Yeshiva University News » Anatoly Frenkel

Frenkel Receives $375,000 NSF Grant to Support Three Years of Joint Research with Hebrew University

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, will serve as principal investigator on a three-year $675,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for internationally collaborative study of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, tiny synthetic particles containing metal impurities whose properties have intriguing implications for the electronics, solar energy and biological fields.

Anatoly FrenkelFrenkel will work in tandem with Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Dr. Uri Banin, Alfred & Erica Larisch Memorial Chair at its Institute of Chemistry. The grant is administered by NSF, which awarded $375,000 to Frenkel’s group, and the Binational Science Foundation in Israel, which awarded $300,000 to Banin’s.

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Dr. Anatoly Frenkel Receives Recognition in Science Magazine, Three Grants to Study Energy

Sometimes big change comes from small beginnings. That’s especially true in the research of Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, whose work seeks to reinvent the way we use and produce energy by unlocking the potential of some of the world’s tiniest structures: nanoparticles.

Anatoly Frenkel

Stern College’s Dr. Anatoly Frenkel has recently received more than $1 million in various grants to study energy.

“The nanoparticle is the smallest unit in most novel materials, and all of its properties are linked in one way or another to its structure,” said Frenkel. “If we can understand that connection, we can derive much more information about how it can be used for catalysis, energy and other purposes.”

That is the focus of three new grants Frenkel has recently been awarded. Read the rest of this entry…

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Summer Science Research Program Pairs YU Students with Bar-Ilan Faculty; Opens Door for Future Collaboration 

Twenty eight select undergraduate science majors from Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women are participating in the third Summer Science Research Internship program, a joint initiative with Yeshiva University and Bar-Ilan University (BIU) that enables students to gain hands-on experience in emerging scientific fields while being mentored by Israel’s top scientists.

Yeshiva College student David Kornbluth

Yeshiva College’s David Kornbluth takes part in the Summer Science Research Internship Program at Bar-Ilan.

During the seven-week research experience, the students are placed in intensive internships with top BIU faculty members, including those from the Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and the Gonda Brain Research Center, and will work in the University’s state-of-the-art research laboratories.

The program, which runs from June 23 – August 8, was founded by Dr. Chaim Sukenik, a Yeshiva College alumnus who holds the Edward and Judy Steinberg Chair in Nanotechnology at Bar-Ilan and was recently appointed incoming president of the Jerusalem College of Technology. Read the rest of this entry…

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Seeking Green Energy Solutions, Students and Faculty from Stern College and UNH Join Forces

As part of a new educational experience designed to restructure the way undergraduates are trained in science and engineering, students at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women participated in hands-on advanced nanoscience and nanotechnology research at Brookhaven National Laboratory on April 11.


Students toured the Brookhaven lab and used its National Synchrotron Light Source, a ring in which electrons are accelerated and also a source of powerful x-ray radiation, to study why platinum and other expensive noble metals are efficient as catalysts in chemical reactions and how new and better catalysts could be designed. The research has implications for the development of important alternate fuel sources.

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Funding Will Involve Students in Research to Solve Real World Problems

Five professors at Yeshiva University’s undergraduate colleges helped secure nearly $2.4 million in shared scientific grants this summer.

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel

The grants range in focus from breast cancer research to alternative fuel solutions and will provide undergraduates with more opportunities than ever to engage in firsthand scientific study, hear from experts in the field and collaborate with other universities.

“One of the missions of the University is not only to educate our students in the great achievements of science and culture but also to show them how this knowledge is generated and evolves every day,” said Dr. Gabriel Cwilich, chair of YU’s division of natural sciences and mathematics. “The way to do that is to have a strong faculty, very much engaged in research, at the forefront of their disciplines so that they can teach the students both in the classroom and working beside them in the lab. Read the rest of this entry…


Anatoly Frenkel and Team Secure Department of Energy  Grant to Help Develop New Energy Sources

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Yeshiva University, is part of a team of physicists who have secured  a three-year grant for nearly $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study how sub-microscopic manmade nanoclusters can be used to create more efficient energy sources.

