2019-2021 Sinai and Synapses Fellows

2019-2021 Sinai and Synapses Fellows

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 2019-2021 Fellows; to see previous Fellows, click here.


Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, Ph.D. is an Affiliate Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at University of Washington and the Principal Data Science Researcher at KenSci Inc, a Seattle based company focused on Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare. He is also an advisor on AI to the ministry of Science and Technology of Maldives. Muhammad Aurangzeb has written more than 50 research papers on machine learning and artificial intelligence. He has won numerous best paper awards and his research has been widely covered in the American and international media. He has had academic appointments at University of Washington, Center for Cognitive Science at University of Minnesota, Minnesota Population Center and the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. Muhammad Aurangzeb also has extensive industry experience where he worked as a Data Scientist or Research Scientist at large organizations like Groupon, Boston Scientific, ConEdison etc. and multiple startups. He has a Bachelor of Science from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and MS and PhD from the Department of Computer Science from the University of Minnesota where his dissertation was on computational modeling of trust. He has been in the organizing and program committees for major conferences like AAAI, KDD etc. His current research is focused on fairness, accountability, transparency and ethics of AI systems, and the application of AI and machine learning in healthcare.


Rev. Casey Bien-Aime is the Spiritual Care Coordinator and Endowed Chair of Pastoral Care at Lankenau Medical Center. From a very young age Casey knew she wanted to work in the hospital, but it would take a few more years to realize that chaplaincy was the perfect mix of her desire to serve in medical and spiritual capacities. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies and Biology from Drew University in Northern New Jersey and then spent three years at Palmer Theological Seminary earning her Masters of Divinity. After receiving her MDiv, Casey started Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, completing eleven units of CPE over the course of four years. She has worked closely with high risk maternity, pediatrics, the acute rehabilitation unit, telemetry, Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience, palliative care, and the family medicine clerkship in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. After her residencies at TJUH, an opportunity arose to begin a Chaplaincy program to Lankenau Medical Center. During the past five years Casey has served the Lankenau Community, bringing awareness to the need for spirituality in healthcare. Casey counts herself blessed to have found a career that melds two of her greatest passions.


Mark Bloom, Ph.D. is a Professor of biology and science education at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) in Dallas, Texas. He has a B.S. in biology from DBU, a M.S. in biology from Baylor University, a Ph.D. in science education from Texas Christian University (TCU), and is currently in the dissertation writing phase of a Ph.D. in leadership studies from DBU. His dissertation, entitled “When science and faith collide: Pathways of reconciliation forged by Christian leaders in the scientific community,” investigates how Christian leaders in various fields of science have navigated the perceived conflicts between their faith and science. Mark’s research interest focuses on socio-scientific issues including origins (physical and biological), biomedicine (stem cell therapy, CRISPR), and environmental stewardship (climate change). His interest in the intersection of science and faith really took off in his early twenties after hearing, in a Sunday morning sermon, that he could not “be a Christian, and have any integrity, if [he] accept[ed] evolution!” – he continues to think otherwise. In his current position at DBU, Mark strives to show students that science and faith do not have to conflict with each other. Mark is also Co-Editor of the Electronic Journal for Research in Science and Mathematics Education (EJRSME), Associate Editor of the Journal of Science Teacher Education (JSTE), and Co-Executive Director of the International Consortium for Research in Science and Mathematics Education (ICRSME). One of his favorite pastimes, when not pursuing his academic work, is watching creature features (especially those including dinosaurs). Mark lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Macy.


Rev. Dr. Kristel Clayville holds a PhD in Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. She is a Sinai and Synapses Fellow as well as a Senior Fellow at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Formerly, she was the Acting Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science. Clinically, she works as a chaplain and ethicist at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and focuses on the existential and spiritual issues facing organ transplant patients. Kristel’s early research was on the uses of the Hebrew Bible in environmental ethics, especially through the work of Holmes Rolston, III and Hans Jonas. More recently, she has turned toward the intersection between environmental ethics and bioethics to study the green burial movement and organ donation as genres of recycling. She actively pursues clinical research in how patients engage their religions to understand the medical care they are getting and make decisions about it. She is ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.




