The Sinai and Synapses Fellowship is a small interfaith group of clergy, scientists and writers who are committed to elevating the discourse surrounding religion and science. By personalizing the relationship around religion and science, the Fellows are models for a productive conversation surrounding religion and science.
Below are the 2015-2017 Sinai and Synapses Fellows.
Harry Ballan went from teaching and researching music history and theory to practicing tax law at an international firm and back to music, this time in the form of teaching and researching the neuroscience of music, one of the fastest growing areas of the brain sciences. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at Yale (BA, MA, M.Phil and Ph.D.) and has a law degree from Columbia. After 25 years of practicing law, Harry is teaching brain and music courses at Yeshiva University, the Juilliard School and the Luria Institute and doing clinical and research work at the Institute for Music and Neurological Function (IMNF), founded by Oliver Sacks. His current interests include the neuroscience of creativity and the relationship between neuroscience and religious practice.
As a lawyer and law professor, Harry devoted thousands of hours to pro bono activities on behalf of numerous charities. Most important among his charitable commitments has been therapeutic music and associated research. He has played for traumatized patients with a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders at several nursing homes, including on “lock down” floors with psychotic patients. Harry became a Director of the IMNF in 2014 and has devoted approximately 1000 hours a year to delivering therapy to patients there. More recently, Harry became Director of the PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury Program at IMNF (“Healing Music”) and is active in the arts in early childhood education through Mind-Builders, a successful arts school in a poor neighborhood of the Bronx. In 2015, Harry was made a Salzburg Global Fellow in Neuroscience and the Arts, and later a Fellow in Early Childhood Development and Education. At IMNF, Harry continues to direct the PTSD program for veterans and is involved in programs for at-risk children and the elderly.
David Bosworth Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Old Testament at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. His current research focuses on ancient prayers and the motif of weeping in biblical and related ancient texts. His work involves correlating psychology and other sciences with ancient sacred texts. His students include undergraduates, seminarians, and doctoral students, and he is incorporating science in his course design as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science for Seminaries grant. He lives in the scenic mountains of western Maryland with his wife and son.
Megan Powell Cuzzolino is a doctoral student studying human development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on how children and adults develop epistemological understandings of science and its relationship to religion and other ways of knowing, as well as the implications of these understandings for formal and informal science education. She belongs to the Causal Cognition in a Complex World research team under the direction of Professor Tina Grotzer at Harvard’s Project Zero.
Previously, Megan was a science teacher at an independent K-8 school in the DC area, where the fascinating questions from her inquisitive young students served as the inspiration for her present research focus. She also spent a year as a Science Education Analyst at the National Science Foundation. Megan holds an A.B. from Harvard University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The Reverend Mark Goodman is the Dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in Botany. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Iowa, where he specialized in bryophyte systematics. After working in botany for a brief period after graduate school, Mark followed a call to ordained ministry and graduated from the General Theological Seminary. He continues to draw upon his scientific background to inform his theological explorations and teaching, striving to draw others into an appreciation of the rich interface between science and faith. An avid amateur astronomer, Mark also brings this voice into the dialogue of religion and scientific endeavor. He maintains his interest in botany through membership in the Botanical Society of America and introducing his parishioners to field botany and the evolutionary relationships between plant groups in occasional forays into the local Sandia Mountains. He participates in the annual Evolution Weekend, an opportunity to focus on the relationship between scientific thinking and theological exploration.
Rabbi Arielle Hanien is a Senior Research Scholar for the Pardes Center on Judaism & Conflict Resolution, Chair of the Clergy Education Committee of the International Trauma-Healing Institute, and Co-Founder and Director of the Neshama Center, dedicated to deepening the study and practice of healing wisdom within Jewish tradition and to facilitating healing conversations between spiritual traditions. Rabbi Hanien’s research efforts draw upon her studies of interpersonal neuroscience, conflict resolution, and Jewish tradition, in the service of nourishing personal and collective healing and of cultivating healthy communal dynamics. Her recent projects include a large-scale collaboration across Greater Los Angeles on behalf of the Jewish Federation, a groundbreaking research and design effort that successfully generated L.A.’s new initiative on Jewish teen engagement within the Jim Joseph Foundation’s national collaboration, as well as smaller-scale collaborations throughout Los Angeles.
The only rabbi worldwide certified in both Somatic Experiencing and Integrated Somatic Psychotherapy, Rabbi Hanien is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology and a doctoral fellow in the executive doctoral program in Jewish Education at the Davidson Graduate School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Rabbi Hanien was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies with honors in Talmud in 2006, and holds B.A. degrees with honors in Philosophy, Sociology, and General Science, from Brandeis University.
Sara Gottlieb is a graduate student in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a BA in psychology and philosophy from Macalester College, and previously served as the lab manager for the Moral Cognition Lab at Harvard University. Sara’s core research interests fall at the intersection of psychology and philosophy, and include moral judgment, the competing explanatory power of science and religion, and moral disgust. One current project aims to understand how secular experiences – and especially encounters with science – can provoke a deep and meaningful sense of awe. She is also currently researching how explaining things in reductionist terms, such as using neuroscience to describe the mind, influences our bioethical judgments about things like abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and cloning.
