Student Research Spotlight: Sivan Mussaffi

By: Yosef Scher  |  December 19, 2023

By Yosef Scher, Senior Science and Technology Editor

Yosef Scher (YS): Hi Sivan (SM). Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Let’s start by getting to know you.

SM: Hi! I’m from Boca Raton, Florida, and I went to KYHS and then Midreshet Moriah. I’m a senior at Stern studying Biology and hoping to attend medical school. 

YS: How did you get involved in this research? 

SM: I had friends a year older who had done the Bar Ilan-YU research program and really loved it. I also had previous research experience in clinical psychology and knew I wanted to branch out to do more hands-on research in a biology lab. I really wanted to be in Israel for the summer and develop my laboratory skills, so this program seemed like an amazing opportunity for me. 

YS: Whose lab did you work in, and what did you study?

SM: I worked in Professor Haim Cohen’s molecular biology lab, studying the molecular mechanisms of aging. I worked with a PhD student whose research focused on the effect that SIRT6, a NAD+-dependent deacetylase, has on metabolic regulation and aging. 

YS: What did you hope to gain from this research experience? 

SM: Firstly, I hoped to gain lab skills that I could use again in the future. For example, I learned how to perform western blots, PCR, DNA cloning, etc. These are all essential lab techniques that will be useful in future research endeavors. Secondly, I wanted to contribute to meaningful research that intends to better the lives of many. I also wanted to be in an Israeli work environment as I hope to make Aliyah one day.

YS: What role did you play in this lab? 

SM: I worked with another YU student under the supervision and mentorship of a PhD student. At the beginning of the summer, she told us she had two goals for us to accomplish over our six weeks there. Every day, she would give us experiments to run on our own. After performing the experiments, we would do an analysis of any results we got after imaging. 

YS: Is there anything you encountered that was especially difficult during the research? 

SM: I think the main difficulty I found doing research was making sure to be extremely organized. Some experiments would take multiple days to complete, and making sure that all our materials were kept organized and that everything was labeled properly was crucial. I also found that research can sometimes become tedious when experiments must be performed multiple times, and results aren’t necessarily immediate or successful. 

YS: What did you find most interesting about your research?

SM: I loved that I was able to take what I had learned from classes and apply it to real-life experiments. It was very cool to see first-hand that what we learn has practical applications in the health field. 

YS: Lastly, do you have any advice for students interested in lab positions?

SM: I would say to first start by narrowing down what research fields you are interested in. If you are not interested in the research that your lab is conducting, you may have a difficult time enjoying the experience. Then I would say to decide if there’s a specific location you’d like to be doing research. Once you narrow those down, start emailing professors and heads of labs from universities or research institutions. Also, if anyone is interested in the Bar Ilan-YU program and has questions, feel free to reach out (