New Science Chair wants classes to do real research

By Jacob Feitelberg, Outside News Editor

New Science Department Chair Mr. Ayden Jacob plans to move the department away from tests and lectures and towards labs and projects. He also plans on helping individual students go beyond the classroom — literally.

One of the advantages of a small school like Shalhevet, he said, is that it can create learning opportunities with local institutions like Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“We are going to look for internships where the 11th – and 12th-grade students can conduct hands-on research at Cedars and hopefully other institutions,” said Mr. Jacob, who conducted research himself at both the University of Pennsylvania and at Oxford University in Cambridge, England.

“Every school I went to you just have a teacher giving slides,” said Mr. Jacob. “I got passionate about bringing what I gained at Oxford — because they have a very different teaching style — to the Jewish community. It’s very one-on-one so every student understands what is going on a practical level.”

Mr. Jacob is familiar with smaller schools considering he grew up in Los Angeles and attended Valley Torah High School. He was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles when he was five.

After high school, he graduated with honors from Yeshiva University, where he majored in Neuroscience. He then studied neuroimaging at the University of Pennsylvania, and Neuro-Radiation Oncology at the University of Oxford, Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology, in Cambridge, England.

He hopes that bringing real-world challenges like heart disease and brain tumors into the classroom will help students become interested in the sciences, and plans labs ranging from dissections to digital anatomy.

“We want to revamp the way that students are introduced to the sciences,” said Mr. Jacob of the all-new science department, which also brought Mr. Tushar Dwivedi to Shalhevet this year. “We want to have a lot of interactive learning… hands-on, research-based learning.”

He said he hoped students would feel comfortable approaching him to talk about science in general and their specific interests in the scientific field.

Mr. Jacob is no stranger to teaching, even though he has spent so much of his life doing research.

“I’ve been tutoring for the last several years for medical school students, graduate students, undergraduate students and high school students so that kind of led into teaching,” said Mr. Jacob. He said tutoring showed him what did and didn’t work in other schools’ teaching styles.

He himself became interested in the sciences from an early age, with his parents signing him up to volunteer at hospitals starting in fifth grade. He went on to volunteer at hospitals into high school and college.

Science, he said, is also a way to improve the world, as he was taught to do back in Valley Village.

“My dad studied physics and engineering,” said Mr. Jacob. “He always pushed to do something with your knowledge that can influence humanity in a positive way.”