Intrigued by the human brain and mind, Yocheved Loewenstern was drawn to BIU’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience – Israel’s first such program and the only one authorized by the Israeli Council of Higher Education to grant a BSc degree in neuroscience.
Exploring the Body’s Central Command
“I really love the program, which uniquely integrates both psychology and life sciences, and it’s especially exciting to be getting into research,” says the second-year BIU honors scholar, who was born in Highland Park, New Jersey and grew up in Beit Shemesh.
Bent on pursuing MSc and PhD degrees and a scientific research career, Loewenstern is particularly keen on exploring neuronal diseases. As an honors scholar, she landed a position as a research assistant in the Neural Interface Lab in BIU’s striking, state-of-the-art Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. She is part of a team examining the neurophysiological mechanism underlying Tourette Syndrome, which is characterized by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.
A Great Learning Experience
“Yocheved is an exceptionally bright student who has demonstrated a high level of dedication to the research project and vast interest in all aspects of the scientific process,” says Dr. Izhar Bar-Gad, who heads the lab. “Although still in a very early stage of her scientific career she has been very helpful in facilitating the experiments. She has also acquired hands-on experience with experimental neuroscience which complements her academic studies.” The bright-eyed undergrad concurs: “It’s a great learning experience! I really enjoy working with the researchers. They have lots of patience to answer all my questions.”
Pleased to be enrolled in Bar-Ilan’s prestigious program for high achievers, she says “my BIU studies are teaching me how to learn, think on my own, and explore.” The freshman seminar for honors scholars gave her a taste of broader subjects outside her specialty areas, such as the Middle East, feminism and Halacha, and bioethics, while also providing an opportunity to mingle with fellow scholars. She was similarly fascinated by last year’s annual lecture for honors scholars, which focused on Creativity and Leadership – how to utilize creativity to maximize productivity. Thrilled to attend an historic event in March 2013, she recounts: “As an honors scholar I was invited to US President Barack Obama’s speech in Jerusalem – it was an unforgettable experience to hear a world leader.”
People Really Help Each Other
Enumerating on some further Bar-Ilan advantages, Loewenstern – who spent two years of National Service assisting new immigrants in Jerusalem and Jewish youth in Memphis – mentions the “very positive atmosphere in class. People really help each other, posting questions and answers on Facebook. The faculty and staff are also supportive.” She notes that the some 60 second-year neuroscience students comprise a cohesive group. “I have a lot of close friends from class and enjoy spending time with them even after hours.”
Fond of her Judaic classes, which include Bible, Zionist thought and the teachings of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik (the “Rav”), she is glad to be able to “integrate Jewish studies with the sciences.” Prior to BIU, Loewenstern studied at the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for women, which is directed by the Rav’s granddaughter.
As she gains a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the human brain and a closer encounter with cutting-edge research, honors scholar Yocheved Loewenstern is well on her way toward a promising neuroscience career.