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.
2019-2021 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
2017-2019 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
2015-2017 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
2013-2015 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
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.
2017-2019 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
Isaac Alderman is a PhD candidate studying Hebrew Bible at the Catholic University of America. His dissertation, titled “The Animal at Unease with Itself,” examines the cognitive basis for the artificial boundary which humans construct between themselves and other animals through creation stories. He is currently the project leader for the book of Jonah for the upcoming reworking of the New Jerusalem Bible. He has also published articles and presented at conferences on various biblical passages in the context of cognitive science, pedagogy, and reception theory. Isaac lives with his wife and two cats in Providence, RI.
Ian C. Binns, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Elementary Science Education in the Department of Reading and Elementary Education in the Cato College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a M.Ed., both from North Carolina State University. His Ph.D. is in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Science Education from the University of Virginia. Prior to coming to UNC Charlotte, Ian was a faculty member in the College of Education at Louisiana State University. Ian’s research and community work primarily focuses on the interaction between science and religion. His goal is to help people understand science and religion, what makes them unique, their interaction, and how they both benefit society. Specifically, his research looks at how preservice elementary teachers’ scientific literacy and faith-based beliefs influence their perceptions of how socio-scientific issues, such as evolution, creationism, and intelligent design, should be addressed in the classroom. His community work includes public testimony in defense of science in Louisiana, efforts to help the science education community become more aware of attempts to undermine science instruction, and science-faith courses at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Charlotte, NC.
Laura Donnelly is the Senior Special Initiatives Officer at the Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing at the University of Notre Dame which fosters interdisciplinary research and programming initiatives for scholars and educators. Laura received her undergraduate degree in systematic theology and classical philosophy at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She then earned her master degrees from Emory University and Yale University studying philosophy, theology, and Islamic studies. Her research interests are primarily concerned with the big questions confronting contemporary societies, questions concerning the social preconditions of human flourishing, truth, justice, and freedom.
Brian Gallagher is Associate Editor at Nautilus, a science, culture, and philosophy magazine for the intellectually curious, and the Communications Director at Ethical Systems, a research collaboration aiming to better organizational culture through behavioral science. In 2012, he received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from UC Santa Barbara, with a senior thesis on Just War Theory. He went on to receive, in 2014, a graduate degree in journalism at Columbia University, with a master’s project on the rising interest of socialism and Marxism among millennials. Brian was once a non-denominational Christian and, in high school, became a Creationist and considered a future in youth ministry but, after taking geology in college, he reconsidered his views. He now identifies as an atheist.
Arvin Gouw is the vice president for research and development overseeing the BeHEARD (Help Empower & Accelerate Research Discoveries) and RGTF (Rare Genomics Task Force) divisions of Rare Genomics Institute, where he leads crowdfunding efforts for rare disease personalized medicine research, predominantly for children, and develops novel online and mobile platforms to connect patients to medical experts. Arvin is currently a fellow at Stanford and Berkeley studying the role of metabolism in cancer and stem cells, where his work is under the entrepreneurship program of SPARK at Stanford, while leading the entrepreneurship program, BPEP (Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneur Program) at Berkeley. He is also an affiliate faculty member at Harvard, given his interest in the intersection between science, policy and religion regarding genomics ethics. Prior to Stanford, he served as associate pastor in Philadelphia, during which he did his fellowship on science and theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Arvin received his Ph.D. in pathobiology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, M.Phil in philosophy from University of Pennsylvania, M.A. in theology from the Ecumenical Institute of Theology of St. Mary’s Seminary & University, M.A. in endocrinology and B.A. in molecular biology both from UC Berkeley.
Rabbi Rachael Jackson is the rabbi of Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville, North Carolina, ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Prior to rabbinical school, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and worked for a decade as an analytical chemist in biopharmaceutical, biofuel, and hazardous waste companies. These two careers are not as divergent as one might think, for Rachael believes that science and religion are quite similar: while each discipline specializes in its own set of questions, both seek to explain the hows and whys of the world. Science and religion inspire awe, and whether Rachael is working with instruments or working with people, reverence and wonder are constants in her life. The focus of her rabbinate is thus on exploring and imparting the meld of Judaism and modernity, and natural law and Jewish living. She is especially interested in the field of medical ethics, and is the President of the Interfaith Assistance Ministries.
