Scholarship Recipients Innovating in Israel

Chemda Wiener ’21S and Eliana Feifel ’21S are currently pursuing their master’s degrees at Bar-Ilan University thanks to the support of the Innovation Nation STEM Scholarship, which is available to top students admitted into select graduate programs in Israel. Awardees receive $10,000 (US) each year for two years to cover tuition and some living expenses and will be invited to industry meetups and possible internship opportunities in Israel during their graduate studies.

While at Stern College, Wiener, who hails from Edison, New Jersey, majored in computer science and minored in physics and did a dual internship in mathematics at Bar-Ilan and physics at Stern College. At Bar-Ilan, she is studying electrical engineering.

Feifel, who calls Chicago her hometown, majored in math and minored in physics and is now in electrical engineering in the nanoelectronics track, though she’s finding that her current work is focused on “bridging the gaps from my degree in mathematics to some foundations of electrical engineering that I don’t have a strong enough background in.” The goal is to continue her work under Dr. Adam Teman’s guidance.

Both are currently living in Givat Shmuel, within walking distance of the university.

YU News had the chance to check in with them recently to talk about this new journey in their lives.


Chemda Wiener

Chemda Wiener

It seems you have a very strong desire to be an engineer – what interests and excites you about that field of study?

I like fully understanding things and using that understanding to build and problem solve which is what I find so exciting about engineering in general. I like the creative process in addition to the challenge of figuring something out.

 

How did you learn about the scholarship?

Prof. Alan Broder (who is really great), my computer science professor, brought the scholarship to my attention when he heard that I was looking into master’s programs in Israel.

 

What was the application process like?

I emailed a few people about the scholarship, including the career center, academic advisement, and Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern, who were all helpful with their guidance. Once I applied to Bar-Ilan and ultimately got accepted, I wrote about my interest in engineering, my past education and experiences and future aspirations, and ultimately I was able to get the scholarship.

 

What is the one thing that has surprised you the most about the move to Israel?

It is surprising to me how dedicated people are to learning and doing well in their degrees, at least in the engineering department. Additionally, the environment in Bar-Ilan is a lot less competitive, and people are always very happy to help. I am a little farther behind in terms of my knowledge, just due to the program that I chose, so that was a little surprising as well. But all in all, the move has been good in general, which is really nice.

 

What are your plans post-master’s degree both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I hope to become a successful engineer and become a part of the startup nation environment in Israel. I really hope to enjoy my job and work for a company whose work I believe in. Personally, I plan on staying in Israel and figuring it out from there.


Eliana Feifel

Eliana Feifel

You majored in math and minored in physics – what interests and excites you about these fields of study?

I’ve always been fascinated and drawn to all STEM-related subjects. Throughout my time at Stern College, I was able to follow my interests and major in mathematics as well as minor in physics. Because only I one other classmate of mine chose to minor in physics, we received a lot of individualized attention and guidance from Dr. Lea Santos. This included a virtual summer internship studying quantum mechanics, which primarily consisted of modeling specific patterns in the dynamics of particles with a set angular momentum. This experience left me with a real interest in the world of quantum physics, and I’m excited to see how quantum computing will continue to impact our classical computational methodologies.

The mathematics courses that I took provided me with a solid background in both the pure and applied mathematical fields. I’m continuously amazed by how interdisciplinary the study of mathematics is and incredibly thankful to have a background that facilitates both critical thinking and problem solving.

I’d also like to add that I have such an incredible network and friendships that stem from my math courses in particular. In fact, we have a group chat of about 10 members, and we continue to touch base with one another every now and then. I believe there’s even a reunion in the works, although I will miss it since I’m now located in Israel.

 

How did you learn about the scholarship?

Susan Bauer, executive director of the Shevet Glaubach Center, recommended me to be considered for this scholarship. I actually received an email from Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern with the information on the scholarship and the link to apply. Since I hadn’t heard of this scholarship prior to this email exchange, I am so grateful to all of the Yeshiva University staff members who were really looking to facilitate my move to Israel.

 

What was the application process like?

The application process was as follows: There was an online form I had to fill out that included basic information about myself, the name of the program that I was accepted to, and a copy of my current resume. Additionally, there were two short essay prompts, both consisting of 250 words or less. The first one was to explain why I was choosing to pursue graduate study in Israel, and the second one was to explain how I expect the master’s program to advance my professional goals.

 

What is the one thing that has surprised you the most about the move to Israel?

Honestly, I’ve found that moving to Israel has single-handedly been the most empowering experience of my life. Although this may not sound so novel and surprising, it is most definitely not what I had anticipated experiencing. It’s undoubtedly been challenging for me to leave many of the comforts that I had taken for granted, such as my nearby family, the close friends I got to spend ample time with, the wonderful environment of Stern College, the culture that I grew up with, and speaking English, of course! That being said, I’m frequently surprised by how accomplished I feel to go outside of my comfort zone and realize what wonderful opportunities there are here. I feel so humbled and thankful to God to be living at a time where I can actively choose to be a part of Jewish history in a way that is unique to our generations.

 

What are your plans post-master’s degree both professionally and personally?

I don’t have any set plans, both personally and professionally, following my master’s degree. That is definitely at least a couple of years away, and I’m not sure what the next few years of my life will bring.

I’m excited to see the opportunities that exist here, and how the high-tech world will continue to develop. While the future always remains uncertain, I’m confident that the education and connections that I’ve received from Yeshiva University will continue to propel me forwards to always trying to be part of building a better future.