Frenkel and his colleagues will help the Department of Energy create more efficient fuel and new forms of energy,

Frenkel’s team, which includes Ralph Nuzzo (University of Illinois), John Rehr (U. Washington) and Judith Yang (University of Pittsburgh), will receive a total of $1.92 million over the next three years for a grant to study: “Reactivity & Structural Dynamics of Supported Metal Nanoclusters using Electron Microscopy, In-Situ X-Ray Spectroscopy, Electronic Structure Theories, & Molecular Dynamics Simulations.” Read the rest of this entry…


Exclusive Summer Science Program Pairs Talented YU Students with Bar-Ilan Faculty

Select undergraduate science majors from Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women will arrive in Israel on June 17, 2012, to participate in the second Summer Science Research Internship program, a joint initiative with Bar-Ilan University (BIU) that will enable nearly 30 students to gain hands-on experience in emerging scientific fields while being mentored by Israel’s top scientists.

During the seven-week research experience, the students will be placed in intensive internships with top BIU faculty members, including those from the Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and the Gonda Brain Research Center, and will work in the University’s state-of-the-art research laboratories. Read the rest of this entry…


Joint Initiative Offers Summer Research Internships in Israel

Yeshiva University students looking to conduct cutting-edge scientific research in high-level facilities will have a new opportunity this summer—in Israel.

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel

A joint initiative with Bar-Ilan University will place YU students in research internships with top BIU faculty, in laboratories including BIU’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and the Gonda Brain Research Center. Participants will gain hands-on experience in emerging scientific fields and be mentored by renowned scientists in an interdisciplinary environment that reflects the religious values of both institutions.

“This new program is a big attraction not only for our current students but for high school students interested in the sciences,” said Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Stern College for Women. “The most important components that the YU-BIU program adds to the existing science and research education of our students are the world-famous research base, mentorship and a strong peer group of Israeli students.”

Dr. Raji Viswanathan, associate dean of academic affairs at Yeshiva College, agreed. “This is a fantastic opportunity for our undergraduate students with a strong background in the sciences,” she said, adding: “It also opens the door for scientists at YU and BIU to pursue collaborative projects in the future.”

The program will begin on June 19, 2011 and students will be able to apply for a six, seven or eight-week research appointment. Apply here (Applications are due January 21, 2011). Students will be notified of acceptance by February 25.


Jun 24, 2009 — Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Stern College for Women, is one of four principal investigators awarded a grant of $1.92 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the fundamental properties of nanoparticles that are essential for catalysis (the speeding up of chemical reactions). His research could ultimately help develop more efficient catalysts and lead to alternative sources of energy.

Frenkel will receive $473,000, which will fund a full-time postdoctoral research associate and support his research at Stern College and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The professor also plans to involve Yeshiva University undergraduates in his research, starting in the fall when he returns from a sabbatical.

The study sets out to describe and understand the fundamental properties of nanoparticles by measuring their structure and reactivity using a number of advanced experimental techniques and computer simulations. Frenkel will conduct his research using very powerful X-ray sources at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. As a co-director of the Synchrotron Catalysis Consortium there, which he co-founded, he helps run the dedicated facility for synchrotron research in nanocatalysis and nanoscience.

“Catalysis is at the core of the chemical and petroleum industries in the US and is thus of critical importance to the national economy,” Frenkel said. “For example, it has been estimated that catalysis-based processes represent 90 percent of current chemical processes and generate 60 percent of today’s chemical products. In addition, catalysis is of growing importance in several other fields, including environmental protection, pharmaceuticals and bioengineering, and more recently fuel cells.”

According to Frenkel, nanoparticles make up the majority of existing catalysts but their catalytic activity is not yet understood. The far-reaching mission of his research is to help advance our understanding of the mechanism of catalysis and edge the scientific community forward toward a rational design of catalysts.