The Reverend Zachary Jackson is the pastor of Community United Church of Christ in Reading PA as well as an adjunct professor of theology at Palmer Theological Seminary. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Ancient Languages from Wheaton College and a Masters of Divinity from Palmer Theological Seminary. As a child, Zack dreamed of being a rocket scientist, but after being accepted to several engineering schools, he felt an unmistakable call to ministry instead. Throughout Zack’s ministry, he seeks to explore how scientific inquiry and the scientific method can inform a more humble, reverent, and honest faith in God. To that end, Zack writes a science and faith blog (http://musicalspheres.blog) and is one of the organizers for the United Church of Christ’s Science and Technology Network. He is also on the UCC’s Environmental Justice Team and is particularly passionate about how climate change and environmental damage disproportionately impact the poor and underrepresented in our world.
Timothy Maness has a Ph.D. from Boston University’s Graduate Division of Religious Studies. His dissertation, which he is currently adapting into a book, discusses ways of reconciling relativistic physics with a flowing model of time, in which past, present and future are really distinct from one another. It also explores how a relativistic theory of flowing time can complement Abrahamic theology, and serve as the basis for a view of existence centered on personhood.
Tim has been interested in questions of science and religion since childhood. He grew up certain both that he wanted to become a scientist and that nothing in his Christian upbringing conflicted with that desire. Eventually, Tim received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Chicago. While at university, however, he became fascinated with the formal study of religion, which offered opportunities to pursue some of the questions that had always inspired him. Today, Tim is a full-time scholar of religion and science. In addition to his dissertation research, he has also written and spoken about religion and science studies as a dialogue between different approaches to knowledge—one that might offer helpful lessons at a time of public debate about the very meaning of “facts” and “truth.” Outside of the academy, Tim has taught high school physics, worked at science museums, and helped to edit the Papers of George Washington. He lives with his wife in Princeton, New Jersey.
Kendra M. H. Moore is a PhD student at Boston University’s Graduate Division of Religious Studies. She primarily focuses her work on the psychology and neuroscience of religion. She graduated with a Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and subsequently graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University. Her research centers on the role of the religious imagination and how our knowledge of this role might unveil the cognitive constructs that influence human behavior on an ethical and moral level. This research addresses how central and authoritative religious images (such as concepts of God and afterlife) construct or deconstruct human relationships, institutions, biases, rituals, and ideas of self. Kendra hopes her research can further our understanding of how to be responsible bearers of the concepts that inform our perspectives of the world. When she is not reading and writing, Kendra enjoys being outdoors, and in Boston this often means walking around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir or kayaking and paddleboarding on the Charles River.
Adam Pryor is Associate Professor of Religion and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs in Lindsborg, KS. A scholar of science and religion, having taken his Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union working under Robert Russell at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Dr. Pryor’s primary research concerns issues related to emergence theory, the origins of life, and reconceptualizations of embodiment. Working principally within Christian theology, his previous monographs include The God Who Lives: Examining the Emergence of Life and the Doctrine of God (Pickwick Publishing) and Body of Christ Incarnate for You: Conceptualizing God’s Desire for the Flesh (Lexington Books). His most recent book–Living with Tiny Aliens–was begun when he was a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry’s research program on the societal implications of astrobiology and considers how astrobiology effects Christian understandings of the imago Dei, driving us toward a vision of human being concomitant to work being done in environmental humanities. Dr. Pryor is concerned with how scientific concepts and problems can serve as a table around which interfaith dialogue can take place. Scientific research pushes us to ask personal, existential questions of deep religious significance, whether this is intended or not. As a fellow he is interested in more deeply considering how these existential questions provide vantage points on one’s own religious or non-religious ways of understanding the world as a meaningful whole that can then be catalysts for building relationships across religious differences.
Myriam Renaud is a Ph.D. student in religious thought at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. Her inter-disciplinary research falls at the intersection between theology and ethics. In her nearly-completed dissertation, she focuses on the ideas that theists have about God and how those ideas influence their moral decisions. Myriam has started work on a second project, researching the ideas about God held by three theologians—a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian—and developing a method of comparison. She is Principal Investigator and Project Director for the Global Ethic Project of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where she is spearheading work to expand the Global Ethic (a document that expresses moral directives shared by the world’s religions) to include a moral directive related to sustainable development and care for the natural world. Raised in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, Myriam is an ordained minister affiliated as a Community Minister with the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in the Chicago area. She also writes about religion in public life for popular media like The Atlantic online, Religion Dispatches, and Sightings. Myriam is a finalist for the 2017 Religious Newswriters Association’s Chandler Award for Student Reporting on Religion.
