May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bar-Ilan University Labs Abuzz With U.S. Undergrads Conducting Research

(Courtesy of AFBIU) Implementing a new laser-based imaging system to monitor structural health in buildings and bridges. Studying facial recognition and memory utilizing event-related potential (ERP) machinery to analyze the impact of different factors on facial-recall processes. Examining clinical language assessments collected in Israel over the past 15 years to assess whether socio-cultural differences among bilingual Israelis affect their test results and are misconstrued as language deficiency. Investigating statistical physics measures that characterize the properties of actigraphy (a non-invasive method of tracking human rest and activity cycles) fluctuations in order to monitor the rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injury. Detecting the shape of electrons in complex materials.

These are just a handful of the research projects that nearly 30 undergraduate science majors from U.S. universities are working on this summer at Bar-Ilan University (BIU). They are participating in the eighth annual Summer Science Research Internship Program, a joint BIU/Yeshiva University (YU) initiative. The program enables students to gain hands-on experience in emerging scientific fields while being mentored by some of Israel’s finest scientists.

During the seven-week research experience, students conduct intensive internships in the university’s research laboratories with faculty members from the Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and the departments of mathematics, chemistry, computer science, physics, English literature and linguistics, and psychology.

This year’s participants are undergrads from Yeshiva University, Stern College for Women, Princeton University, UCLA, SUNY Binghamton, Barry University, Cooper Union, Queens College and City College.

Prof. Arlene Wilson-Gordon, of Bar-Ilan’s Department of Chemistry, is directing this year’s program. Based on the students’ academic background and interests she paired them with Bar-Ilan faculty members and research assignments that would best enhance their summer experience and promote individual growth and career development. “The students get an insight into the world-class research that is being carried out in Bar-Ilan’s research labs and get to know Israeli graduate students. We hope that some of them will return to Bar-Ilan for their graduate studies and make their homes in Israel,” she said.

The program also includes half-day trips to scientific, industrial, medical, archaeological and other sites around the country, including IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries), the laboratories of the Agriculture Research Organization (Volcani Center), Tel Hashomer Hospital, excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and more, lectures by BIU scholars on a range of topics, as well as night activities, Torah learning and shabbatonim at YU’s Gruss Institute in Jerusalem, where the group is housed.

Mark Kaplan (Woodcliff Lake) and Chana Tropp (Teaneck) are working on a joint project in the physics lab of Dr. Ronny Bartsch. “The goal of their project is to investigate statistical physics measures that characterize the properties of actigraphy (a non-invasive method of tracking human rest and activity cycles) fluctuations in order to monitor the rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injury,” said Bartsch.

“The program gave me invaluable experience in applying statistical physics methods to analyzing big data and afforded me the amazing opportunity to experience day-to-day life in Israel,” said Kaplan, 22, who’s entering his fourth year at Yeshiva University, where he’s majoring in physics. Tropp, 21, is majoring in applied mathematics and minoring in studio art at CUNY Queens College, where she will soon begin her junior year. “My research in the BIU-YU summer program has allowed me to develop valuable programming skills and apply statistical physics methods to real-world problems. It’s rewarding to be able to be in Israel and take advantage of living in this incredible country, while also having the opportunity to give back to the Israeli scientific community in my own small way.”

Twenty-year-old Zvi Goldstein (Passaic) just completed his first year as a physics major at Yeshiva University. He’s working with PhD student Sagie Asraf in Prof. Zeev Zalevsky’s lab in the Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering. Under Zalevsky’s guidance the team is attempting to implement a laser-based imaging system that it developed to sense the Brillouin scattering (interaction of light and material waves within a medium) in fibers. By inserting a fiber into structures, buildings and bridges during their construction, this imaging system can be used as a sensor with a wide field of view that can monitor structural health by remotely detecting temperature and strain deformations. Following his undergraduate studies, Goldstein intends to pursue a masters in engineering.

Talia Schiff (Teaneck) is participating in research on memory studies in Dr. David Anaki’s cognitive neuropsychology lab in the department of psychology. One of Anaki’s studies focuses on facial recognition and memory from behavioral and electrophysiological standpoints, utilizing event-related potential (ERP) machinery to analyze the impact of factors like exposure and semantic information on facial-recall processes. Dr. Anaki has involved Schiff in each of the steps in the complex process of cognitive psychological testing, including identifying gaps in the literature, mapping experimental design, recruiting and testing participants, analyzing data in a variety of forms, and planning future steps. “By providing me with the opportunity to gain profound experience in both the field and country that engage my passions, this program has humbled, empowered and aided me in contemplating my own future in contributing to the world of brain science and the land and people of Israel,” said Schiff, 20, who’s entering her senior year at Stern College for Women and majoring in psychology/neuroscience.

Having just completed their junior year at Stern College, Nurit Esral (Teaneck), Moreet Levine (Teaneck) and Anna Schuman are gaining valuable hands-on research experience as summer interns in the language-acquisition lab at Bar-Ilan University’s Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. Working alongside Prof. Sharon Armon-Lotem, of the department of English literature and linguistics, and Dr. Carmit Altman, of the Churgin School of Education, the three speech pathology and audiology majors focus on Israel’s bilingual population, specifically those from English-speaking homes.

The enthusiastic trio is engaged in three studies: They examine clinical language assessments collected over the past 15 years in Israel to assess whether socio-cultural differences among bilingual Israelis affect their CELF (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals) test results, which can be misconstrued as language deficiency. They are also involved in a pilot project on narrative response to intervention (NRTI) among children with and without developmental language disorder (DLD). Using special software they transcribe stories that children retell, and code them to test the impact of NRTI administered in the home language on narrative skills and vocabulary. Finally, they code narratives of bilingual adults with aphasia to see if any specific patterns emerge that indicate whether the mistakes are actual errors or attempts to compensate for language errors such as word-retrieval difficulty. This research is conducted with Dr. Carmit Altman in cooperation with Prof. Mira Goral of New York’s Lehman College and the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Since its inception eight years ago the program has benefited from the generosity of Dr. Mordecai D. Katz, honorary chairman of the Bar-Ilan board of trustees, who has supported the YU student participants, and from the J. Samuel Harwit z”l and Manya Harwit-Aviv Charitable Trust.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles