On-Campus Research Opportunities Available to Approximately 11% of Biology and 4% of Psychology Students in Stern College

By: Phillip Nagler  |  March 31, 2019

By Phillip Nagler, Junior Features editor

The Yeshiva University Admissions instagram page recently posted that “30+ men participate in scientific research on campus.” There were no statistics provided for how many women participate in research on the Beren campus. We therefore conducted an investigation to uncover how many female students actually work in on-campus research labs.

Biology and psychology are overwhelmingly the largest majors in Stern College, with 186 students declared as biology majors and 177 students declared as psychology majors as of February 2019. It is important to note that these numbers may be slightly smaller or larger, since many students change their major without declaring to the registrar until their last semester of college. Nevertheless, these are undoubtedly the most popular academic programs in Stern College.

In the biology department, three professors have research labs with student interns. Eight students work in Dr. Schuck’s lab, four in Dr. Alayev’s lab, and four in Dr. Vigodner’s lab. Additionally, some students majoring in biology work in Dr. Drori’s chemistry lab. In the psychology department, only Dr. Chalik has a research lab on campus, which has 8 students.

The Observer interviewed several undergraduate students who currently work in research labs in Stern College. Overall, the students working in labs gave positive narratives and elaborated on how they gained from their research and how it helped them shape their career paths.

Kaila Glenner, a first year student majoring in biology, currently works in Dr. Vigodner’s biology lab. “I did not imagine myself enjoying the experience as much as I do!” said Glenner. When asked about the nature of the lab itself, Glenner replied that “it is a supportive environment and I love how much I’m learning and applying from my biology class to real-life situations.”

Similar positive feedback was also given in regards to the psychology lab. Shira Levy, a junior in the neuroscience track of the psychology major, told us about her experience working in Dr. Chalik’s psychology lab. “Working in the lab has been an awesome opportunity to see what psychology research looks like up close. It’s a chance to put into practice the theory of designing research experiments, which we talk so much about in our classes. It also offers a glimpse into the way psychological theories develop and build on one another through experimentation of data.

Some students who worked in labs were also asked if they thought there is ample research available on campus. Glenner said that “because there are only a few professors, their spots fill up quickly. Reaching out early on is super important.” Tzivia Linfield, a senior majoring in biology, who works in Dr. Drori’s chemistry lab, similarly expressed: “I feel that there are opportunities for students to do research on campus if they actively seek it out and start asking professors early on.”

We also interviewed students who travel from the Beren campus during the week to perform research at different campuses. Many of these students were specifically interested in obtaining research in neuroscience, as there are no research labs on the Beren campus in this discipline.

Esther Stern, one of the students interviewed, is a junior majoring in neuroscience, hoping to pursue a career in research. She has worked with professors on the Wilf campus, in addition to a lab in Columbia University. Stern told The Observer that “it’s hard that I need to look elsewhere as far as research opportunities, [however,] Wilf professors are great about offering positions. I’ve gained a great deal from working uptown, and running participants from the lab there.”

Talia Korn, a senior majoring in neuroscience, is another student hoping to pursue a career in research. During her time in Stern College, Korn worked alongside numerous professors in Einstein and the Ferkauf Graduate school of Psychology. When asked how she obtained these positions, Korn explained: “The career center was helpful in providing tips for getting involved in research outside of Stern, but ultimately, I spent a lot of my time emailing almost every professor doing  [neuroscience] research in New York City.” Korn also commented that “although my psych research has been outside of Stern, my professors are always insightful, caring, and willing to discuss my career and opportunities in psychology.”

Undergraduate scientific research benefits students in a number of ways. Mainly, it gives students the opportunity to apply scientific concepts from their classes in a lab setting and allows a student to explore a specific scientific topic in depth. Additionally, many PhD, MD, and PsyD programs will not even consider applicants who have no research experience.

Neda Shokrian, a senior majoring in biology, with extensive research experience in biology labs, reflected on how important these opportunities were to her: “Research is about more than just looking at cells under a microscope or staining gels to visualize protein bands; entire science textbooks are the interpretations of results of hundreds of years of experiments, failed results, and repeated trials. This makes it all the more gratifying to have an opportunity to contribute, even in a small way, to the sea of scientific research.” Overall, it is clear how integral research experience is to the undergraduate student pursuing a career in the sciences.