“Catalysis is essential in our ability to control chemical reactions,” Frenkel explained. “The process is critical to finding alternative energy solutions—including hydrogen, solar and water energy—to decrease our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.”


New York, NY, Nov 10, 2003 — In his essay, “An Absurd Reasoning,” Camus expressed his dismay that science could not depict the universe at its most fundamental level. “[Y]ou tell me of this invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus,” he wrote. “You explain this world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry: I shall never know [the truth of nature].”

It’s too bad that Camus didn’t live to witness the experiments of Anatoly Frenkel, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics at Stern College for Women, who is using a technique called x-ray absorption spectroscopy to paint portraits of tiny clusters of atoms in stunning detail. Dr. Frenkel is a specialist in nanoscience, the study of materials in miniature, billionths of a meter wide, dimensions at which many substances exhibit unique shapes and properties. His work holds promise both for probing the fundamental nature of matter and for developing real-world applications, such as fuel cells for automobiles or data storage for electronics.

People outside this esoteric corner of physics are starting to take notice. In September, the Department of Energy awarded Dr. Frenkel and his colleagues a three-year, $900,000 grant to explore the role of nanoparticles as catalysts in chemical reactions.

Not long ago, he could only dream of having access to such a wealth of resources.

From Russia, with love (of physics)

Dr. Frenkel was born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1964. Both his father and grandfather were engineers, but they encouraged young Anatoly to study physics. “Engineering had not been a reputable job since the October 1917 revolution,” he explains in heavily accented but splendid English. “And physics was considered to be the most challenging science intellectually. They wanted to give me the best education possible.”

Anatoly excelled in science, graduating at the top of his high school class. The Frenkels, it seemed, would have their physicist. For Jews like Anatoly, however, there were invisible barriers to advancement in the Soviet Union. To make his way in science, he would eventually have to emigrate.

In the meantime, he earned a diploma in physics (a degree equivalent to our master’s) from St. Petersburg University and then worked as an engineer for a local R&D company. He also continued to research in physics research, publishing several papers in leading journals. By the end of the eighties, his credentials were good enough to earn him a spot in the doctoral program in physics at Tel Aviv University.

To Anatoly (and soon, to the whole world), the Soviet Union was history. “I went back only once to visit my parents,” he says. “In Israel, I started a new life.” Soon, he would help develop a new field.

During this period, he was invited to study with Professor Edward Stern at the University of Washington, Seattle, the founder of x-ray absorption spectroscopy. By the time he earned his doctorate, in 1995, Dr. Frenkel was well on his way to a career in nanoscience.

After graduation, he settled in the United States, pursuing a string of opportunities in this new field, including a stint at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the country’s premier facility for studying matter with infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray light.

In 1997, his parents and sister were able to join him in the U.S. Once again, the Frenkel family was whole.

To Yeshiva

By 2001, Dr. Frenkel landed at Yeshiva, relishing the chance to conduct pure research and to teach, which he had done in various capacities since studying physics back in the Soviet Union.

Today, he splits his time between Yeshiva and Brookhaven (with which he is still affiliated), often using the latter as an extension of his Stern classroom, not only as teaching tool but also as a form of career counseling. “I realized early that research was the most logical career for me,” explains Dr. Frenkel, who bears a resemblance to the actor Tom Berenger. But some students, he says, enter graduate school without learning whether it suits them, wasting precious time and money.

In “Experiments in Modern Physics,” a course he designed with his Yeshiva colleagues, students spend a full week at Brookhaven performing experiments that bring concepts like the photoelectric effect and nuclear decay to life. Several other students have conducted research at Brookhaven under Dr. Frenkel, including SCW honors student Shira Frankel, whose work on nanoparticles structure determination resulted in their joint article in Physica Scripta. Shira’s other work, on using synchrotron x-rays to study chemical kinetics of nickel oxide reduction, was published in the Brookhaven laboratory’s annual report.

Camus didn’t live to see the universe at its most basic level, but perhaps Dr. Frenkel and his students will.

July 2014
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