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Faculty Help Secure $2.4M in Scientific Grants

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.

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.

“Each of these grants provides some mechanism—be it allowing us to buy equipment, provide for research support personnel, postdoctoral collaborators or trips for faculty and students to attend scientific meetings—to advance these goals.”

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Stern College for Women, was named a co-principal investigator in a National Science Foundation grant to study alternative fuel sources, titled “Iridium-Based Alloys as Alternative Catalysts for Ethanol Oxidation Fuel Cell Reactions.” The three-year grant for $573,000 will pay for undergraduate summer research and innovations in Frenkel’s courses.

“The project outcome will directly support the nation’s effort to diversify its energy supply portfolio and help reduce the global carbon footprint,” said Frenkel. “More importantly, the research will be coupled with an educational program dedicated to training and teaching students from the participating universities in advance synthesis, characterization and theoretical methods.”

Dr. Jianfeng Jiang, associate professor of chemistry at Yeshiva College, received a three-year NSF- Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant for $110,000 from a chemical catalysis program. The project is titled, “Study of the reaction between NO and CO in the presence of double metal cyanide for the potential application of emission control catalyst” and will support students participating in on-campus summer research with paid stipends. The grant will also enable them to travel to meetings and conferences and cover the cost of chemicals and supplies needed for their research.

“We hope that from our fundamental study, we can develop some economical catalysts to replace the precious metals currently used in the catalytic converter in every car,” said Jiang. “With the help of the NSF, our students will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on experimental research, gain access to state-of-the-art instrumentation and exposure to the frontier of science, and try to solve real-world problems and present their findings at regional or national meetings.”

In addition to Frenkel and Jiang, three other YU undergraduate faculty received grants this year.

Dr. Sumanta Goswami, professor of biology at Yeshiva College, is one of three co-principal investigators who will work together on a $1.4 million four-year grant from the National Cancer Institute that focuses on breast cancer research. The other two investigators in this grant are from YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Titled “Novel approach to study intravasation in primary human breast cancer cells,” the grant will provide money for reagents and a technician at Yeshiva College for four years, as well as opportunities for students to interact and work with the clinicians and scientists at Einstein and have access to cutting-edge laboratories, where they will focus on developing new approaches to investigating the biology of metastasis using human breast cancer cells.

An RUI grant from the National Science Foundation to Dr. Neer Asherie, associate professor of physics and biology at Yeshiva College, was renewed for an additional three years. Titled “Chirality and the Phase Behavior of Globular Proteins,” the $275,000 grant will pay for on-campus student research in biophysics as well as student presentations at national and international conferences. It will also provide students with opportunities to publish their work in top scientific journals and gain exposure to the research environments at PhD-granting institutions and national laboratories through collaborative projects.

Finally, Dr. Wenxiaong Chen, professor of mathematical sciences at Yeshiva College, received a five-year Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians from the Simons Foundation. Called “Nonlinear Elliptic PDEs and Integral Systems,” the $35,000 grant includes funds to enhance the general research environment of the mathematics department, including support for departmental colloquia and seminars as well as other research-related amenities.

“All of the YU science faculty view external grants as an opportunity to contribute to the solution of the most important and challenging scientific problems that concern our society,” said Frenkel. “These grants, and the internship opportunities they provide, benefit our students by extending their classroom experience into real life science and research.”