Why Science Research is Important at a Jewish Institution

By: Aaron Shaykevich  |  May 2, 2024

By Aaron Shaykevich, Editor-in-Chief

In the beginning of April, I attended the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). This meeting is one of the largest conferences in cancer research and is attended by tens of thousands of professionals, scientists, and reps from pharmaceutical companies. I, along with two other YU students, had the privilege to share our research on colorectal cancer under YU biology professor Dr. Radhashree Maitra.

My peers and I were among very few openly-orthodox Jews present at the AACR conference. There was no readily available minyan set up, and we probably saw around 10-15 other Jews, all of whom gladly approached and spoke with us. In my eyes, the lack of Jewish representation emphasized our responsibility to succeed and make a kiddush Hashem at the conference. 

Therefore, presenting our research at this conference was not only a chance for us to share our findings, but to represent the institution that provided us with the tools necessary to succeed as Jewish students conducting science research. At every turn, we were representing YU, even if we didn’t sign up for it. 

When students and faculty attend and present at conferences such as the AACR, people who are not aware of YU (Jews and non-Jews alike) now get the chance to see all that an orthodox Jewish scientist can do. We do not just handle a dual curriculum, we spend hours after classes doing experiments, analyzing data, and writing our manuscript. In this way, the drive to be a successful researcher and a religious Jew work hand in hand with the ultimate goal of seeking truth.

One of the most memorable interactions at the conference was meeting a Hassidic Jew who works for the Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS), an organization that connects frum Jews who have cancer with physicians who can hopefully help them. We are currently in touch with him and are learning ways to help them in their mission. This opportunity to do a huge mitzvah would have been lost had we not gone to AACR. 

Science is a crucial part of our everyday lives. When one picks up their phone – that is physics in action. When one takes any sort of medicine – that drug was developed only after years of pharmacology research. Science, and the development of new and better ways to solve our problems, is a crucial undertaking. The funding of scientific research, as well as the means to share that research with the rest of society (through conferences, papers, etc.), is critical for an institution claiming to be among the best. Science is not something that can be studied in a vacuum, and professors and students who do research at YU should be encouraged and proud to share their work. 

I write this with the hope that Yeshiva University keeps the sciences in mind when making its decisions. It may be more difficult to incorporate Jewish thought in science the same way one can for a philosophy or English literature course. However, science is the easiest place to find G-d’s greatness in the beauty and complexity of the world G-d created. Scientific research is a method of appreciating and connecting to G-d as much as any other discipline.