and the rewards and even the frustrations of scholarly and scientific engagement at the highest level,” she said.