Ninth Cohort Awarded Grants to Pursue Research Ranging From Nanophysics to American Politics
Yeshiva University’s focus on advanced undergraduate level research continues to intensify with the selection of five exceptional students for the Bertha Kressel Research Scholarship in 2017-2018. The scholarship—established in 2008 by Dr. Henry Kressel, Yeshiva University chairman emeritus, managing director of Warburg Pincus LLC and a Yeshiva College graduate—offers students the unique opportunity to craft a year-long intensive research project under the direct supervision of YU faculty.
The scholars will each receive a stipend of $4,000 for the year, along with appropriate research-support expenses. Following their research tenure, Kressel Scholars will be encouraged to share their work in professional and peer circles to stimulate a larger intellectual discussion on their chosen topics, which range from nanophysics to English literature and breast cancer research.
This year’s recipients are Yael Eisenberg and Yishai Eisenberg of Passaic, New Jersey; Yardena Katz of Thornhill, Ontario; Karen Neugroschl of Bergenfield, New Jersey; and Masha Shollar of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Under the supervision of Dr. Marian Gidea, professor of mathematics, Yael Eisenberg will conduct research in Bar-Ilan University this summer as she uses mathematical analysis to investigate brain activity.
“I’ll be operating the magnetoencephalography machine, or MEG machine, which is a non-invasive technique used to collect brain data,” she said. “I’m looking to see if different areas of the brain are stimulated when a simple arithmetic problem is presented in numbers versus words. If the research supports the hypothesis that different areas of the brain are used to answer the same question when it’s presented in different ways, that information can empower people who are ‘stronger’ in one area of the brain or who have brain damage in a specific area of the brain to utilize that strength to solve problems they previously thought were beyond their capacity.”
Ultimately, Yael hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics. “I believe that the Kressel fellowship will give me the tools necessary to set myself up for future math research in graduate school and beyond,” she said.
Her brother, Yishai Eisenberg, will be advised by Dr. Fredy Zypman, professor of physics, as he studies charge density measurement with nanometer precision. “We will attempt to create algorithms for interpreting results of an Atomic-Force Microscope scanning,” he said. “The microscope scans an object a few nanometers in length with a needle. As the needle vibrates, the microscope can interpret its position as a function of the voltage between the needle and the specimen. Using this voltage, we will try to reconstruct a map of the charge on the object’s surface.”
For Yishai, his research with Zypman at Yeshiva College has been the most exciting part of his undergraduate education. “I specifically recall hypothesizing a certain model and after weeks of computer programming and debugging, we found it consistent with the theoretical results,” he said. “This scholarship gives me the opportunity to conduct this fascinating research and present my results to a larger academic community.”
Under the guidance of her mentor Dr. Marina Holz, Doris and Ira Kukin Professor of Biology, Yardena Katz will study triple negative breast cancer, known as TNBC, a subset of tumors defined by their lack of specific receptors that typically serve as useful targets in cancer treatment.
“The research that I will be conducting will explore a treatment for TNBC by illuminating the functions of protein factors uniquely important in TNBC cells and testing how they could be targeted for drug development in a range of cellular models of breast cancer,” said Katz. “The most exciting aspect of my research so far has been connecting with Stern students who are enthusiastic about scientific research. By working with experienced students in the lab and learning from peers through participation in YU’s research poster competition, I have had the chance to partake in a stimulating research culture that has greatly motivated my own interest in research and helped cultivate some of my most meaningful relationships at YU.”
As a biology major and researcher in Holz’s lab, Katz has also been inspired by her mentor’s dedication. “I learn so much from the drive and confidence that Dr. Holz embodies in her work,” she said. “The mentorship that she has given me in my time at Stern thus far has been unbelievably generous and genuine, and I feel exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity to continue learning from her in this capacity.”
Karen Neugroschl will study truth in American politics by assessing partisan differences in factual accuracy with Dr. Joseph Luders, David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of Political Science. “My research project will explore to what extent ideology plays a role in partisan policy agendas over facts,” she said. “Focusing on statements made by members of Congress, I will create a dataset of references to academic scholarship or expert information in order to determine if there is a difference between the overall frequency in which Democrats and Republicans cite such sources. In addition, through several steps, I will evaluate the reliability of the sources and the individual scholars that are cited. Through this process, I hope to be able to determine the degree of accuracy and reliability for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.”
For Neugroschl, who will also serve as student council president next year and hopes to pursue a career in law, the potential significance of her research is especially meaningful. “In 2015, just 19 percent of the country was estimated to have trust in government,” she said. “This incredibly low number is certainly related to the belief that Americans are being misled by their politicians. If through my research I can determine to what extent facts or ideology are involved in politics, it can help shape the public’s perspective on government.”
Under the mentorship of Dr. Seamus O’Malley, assistant professor of English, Masha Shollar will study androgyny in the works of novelist Virginia Woolf. “This was a unique opportunity to get to work with an incredibly gifted faculty mentor on a topic and author that I’m incredibly passionate about,” she said. “One of the themes that appears again and again across Woolf’s novels is androgyny, though for her, it’s not about asexuality, but about uniting both the masculine and feminine parts of yourself. I’m using one of her novels, The Years, as the centerpiece of the paper, and I’ll also be bringing in passages and excerpts from her other novels, like Orlando and To The Lighthouse, as well as sections of her diaries, letters, and essays. Additionally, I’ll be incorporating gender theorists like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.”
On campus, Shollar recently served as editor-in-chief of The Observer and is considering a career in either journalism or academia, with a focus on Russian literature. She feels that her experience at Stern College for Women has helped shape many aspects of her identity. “At YU, I studied ancient philosophies, modernist texts, midrashim, and chemical reactions, often all in the same day,” she said. “I got to participate in extracurriculars that let me indulge my creative side and others that let me share my more political voice. And I met incredible people who, in turn, became incredible friends.”