“You Don’t Have to Compromise”
LAS Grad and Hebrew University’s Youngest Doctoral Candidate Talks About Science & Family
After her sister’s death from acute Leukemia, Nechama Silverstein felt herself drawn to science and medicine. After graduating from Prospect Park Bnos Leah High School, Silverstein wanted a rigorous academic program without having to compromise her religious identity. She chose Lander College of Arts and Sciences (LAS) in Flatbush where she found a program that challenged her, professors that inspired her, and a path to a stellar professional career.
At LAS, Silverstein said her professors’ infectious enthusiasm about science had a profound effect on her.
"They gave over their motivation, dedication, and love of science to me," she said.
After marrying, Silverstein and her husband moved to Israel. She earned a MSC from Hadassah School of Dental Medicine where she graduated at the top of her class and was also the only religious woman in the program. During her studies, she published two well-received research papers about the role of a protein in tooth enamel and its effects on overall body health and received the Luxembourg Award, Hebrew University Academic Excellence Award. Afterwards, and now a mother of three children, she completed a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Hebrew University where she studied the role of glutamate transporters, a family of neuro transmitters that move glutamate, amino acids, across cell membranes. While pursuing her PhD she was the recipient of The Ani Shaki Prize, Hebrew University Academic Excellence Award and a Travelling Scholarship for Excellent PhD Students from the Research Authority of The Hebrew University.
"Once we figure out how they work, we can manipulate them,” she said. “We hope that what we’re doing will allow for more precise drug targeting."
Silverstein describes her work as a cumulative process where she works with scientists across the globe as they create building blocks that she hopes can one day be used in life-saving processes.
"There’s a tremendous power to science and research,” explained Silverstein. “There is also the basic quest for knowledge and understanding of how our body works and the beauty of creation."
Currently, Silverstein teaches chemistry and physics at Touro College Israel and chemistry at the Michlalah Jerusalem College for Women. She has a powerful message for her students.
"It’s possible to fulfill your dreams,” said Silverstein. “It’s possible to marry someone who is learning Torah, to be a mother and to move to Israel. At the same time, you can also have an extremely fulfilling professional career. You don’t have to compromise."