Rabbi Jonathan K. Crane, Ph.D. holds a BA (summa cum laude) from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, an MA in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and an MPhil in Gandhian Thought from Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad, India. As a Wexner Graduate Fellow, he received both rabbinic ordination and a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  He completed a PhD in Modern Jewish Thought at the University of Toronto.  He currently serves as the Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in Bioethics and Jewish Thought in the Center for Ethics at Emory University, is an Associate Professor of Medicine and in the Department of Religion, and is the founding director of the Food Studies and Ethics program at Emory. A past-president of the Society of Jewish Ethics, the current leader of the Jewish Affinity Group of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, and co-chair of the Comparative Religious Ethics group of the American Academy of Religion, his scholarly presentations examine Jewish ethics, bioethics, social and political ethics, food and eating ethics, animal ethics, and comparative religious ethics. He is the author of Narratives and Jewish Bioethics (2013) and Ahimsa: The Way to Peace (2007, with Jordi Agusti-Panareda), co-editor with Elliot Dorff of The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality (2012), and editor of Beastly Morality: Animals as Ethical Agents (2015), author of Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet (2018), and editor of Judaism, Race and Ethics: Conversations and Questions (2020). He founded and co-edits the Journal of Jewish Ethics. He received a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 2014.


Telli Davoodi, Ph.D. studies cognition over development and across cultures. In one line of research, she studies how children growing up in different religious and social contexts learn about unobservable entities and processes in the domains of religion and science. This research focuses on the role of testimony and information from sources as a common mechanism for learning about the unobservable in both domains of religion and science. In another line of research, she studies the functional role of religious and scientific explanations for existential questions. She investigates the possibility that religious and scientific thinking serve different needs, such as epistemic, social, and emotional. She received her BA in Philosophy from UCLA and an MA in Philosophy from Brown University. Then, she received a Master’s of Education from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard before completing her PhD in Developmental Psychology at Boston University. She did a postdoc at the Graduate School of Education at Boston University, working on how children from three different countries learn about religion and science. Currently, she is a postdoc at the Psychology department at Princeton.


Reverend Dr. Eric Elnes is a biblical scholar, with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Senior Minister of Countryside Community Church (UCC), Omaha, NE. His church serves as the Christian partner in Omaha’s unique Tri-Faith Initiative, where a synagogue, a church, and a mosque have co-located to a shared, 38-acres Commons to move beyond interfaith dialog into interfaith community. In 2019, he and his congregation received Reform Judaism’s highest award (the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award) for their Tri-Faith work. Dr. Elnes is also an active videocaster at www.darkwoodbrew.org and podcaster. Elnes is the author of several books, including Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and Other Wanderers), and The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity. In 2006, Elnes co-led a walk across the U.S. to raise awareness of the diversity that exists within Christian faith and practice. His journey was documented in the film The Asphalt Gospel. He and his wife, Melanie, have two daughters who live in Denver and Juneau.



Elizabeth Fernandez, Ph.D. loves all things science.  She has a PhD in astrophysics and has worked around the world, using telescopes both on the ground and in space. She is now a scientific writer and a public speaker, interested in different ways of looking at the world around us. As the host and producer of SparkDialog Podcasts, a podcast on science and society, she tells the story of science in our lives, and the connection of science with things like religion, philosophy, history, culture, ethics, art, and the future.  She also is a contributor for forbes.com on science and philosophy.  She has a passion for interfaith relations, working with people from many countries and backgrounds promoting dialog between faiths.  Besides science, she is an artist and writer, loves pretty much ever genre of music in existence, and seeks out bizarre and unique musical instruments. In astrophysics, Elizabeth studied the first stars and how their appearance changed the Universe forever. You can hear more about her research when she was a guest on Starts with a Bang Podcast.



Amanda Glaze-Crampes, Ph.D. specializes in science teacher education, evolution education research and outreach, and professional development, alternating her time between the classroom and the field as an Assistant Professor of Middle Grades & Secondary Science Education at Georgia Southern University. Her research centers on the intersections of science and society, specifically the acceptance and rejection of evolution in the Southeastern United States and the impact of the conflict between religion and evolution on science literacy. Her work has been featured on NPR’s video/radio series Science Friday as well as on social media outlets such as the NCSE Science Education Blog, ErrantScience.com, and PLOS.org. She served as an expert panelist for Science Friday’s education focus #TeachTheE and works with organizations including NCSE, the Smithsonian Human Origins Program and National Geographic funded Umsuka project at the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa to help people navigate struggles between science and faith. Her research has been referenced in mainstream media outlets such as Scientific American, Forbes, and Newsweek as she fights for science literacy through the lenses of science and her Southern Baptist ministry upbringing.