Adam Reynolds studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, even though he meandered out of physics as avocation, he wasn’t able to find his way out of the labyrinthine hallways of MIT. He’s still there, serving as one of MIT’s chaplains where his chief interest as a chaplain is bolstering the spiritual health of the community by promoting self-awareness, spiritual exploration, emotional literacy, self-care and relationship-building through interfaith dialogue. Adam also loves helping students find integration and harmony between science and spirituality. Happily, working with MIT students, he is frequently able to geek out in conversations about cosmology, chemistry and quantum computing.
Dr. Ashlynn S. Stillwell is an Associate Professor and the Elaine F. and William J. Hall Excellence Faculty Scholar in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on creating sustainable water and energy systems in a policy-relevant context. She earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri (2006), and an M.S. in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering (2010), M.P.Aff in Public Affairs (2010), and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (2013) from The University of Texas at Austin. She received the National Science Foundation CAREER award and the UCOWR Early Career Award for Applied Research for her research work on the energy-water nexus. She was honored with the 2015 Girl Scouts of Central Illinois Woman of Distinction Award in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the 2018 Rose Award for Teaching Excellence, and the 2018 AEESP Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science. Dr. Stillwell has also been included on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students at Illinois. She serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and was previously Chair of the Board of Directors of Faith in Place.
Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is a transitional ministry specialist with standing in the United Church of Christ. She is currently the Interim Pastor and Teacher of The Congregational Church of Mansfield, UCC, in Mansfield, MA. She previously served congregations in Attleboro, MA; Schellsburg, PA; and North Conway, NH. As a pastor, her focus is on congregational empowerment by creating a culture of experimentation and learning. Her other interests lie in non-seminary ministerial preparation through PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc., where she is the chair of the Academic Council, a course facilitator, a course writer, and secretary of the board of directors; and helping people discover that science and faith are not incompatible. Her doctoral dissertation from Lancaster Theological Seminary was an intergenerational, hands-on science curriculum for church use. She is also an alumna of the Sinai and Synapses Fellowship, 2017-2019 cohort. She co-hosted the webinar series “Science for the Road Ahead” for the United Church of Christ in the summer of 2020, which focused on the many areas of science that affect the ways that churches can operate during the pandemic. Rev. Dr. Shaver holds a BA in Soviet and Eastern European Studies from the College of Liberal arts and an M.Div. from the School of Theology, both at Boston University. She resides in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where she enjoys cooking, reading, and binge watching science fiction television shows.
Dr. Gregory I. Simpson brings with him over 25 years of experience building awareness and building programs that disrupt the religion and science divide. He holds both M.Div ‘16 and S.T.M. ‘17 degrees from Union Theological Seminary as well as a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies. As a student at Union, he was the co-founder of the Theology, Science and Religion Caucus, whose central role was to educate and inform seminary students on issues of science and faith. He was on the strategic planning committee for the Religions for the Earth Conference, which brought over 200 religious and spiritual leaders to Union in the same year, culminating with the launch of the Center for Earth Ethics. He has been a volunteer at the Center for Earth Ethics since its founding in 2015, participating in and leading workshops on eco-justice for the Center’s Eco-Ministers Training program in 2016 and 2017. He is certified by the Climate Reality Project as a climate justice speaker, and most recently he represented Union and the Center at the UPROSE’s Youth Climate Justice Summit ’17, with over 300 middle and high school students in attendance. ). Dr. Simpson is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and is pursuing ordination in the PC (USA).
2015-2017 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
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 researcher and educator who received her doctorate in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2019. Her primary research focus is on the emotion of awe and its role in scientific learning and discovery, and she has taught courses on public engagement with science, cognition and instruction, and qualitative research methods. As a doctoral student, she belonged to the Causal Cognition in a Complex World research team under the direction of Professor Tina Grotzer at 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 served as a Science Education Analyst at the National Science Foundation. Megan holds an A.B. in Psychology 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.