Stefanie West Leacock is a graduate of Florida State University and received her PhD in Genetics from Yale University in 2006. She has studied genetics in several model organisms, including the roundworm C. elegans and the zebrafish Danio rerio. The power of using model organisms to dissect relationships between genotypes and phenotypes is what inspired her as a graduate student. Stefanie grew up attending church, primarily in the Lutheran tradition. She experiences a sense of wonder in both spiritual life and biological discovery. Stefanie currently lives and teaches genetics in Austin, Texas. She is married to an Episcopal priest and they have two children.
Rabbi David Levy is the Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ. A graduate of Brandeis University, he holds degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education. He received an M.A. in Hebrew Letters and his Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, OH. Rabbi Levy was awarded the title of R.J.E. (Reform Jewish Educator) by a joint commission of the Reform movement and holds certificates in Spiritual and Chemical Dependency Counseling and received an Honorable Discharge with the rank of Lieutenant from the United States Naval Reserve Chaplain’s Corps.
Rabbi Levy was the founding Co-Chair of the Hartford Jewish Coalition for Literacy and served as the Chair of the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy. He also served on the national boards of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Faith Aloud and on the State Advisory Board of NJ Planned Parenthood. Rabbi Levy served as the Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Hartford Jewish Federation and was a founding Board Member of Missourians for Freedom and Justice. In addition Rabbi Levy is a member of the Institutional Review Board of the Institute for Family Health. He was also an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Missouri/St. Louis and spent two years as Jewish Chaplain for the Federal Penitentiary at Marion, IL.
Jonathan Morgan is a doctoral fellow studying the Psychology of Religion at Boston University. His curiosity centers on questions of human nature and flourishing, but ventures from there to explore many wide-ranging topics: with a team of medical anthropologists, he is researching experiences of depression and its relationship to religiosity and spirituality; with the Neuroscience and Religious Cognition lab Jonathan explores the neural underpinnings of self-control, values, and religion; and with colleagues at exploringmyreligion.org, he is researching the complex dynamic between how we process information and how we live out our religiosity. When he’s not knee-deep in research and writing, Jonathan can be found knee-dip in trout streams or otherwise exploring the mountains of New England.
Kathryn Robison is a Ph.D. student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Political Science at The University of Alabama. She is originally from Raleigh, NC and grew up in a Southern Baptist family. Her research centers on the use of social media in the fields of science, politics, and religion. She is especially interested in science communication and the political sphere, and how science is used in political communication and policy making. Kat holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies from The University of Arizona, and a M.A. in American Studies from Youngstown State University. She originally intended to pursue graduate study in Biological Anthropology with a focus on the evolution of bipedal locomotion, but after several contentious interactions with people from her faith community about her decision to study evolution during her undergraduate career, she became interested in the public perception of and conversation about science – ultimately choosing to pursue those questions as a graduate student instead.
Outside her life as a Ph.D. student, Kat is a contributor to the space industry news podcast, Talking Space and travels to as many launches as possible. She is a poet, and an occasional blogger for Geek Girls Night Out. Kat enjoys yoga, traveling, and learning new languages. She studied at The University of Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar in 2009, and was awarded a 2015 Critical Language Scholarship for intensive summer language study of Turkish in Ankara, Turkey.
John Marc Sianghio, Jr. is a Ph.D. student in Religious Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Formerly he was Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. Brought up as an Evangelical Christian and trained as a minister, John has served as part of the ministry team in diverse church settings from a wealthy suburban mega-church as well to congregations in the inner city of Chicago.
As an outgrowth of his faith, John is personally passionate about conducting justice and human rights operations internationally. He worked in his native Philippines with the Christian NGO International Justice Mission to build local frameworks for the prevention of human rights abuses. He served in Operation Enduring Freedom as Human Terrain Analyst for Task Force Patriot, 4BCT-10IN and as a member of the Civil-Military Operations Advisory Team for 3-89 CAV.
Dr. Tom Wassink is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and a faculty member in the University’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics. His medical work comprises a number of activities: 1) providing psychiatric care to veteran’s through an affiliated local VA hospital; 2) pursuing a program of research investigating the genetic basis of mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia and autism; and 3) providing instruction for medical student and residents, with a particular focus on the intersection of religion and mental health.
Tom is also a staff pastor of Sanctuary Community Church of Iowa City (Iowa City, IA), a church his wife and he founded in 1999 (she is the full-time Lead Pastor, Tom is part time). Sanctuary Community Church self-defines as some mash of post-evangelical, emergent, charismatic/ Pentecostal, being formally affiliated with a new group of churches called Blue Ocean Faith. Sanctuary thrives in a secular academic setting, with many members who work and study in the biological and health care sciences.