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Sara Rubin ’14: Fulbright Scholar in Haifa, Israel

Undergraduate- - By Sara Rubin '14
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Sara Rubin in Haifa, Israel
Holiday lights in front of the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, Israel

When I decided that I wanted to take a glide year post-Princeton and prior to pursuing further studies, I first consulted with Dr. Deirdre Moloney, the Director of Fellowship Advising. I knew that I wanted to conduct research in Israel; After speaking with her, my thesis advisor, Professor Joshua Rabinowitz, and a couple of Princeton alumni, I sent emails to a few professors at Israeli universities, including Professor Aaron Ciechanover. To be honest, I almost did not send him an email, because I thought that it was unlikely that someone as distinguished as himself, a recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, would read, let alone reply favorably to a “cold” email. I am so glad that I did!

I conducted my research at the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, Israel from October 2014 through June 2015. During the two months leading up to my research, I worked to improve my Hebrew language skills through attending Summer Ulpan at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The goal of my research project was to gain a better understanding of the regulation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, one of the major pathways for intracellular protein degradation (lysosome-mediated protein breakdown is the other major pathway).

Research-wise, I was very excited to have the opportunity to devise my own project, beginning from an extensive review of the literature, and to learn new experimental techniques. With the advice of an experienced MD-PhD student in the lab and Professor Ciechanover’s lead, my project grew out of one of my initial curiosities. The work was to involve some experimental methods that I was not familiar with, and it was great to gain experience with these new procedures, not only for my scientific growth, but also because the learning process allowed me to better get to know my coworkers.

Outside of the lab, I enjoyed visiting and spending holidays with different families throughout the country, traveling with my fellow Fulbrighters both within Israel and to Morocco for our Enrichment Seminar, volunteering at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital, and training at CrossFit Haifa. Being selected to participate and compete in the Ready for Action—Fittest in Israel competition alongside a few of my teammates with the support of all of my new CrossFit friends was an unforgettable experience.

My Fulbright year was incredibly enriching, both professionally and personally. It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to expand my scientific toolbox through working with and learning from everyone in the Ciechanover Lab. In addition to (and, I believe, more importantly than) my scientific growth, through integrating myself into Israeli society, I learned more about myself as a person, improved my Hebrew language skills, and had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. I certainly feel as though I have a new home away from home, and I look forward to staying in touch with my new “family.”