Dr Rabbi Arielle Hanien, PsyD, SEP is the Founding Director of The Source: Gathering Waters, dedicated to deepening the study and practice of healing wisdom within Jewish tradition and to facilitating healing conversations between spiritual traditions. A psychotherapist with expertise in integrative approaches to resolving trauma and enhancing resilience, she is Associate Clinical Director of the Lifespan Psychological Center affiliated with UCLA and served as the Spiritual Counselor and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner of ReConnect Integrative Trauma Treatment Center’s Residential facility in Malibu, CA. She is Chair of the Clergy Education Committee of the International Trauma-Healing Institute, and assists the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute with its regional trainings. Rabbi Hanien’s research interweaves her work in the fields of interpersonal neuroscience, conflict resolution, and Jewish tradition, at the nexus of nourishing personal and collective healing and healthy communal dynamics. Her recent projects include a case study in Integrated Somatic Psychology, 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, and smaller-scale collaborations throughout Los Angeles.
The only rabbi worldwide certified in both Somatic Experiencing and Integrated Somatic Psychotherapy, Dr Rabbi Hanien earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2018 and is 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. Stefanie currently lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she teaches biology, genetics and works on projects related to active learning and equity in biology education. Having grown up attending church, she finds wonder and her identity in both spiritual life and biological discovery. She is married to an Episcopal priest and they have three 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 veterans 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.
2013-2015 Sinai and Synapses Fellows
Rabbi Dan Ain is the Director of Tradition and Innovation at the 92nd St. Y. He is part preacher, part philosopher, part interviewer and provocateur. He finds holiness in honest conversation, in the spaces where people can say what they really think and allow others to do the same. For the past decade, Rabbi Dan has been creating opportunities and contexts for these interactions – hosting Friday Night Dinners with comedians and cosmologists, klezmer brunches with artists and analysts, appearing on Sunday morning TV and in private apartments with groups of close friends looking for a way to talk about God on their own terms. He encourages conversations that are sometimes funny (with Gilbert Gottfried), sometimes challenging (with Deepak Chopra), sometimes sacred and sometimes profane.
The High Holiday services he leads, with blues musician and cantorial singer Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery, are an example of how he is finding meaningful ways to worship in the 21st century – creating experiences that speak to people living in today’s world using the language, lessons and music of the past. Ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Dan received a B.A. in Philosophy from Brandeis University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He has served as a faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion and at CLAL, and continues to lecture on the present (and future) ideological clash between our burgeoning technological beliefs and traditional Jewish faith.
Rabbi Michelle Fisher is the Executive Director of MIT Hillel, a job that now synthesizes her two academic courses of studies. As an undergraduate at Princeton University, she majored in chemistry. She then entered a PhD program in Organic Chemistry at MIT. After telling her MIT advisor the day after she passed her oral exams, that, “Yes, you heard correctly, I just said I want to go to rabbinical school; no, not medical school, rabbinical school,” she completed her Masters thesis, and received a Wexner Fellowship to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NY, from which she received her ordination in 2002.
Before returning to MIT in her current role, Rabbi Fisher served as the Associate Rabbi of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, MD and the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, CA. She also served as a Naval Chaplain Candidate, ministering to Jewish and non-Jewish sailors and Marines.
Joyce Ann Konigsburg is a faculty member at The Catholic University of America and an online instructor at DePaul University and Duquesne University. She holds a PhD in Systematic Theology and degrees in Computer Science and Telecommunications. Joyce lectures worldwide on topics related to Interreligious Dialogue, Comparative Religious Studies, and Business Ethics in addition to Science and Theology topics. Some of her recent publications include Speaking of God’s Presence and Absence as Non–Contrastive Transcendent Distinction (2019), Conditions for Encounters with Ultimacy Across Religious Boundaries (2018), and Panentheism: A Potential Bridge for Scientific and Religious Dialogue (2017). Her current work in Public Theology explores the ethics of bias in artificial intelligence and in societal injustice. Joyce is the regional Interreligious and Interfaith Committee Chair for the American Academy of Religion. She lives in Maryland near Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to enjoying the water, Joyce likes to read, research, and travel in order to meet new people and experience different cultures, histories, and cuisines.
