Star Chemistry Student Pursues PhD in Materials Science, With a Little Help From an NSF Fellowship

May 27, 2009 — When Sam Blass began studying protein crystallization with Dr. Neer Asherie, assistant professor of physics and biology, the Yeshiva College undergraduate became so enamored with nanotechnology that he decided to major in chemistry instead of his previous pre-med track.

Now, after three years of research with faculty, including his mentor, Dr. Asherie, and Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, Stern College for Women professor of physics, Blass will enter the PhD program in materials science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities this fall.

“All those hours in the lab made me want to do more of this,” said Blass.
At Minnesota he’ll be studying both chemical engineering and materials science–the “study of any material – solid, circuits, concretes, metals,” Blass explained. “It’s very interdisciplinary, which is what attracted me to it.”

The Paramus, NJ, resident was one of four scholars awarded the first annual Henry Kressel Research Scholarship, a fellowship established to perpetuate YU’s student research community, in 2008. He was also one of four students across the country selected to participate in NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he studied carbon nanotubes in fall 2007.

To top all that, Blass received a prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship, which provides a $30,000 stipend plus extra money for expenses to study with a mentor in graduate school for three years.

“Graduate school will give me the opportunity to pursue research ideas for a longer time,” Blass said. “Hopefully resulting in more publications and a greater sense of independence.”

As for his future career? “Right now I’m thinking of going into industry, but that can change to government or academia…”

For a bright chemistry student, the world is full of possibilities.

Next profile: Grace Charles, valedictorian of Stern College, pursues dream of becoming a medical doctor


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