Stern Launches Recent Alumni into Advanced Research Careers
With an accomplished faculty and robust course offerings, the sciences at Stern College for Women have long been an exciting draw for talented students with a passion for research. However, the programs have also launched a growing number of students and recent alumni into highly competitive, world-renowned doctoral programs as they build careers in scientific research.
“Although Stern College has a long tradition of educating women who go into careers in science, it is always appropriate to stress how our college environment is structured to lead to success,” said Dr. Karen Bacon, the Dr. Mordecai D. and Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of the Undergraduate Faculties of Arts and Science. “From day one on campus, our students are introduced to top researchers who bring to their classroom instruction a passion for science. And on day two, our students are invited into the research labs to work alongside scientists and post-doctoral fellows. And on day three these women, now accomplished junior scientists, learn how to publish their research and compete for places in prestigious graduate program. Our model leads to success and that is what we see year after year. I am so very proud of our students and of their faculty mentors.”
“The acceptance of our students into top Ph.D. programs in the sciences reflects their talent and motivation, as well as the knowledge, training and guidance they’ve received at Stern,” said Dr. Chaya Rapp, associate professor of chemistry. “Passionate teachers inspire passionate students who have the confidence and competence to excel wherever life takes them.”
After working in a molecular genetics research lab with Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Josefa Steinhauer at Yeshiva College, Adina Wakschlag ’16S will begin her doctoral studies at the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center this summer. At Stern, Wakschlag studied molecular and cellular biology, where she also had the opportunity to perform cancer research in Clinical Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Alyssa Schuck’s lab and study science abroad on the YU-Bar Ilan University Summer Research Program. “My biology classes at Stern were terrific, and both Dr. Schuck and [Professor of Biology] Dr. [Harvey] Babich have helped me along my career path significantly,” she said. “They served as professional mentors to me outside of class. Their encouragement and resources have been tremendous.”
Biochemistry major Nili Greenberg ’17S will be starting the PhD program in biomedical sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine this fall, with the ultimate goal of becoming an independent researcher in biomedical sciences. “The coursework and faculty at Stern have been excellent,” she said. “The biochemistry major includes a ranges of required coursework that introduced my to many different areas of science, all of which will be incredibly valuable in my future studies. The faculty have helped me find summer positions and explore research and science in a way that has increased my excitement and enthusiasm for learning, and have prepared me for the next step of my academic journey.”
The classes Greenberg most enjoyed included Molecular Biology with Dr. Marina Holz, the Doris and Dr. Ira Kukin Professor of Biology, and Physical Chemistry with Rapp. “Dr. Holz’s teaching style was very much geared towards the understanding of how science progresses and research happens, which I greatly appreciated,” she said. “I have also been greatly impacted by Dr. Rapp’s Physical Chemistry courses. She has served as an excellent mentor for me in the process of applying to graduate programs.”
Adi Berman ’16S and Ayala Carl ’16S will begin their doctoral studies in the Tri-Institutional Program in Chemical Biology, run by Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Sloan Kettering, this fall. As the highly selective program accepts only 10 students each year, their joint acceptance is a testament to the quality and caliber of science studies at Stern.
“During my first summer in college, I began working in Dr. Evan Mintzer’s lab in Stern’s biochemistry department,” said Berman. “Through that experience, I learned how much I enjoyed research and knew that I wanted to pursue it as a career. There were many people within Yeshiva University who helped me achieve this goal.” Berman has held five different research positions within Stern, Yeshiva College and Einstein and is currently a research assistant for Holz, studying cell signaling in cancer.
“All of my classes at YU have influenced my way of thinking about science and have prepared me to pursue a PhD,” said Berman, who hopes to use both chemical and biological methods to identify new drug targets and develop potential treatments for diseases. “The small class sizes allowed me to have close relationships with my professors and I was able to discuss my personal interests with my teachers and gain a better understanding of what type of research I wanted to pursue. Perhaps the class that most impacted me was Molecular Biology with Dr. Holz—not only was the content of this class extremely interesting, Dr. Holz structured the class so that we were constantly asking questions about the material and learned how to think independently and problem solve through collaboration with one another.”
For Carl, who intends to build an academic career, the science faculty at Stern were also important mentors. “Teachers at Stern go to great extents to convey the content of their class in a clear manner,” she said. “Having a clear understanding of basic, yet fundamental, underpinnings of science is crucial in research. Professor Rapp, Professor Dalezman, Professor Gidea and Professor Otway each taught me in an engaging and thought-provoking way, as well as advised me about my career path.”
Carl added that although she had always been interested in chemistry, she didn’t consider pursuing it professionally until she took a chemistry course. “There are many career paths that may seem scary, perhaps due to large time commitments or inherent challenges of the field, but these factors should not discourage you from truly delving into your field of interest,” said Carl. “Explore the many avenues your interests may open to you and let your curiosity discover new things.”
After graduating from Stern with a biology degree in 2015, Maya Tsarfati worked as an in-vitro fertilization coordinator at Reproductive Medicine Associates, where she was responsible for tailoring the IVF treatment protocol for each patient and for guiding them throughout the process. “Our clinic partnered up with many biotech companies to help us better understand and discover specific genetic biomarkers in our female patients suffering from idiopathic infertility,” said Tsarfati. “I fell in love with the field. By pursuing a PhD in developmental biology at Einstein, I hope to be prepared for a career in fertility drug discovery and development.”
During her studies at Stern, Tsarfati benefited greatly from the mentorship provided by her Jewish Foundation with the Education of Women fellowship, which helped her secure her first summer research internship at Yale University. “I was the only woman in the laboratory at the time and introduced the lab to the Maccabeats,” she said. “It was a really eye-opening experience. The courses at YU gave me the confidence I needed to apply to these PhD programs. It’s really incredible to see so many women—Jewish, Orthodox women no less—apply for PhDs and pursue research careers that shatter stereotypes.”