From EMT to MIT: Shai Zilberzwige-Tal’s Fast-Track Journey in Life Sciences
When Shai Zilberzwige-Tal completed her army service, during which she was an emergency medical technician (EMT) stationed along the Gaza Strip, she knew she wanted to learn more about helping people combat disease.
Now, eight years later, she’s getting ready to travel to Boston, with a PhD, two kids, and a husband in tow, to begin a post-doctoral position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in cell biology.
“This is a dream come true for me, and the scholarship support I received throughout my studies has been instrumental in making it happen,” she said.
Zilberzwige-Tal grew up in a small town in the south of Israel. After the army, she enrolled at TAU’s Wise Faculty of Life Sciences as an undergraduate student in biology. From the start of her academic journey, she showed her exceptional talent and drive: she was on the Dean’s list two years in a row, received an excellency award and graduated with honors.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Zilberzwige-Tal enrolled in the exclusive Fast Track Program at TAU’s Smolarz Graduate School. The program for outstanding students offers a direct path to a PhD in four years. For Zilberzwige-Tal, the road took five years, with two maternity leaves in the midst. The Argentinian Friends of TAU support this program, in which participating students receive full coverage of tuition and a living stipend.
“Scholarships are very important in promoting science and research in general. Students really rely on this help to get ahead,” said Zilberzwige-Tal. “Thanks to the support of scholarships, I was able to concentrate on my research and invest most of my time in my studies.”
While studying towards her PhD at the microbiology lab in the Shmunis School of Biomedicine & Cancer Research, Zilberzwige-Tal continued to prove that she was an exceptional student and a leader on numerous occasions. She was nominated as the Faculty’s Student Union representative for three years in a row, and she received an excellency award for her work as a teaching assistant. Recently, Zilberzwige-Tal was awarded an early career research grant from NANOSERIES for her contribution to developing a disease-modifying treatment for rare genetic metabolic disorders.
During her time at MIT, Zilberzwige-Tal plans to continue her research in gene-editing technologies. “These technologies hold great promise for the treatment of human disease,” she said. She also hopes to reach out and initiate collaborations with world-leading scientists—collaborations that she will continue once she completes the fellowship and returns home to open her own lab in Israel, she says.
-By Sveta Raskin