Reverend Gawain de Leeuw was raised in a multicultural, interfaith family in Rochester, New York. He was graduated from Oberlin College, the University of Chicago, and General Theological Seminary. Upon winning the Luce Scholar’s award, he served in Korea for two years as the vicar of the Anglican Cathedral and lecturer in liturgical theology. He serves on the boards of Meals on Wheels, the Housing Action Council of Westchester, and Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. He convenes the White Plains Religious Leaders, and helped found Westchester United, a community based power organization, He has taught a freshman utopian and dystopian literature and world religions at local colleges. He is also a member of the Order of the Ascension and a Rotarian.
Peter F. Martelli is an Associate Professor of Healthcare Administration in the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University. He holds a PhD in Health Services and Policy Analysis from the University of California – Berkeley, a MSPH from Thomas Jefferson University, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the US Veterans Administration. His research focuses on how organizations use evidence to navigate ambiguous situations and to learn from (and avoid) errors. His wife, Sarah, is the Palliative Care Chaplain at Mass General Hospital and serves on the Board of the Association of Professional Chaplains. Their research together explores the intersection of evidence-based management and chaplaincy.
Rabbi Michael Mellen is an executive, organizational, and personal coach, trainer and speaker, and works with people in a variety of organizational and life roles. He explores the world and finds power in story, in listening, and in each of our ability to find a path that has the potential to create an even happier, more successful life and world. Ordained in 1998, Michael served as a congregational rabbi and educator at Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, Virginia and as Director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth movement of Reform Judaism in North America. With The Jewish Education Project, he provided innovation coaching and consulting to congregations and youth programs. Michael’s current clients range from independent entrepreneurs and organizational executives to summer camp directors and synagogue boards. He works with teams and individuals in for-profit and not-for-profit settings.
Lisa Ortuno, Ph.D. (of blessed memory) held degrees in biology from the University of South Carolina. In her graduate work she studied the mating patterns and population genetics of American alligators utilizing methods in molecular biology. Since 2002 she had worked for three international biotechnology companies – LifeTechnologies, Illumina and now Promega Corporation, where she has provided technical support and training for life science research, government, private, DNA forensics and clinical diagnostics laboratories around the world. Lisa was a member of the Bahá’í Faith, which has its world center in Haifa, Israel.
Sadly, she died suddenly in December 2015. Lisa served on the Local Spiritual Assemblies for her Baha’i communities and gave numerous talks on topics related to science and religion to local and national Baha’i audiences. Lisa had three children including two adult sons and a daughter.
Rabbi Joshua Ratner is the Associate Rabbi and Director of Engagement at Yale University’s Joseph Slifka Center forJewish Life. Previously, he served as the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, a Conservative synagogue in Cheshire, CT. He also directs the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New Haven. Ordained by the Conservative Movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2012, he was a Joseph Neubauer Fellow and also earned a Master’s Degree in Midrash and a Certificate in Pastoral Care. While in rabbinical school, he received training in congregation-based community organizing and was part of the original rabbinical student cohort of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders fellowship program.
Rabbi Joshua Stanton is an Assistant Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. A blogger for the Huffington Post and the Times of Israel, he works to improve and reflect upon relations between different religious and ethical communities. Most recently, Josh was appointed a member of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, which liaises between the Jewish community and the Vatican, Orthodox Church, and World Council of Churches.
Connor Wood is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture, focusing on the evolutionary study of religion, computer modeling of social processes, and religion-science issues. Connor writes a popular weekly blog, Science On Religion, at Patheos.com, and occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post. Connor’s interests include the evolutionary and cognitive roles of ritual, the influence of religion on health and self-regulation, and the conservative-liberal spectrum in psychology and religion. He also studies the relationship between cognitive style and spirituality at the survey website FaithInDepth.org.
Previously, Connor earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then bummed around the world for a couple of years and had adventures, many of which turned out to be more fun to write about than they technically were to have. For example, he once was mugged in Mongolia. Today, Connor is working on a book that applies the cognitive and evolutionary sciences of religion to contemporary political quandaries. He likes climbing mountains in Colorado. Connor’s spirit animal is William James.
John ZuHone grew up on a farm in east central Illinois where the night sky was very dark, and early on developed a passion for astronomy. His parents indulged his interests with a small telescope and a Commodore 64 personal computer at age six. Today, John is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He serves on the operations team for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and uses some of the world’s fastest supercomputers to simulate collisions between clusters of galaxies, the most energetic events in the universe since the Big Bang.