There is a most amazing quote that goes something like this: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Who are you not to be? You are a child of G-d. We are all meant to shine…and as we do so, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same…our presence automatically liberates others.” Shani Kahan, North Shore’s June Student of the Month, and Class of 2017 graduate, is the perfect embodiment of these words.
Her name Shani (pronounced Sha nee’ with the emphasis on the “ni”) means Crimson and Marvelous. How perfect is that? She has truly risen to meet the strength of her name. She will soon be off to college attending the Stern Honors program, and after that, there will be medical school to fulfill her goal of being a doctor. Shani can’t think of a job better than saving peoples’ lives and is so excited for her future career.
However, since it’s just before graduation, let’s talk about some highlights from her years at North Shore starting with her love of science research. The topic of neurobiology is of particular interest to her and started when she was a volunteer at Friendship Circle working with autistic children. She was drawn to the many questions about what goes on in the brain and the ways we are affected. In ninth grade, Shani brought that interest to light when she entered LISC (Long Island Science Competition) and won first place, highest honors, honorable mention state nominee, and recipient of the Daniel Wilson Memorial Award for her research entry about olfaction and how it affects memory; like when you smell something delicious, and it reminds you of a fun vacation. In her sophomore year, she competed at LISEF (Long Island Science and Engineering Fair) with her neurobiology entry called “Synergistic Effects of Neuroanalgesics” addressing how oral medications affect neural receptors with the testing being done on termites. She loved the neuro part but did not enjoy the bugs…
A second project begun that year, and continued into 11th grade, was a team effort with Arie Monas and Elior Levy for the 2016 Toshiba Exploravision competition winning National Honorable Mention for their work on Optogenetics Controlled Targeted Cancer Drug Delivery - an alternative cancer treatment that involved the discovery of a less toxic chemical in Naked Mole Rats utilizing animal-created antibodies injected back into the patient using pluronic hydrogels containing the antibodies and a chemotherapeutic agent that would be attracted only to that specific antigen (cancer cells).
The following summer between 10th and 11th grade, Shani was accepted into a research program at Stony Brook University’s prestigious Neurobiology and Synthetic Chemistry department. Her eyes lit up when reciting the title of her research project: “A Novel Bio-orthogonal Trans-synaptic Tracer of Neural Circuitry” where she synthesized a linker called “Mono-Boc Diethylene Triamine.” In other words, she linked together a Lipid (a fatty neural substance), Tetrazine (an unstable compound) and a Fluorphore (a substance that will light up when stimulated in a specific way and can be used as a marker for observation). Working with larval zebrafish, she was able to see every time a neural impulse was stimulated by observing the synapse fluoresce (light up). This same summer, Shani then interned at Brookhaven National Lab where she studied a protein-solving program to crystallize a protein called “thermolysin” found in artificial sweeteners, and learned to analyze and work the data online with computer modeling software to determine the 3-D structure of proteins.
In addition to her love of neurobiology, Shani is passionate about computer science as well. She appreciates the beauty of computer science and is fascinated that no matter how difficult the problem, it can be abstracted using equations with the end result whatever you choose to make of it. She started “Girls Who Code” with Arielle Rothman under the guise of Ms. Robin Wilensky and was written up in great Newsday and LI Herald articles. http://liherald.com/stories/Girls-work-to-eliminate-the-technology-gap,80779. In addition, she is Co-President of FiCS-IT (Females in Computer Science and Information Technology) with Arielle Rothman to analyze the gender gap in today’s technology.
Last summer, Shani interned at Conductor in NYC where she worked with a software engineer and developed a Backlink Exporter (links that help determine the popularity of a website) that she presented at LISC and LISEF receiving Highest Honors, Honorable Mention, and even a cool $50! In her senior year, she also entered Siemens and Regeneron (Intel) competitions.
Israel Activism is high on Shani’s list of personal priorities. This year, Shani served as President of Israel Awareness and is a member of Write On for Israel (an advocacy program for Israel activism). This past February, she traveled to Israel with Write On for Israel where she experienced an awe-inspiring moment visiting Ziv Hospital in Sfat where she was able to meet and speak with Syrians from the war that are being treated by Israelis. They were humbled that their “enemies” were taking such good care of them. One of the stops on the trip that stood out the most was at Mount Herzl and hearing from Alex Singer's mother. Alex Singer was an IDF officer who made Aliyah and died in the Lebanon War.
Shani says she has a passion for counter-terrorism feeling it her duty to protect and says, “I've always dreamed of serving the IDF either as a paramedic or in the Intelligence Unit. I feel that my love for Israel and my involvement with Israel Activism would be incomplete without it”.
Other North Shore career highlights include acting officer in the Investment Club, Assistant Editor of North Shore Notes, and National Honor Society Light of Character.
Some of Shani’s favorite things are first and foremost - loves being the adoring older sister to her three younger brothers (the feeling is mutual), fitness and nutrition, a book titled If There’s Heaven by Ron Leshem about a dialogue with IDF soldiers that gave her a new level of appreciation of them as individuals, Hebrew literature class at North Shore, purple because it’s a calm, pretty and multi-dimensional color, ice skating (LOVES), and winter.
Shani’s lifelong dreams are to feel productive for a greater good, participate in the potential to improve society and most of all, to find a cure for neurological disorders. We can’t wait to read about her amazing accomplishments in the near future.
Mazel Tov Shani!
Best of luck as you graduate and move on to your next adventures in success!!