Mark Weingarten, a senior at Yeshiva University, was selected to conduct research as part of the Emily Murray Fellowship at the Hastings Center for Bioethics in Hastings, New York this summer.
The three-week program began at the end of May and is open to undergraduates who are preparing a senior thesis in bioethics. Weingarten’s research will focus on two projects that integrate Torah, biomedical science and law. One will explore the ethical considerations that arise from the publication of irreproducible or seemingly fraudulent scientific data, in addition to developing systems approaches to enhance research integrity. The other will examine ethical issues with respect to animals, particularly regarding the controversy over the humane killing of animals for food, and the interplay between religion, history, law and ethics in determining policy.
“I hope to use this research to investigate the broader questions that underlie many elements of the biomedical field in general, and the way in which legal and religious traditions engage advancements in science and technology,” said Weingarten, who is majoring in history at Yeshiva College and also pursuing semicha (rabbinic ordination) at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. “I hope that this study will further my ability to synthesize the knowledge and sensitivities that I have gleaned from my rabbinical studies and biological research to address personal and societal ethical scientific dilemmas.”
Weingarten credits his many rabbis and professors at YU for their invaluable guidance in his research and other intellectual pursuits, and for helping him discover new insights and opportunities related to his studies.
This project represents the next stage of his research with Dr. Yakov Peter, assistant professor of biology, who has served as his mentor since he began his journey at YU three years ago.
“Dr. Peter’s mentorship, his caring and dedication to his students, is extremely inspiring and remarkable,” said Weingarten. “Under his tutelage, I have been granted exposure to the world of research, and afforded opportunities that have been unparalleled learning experiences. Dr. Peter was instrumental as a sparring partner to develop unique ideas for the thesis, and in his brilliant and unique approaches to always push the bar higher.”
“Mark is a friendly, hardworking and highly motivated student,” said Dr. Peter, who helped Weingarten secure a research opportunity at a Harvard laboratory last summer to study pulmonary cell biology. “He is determined, quick, resourceful and open to new ideas. He has already co-authored two manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, which is a very rare accomplishment for an undergraduate student. With the tools he acquired at YU, Mark will now be able to follow his dreams in the field of bioethics.”
Weingarten also acknowledged the mentorship of two Roshei Yeshiva whose wisdom and guidance served as constant sources of inspiration during his research: Rabbi Moshe Tendler, Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Chair in Jewish Medical Ethics and professor of biology, who first introduced him to the field of bioethics, and Rabbi J. David Bleich, Herbert and Florence Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a postdoctoral fellow at the Hastings Center, “whose prowess in Torah and bioethics is astonishing,” Weingarten said.
“I was first captivated by the field of bioethics when taking Rabbi Tendler’s course,” Weingarten recalled. “There, I witnessed his mastery of the material, and the manner in which he harnessed a variety of viewpoints to present the multifaceted elements of each dilemma.”
In addition, Weingarten has been studying with Rabbi Shalom Carmy, assistant professor of Jewish Philosophy and Bible to “to gain the background in philosophy necessary to achieve an enhanced perception of the issues at hand,” he said. He also plans to connect with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Ozer Glickman later this summer, “to study some of the pertinent legal and Talmudic discussions.”
During the fellowship, student scholars research and write a portion of their project, deliver a presentation of their work to Hastings Center scholars and are able to discuss their project individually with the Center’s research scholars. “It is an incredible blessing and humbling opportunity to now interact with and learn from some of the leaders in the field whose articles we discussed and debated in class,” said Weingarten.