Matthew Groves is a science and faith educator from rural Appalachia. With his physics undergraduate degree and Master of Divinity, Matthew draws upon his credibility in both camps to bring harmony to areas often known for conflict. He has taught over 60 science and faith classes to audiences of all ages across nine denominations, particularly focusing on climate change and scientific literacy in the church. He has been featured in NPR and is proud to work for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. He currently lives in Nashville, TN, where his wife is a PhD candidate in cancer biology. They enjoy gardening, cooking, and reading (a few recent highlights include Wendell Berry, Will Campbell, Thomas Merton, Cormac McCarthy, and Nora Jemisin). Contact Matthew or learn more about his work on climate change at his website, matthewdgroves.com.



Carolyn Hall is a Brooklyn based historical marine ecologist, science communications instructor, and award winning contemporary dancer/performer. As a marine ecologist she has been an independent researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Environmental Defense Fund. She was part of an UMass Amherst academic team studying fish and the coastal ecosystem of the northeast U.S., is the research assistant and fact checker for the best selling author Paul Greenberg (Four Fish), and she will be working with the American Fisheries Society to communicate climate change policies. She is a co-founder of Exact Communication, formerly taught with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and is a core member and researcher in residence with the eco-artist collective Works on Water. Her continued career in dance has led her to work with artists across the country and internationally and she is increasingly invested in combining her artist and scientist halves to make data-rich science more understandable, embodied, and memorable for the general public.


Briana Pobiner, Ph.D. is a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History whose studies the evolution of human diets (with a focus on meat-eating), including topics as diverse as human cannibalism and chimpanzee carnivory. She has done conducted research in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Indonesia, Romania, and the US. Since joining the Smithsonian in 2005 to help put together the Hall of Human Origins, in addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she leads the Human Origins Program’s education and outreach efforts which includes managing the Human Origins Program’s public programs, website content, social media, and exhibition volunteer training. Briana has also more recently developed a research program in evolution education and science communication. Briana received a BA from Bryn Mawr College, where she created an independent major called Evolutionary Studies, and an MA and PhD in Anthropology from Rutgers University. She is also an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology in the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at the George Washington University.


Rabbi Jordan Shaner is the assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto, Ontario. Recently ordained as a rabbi and cantor from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, Jordan’s rabbinic thesis focused on theologies in the Babylonian Talmud, including  on the way the talmud presents the intersection between physiology, health, religious practice and spirituality. During his time as a rabbinical student, Jordan was a community educator at Brandeis University’s pre-college summer programs BIMA and Genesis, and a chaplain of the Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Delaware. Both of these opportunities influenced Jordan’s understanding of the way religion and science can each shape the human experience. Currently, Jordan is a member of the Toronto Board of Rabbis and represents that organization as a board member of Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Greater Toronto, which fosters relationships between a number of faith communities in the Greater Toronto Area. Every week, Jordan goes curling with the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the interfaith curling league of Greater Toronto, which has become a way to immerse in Canadian culture as well as foster interfaith dialogue. Rabbi Shaner is married to Kate, a violist and music educator.


Reverend John Van Sloten is a Calgary-based writer, teacher and pastor (Calgary Community Reformed Church). His first book, The Day Metallica Came to Church; Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything (2010) looks for glimpses of God in pop culture. His second, Every Job a Parable; What Walmart Greeters, Nurses and Astronauts tell us about God (2017) listens for God’s words at work. His third book (in process) is God Speaks Science: How I learned to Practice God’s Empirical Presence. Since 2011 John has participated in four John Templeton Foundation sub-grants exploring how to preach scientific texts.





Seth Villegas is a PhD student in constructive theology at Boston University. He specializes in issues related to the dialogue between religion and science. He focuses primarily on how technology affects religious and religious-like ideas. Seth developed many of his current interests in religion and technology while he was an undergraduate in Silicon Valley. His current research examines transhumanist and other secular communities, asking questions about the future of religious life. Seth has a B.A. in english from Boston University and an MA in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.