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Cellular Mission

Esther Teichtal

“I was back at the lab five days after birth — I was that determined to complete my thesis.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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BALANCING ACT “It is important to think more about what you want to do with your life and less about what you feel like studying. Once out in the world you have to face the real challenges of balancing your life with your job… and as a wife and mother, it was terribly hard to find a position that allowed me that balance.”

Name: Daniella Nistenpover│Profession: Biomedical Researcher│Location: Jerusalem 

A

s a child, Daniella Nistenpover’s dream was to be a doctor. With maturity, she realized that spending a decade on residencies and a grueling internship would be difficult to reconcile with the frum family life she envisioned for herself. Letting go of Dr. Daniella, she chose the next best thing: studying biomedical engineering atIsrael’s Technion inHaifa. She wasn’t even sure what the term meant but, hey — it had the desired medical connotation.
 

The Birth of New Challenges

Daniella commenced her studies only several months after getting married, and it wasn’t long before significant complications arose. “I gave birth the day before my first end-of-year final. It was a difficult exam on regular differential equations — not something I could take in the hospital!”

The course lecturers were very understanding and allowed her to make up the exam at a later date. They also provided additional assistance in covering missing material, along with a Xerox card that enabled her to photocopy up to 500 pages of missing notes from her classmates.

Still, with all the extra support, it took a lot of determination to make it successfully to the finish line. “I was back at the lab five days after birth — I was that determined to complete my thesis.”

Asked whether she’d pull that kind of shtick today, Daniella responds with an emphatic no. “Today I think I was crazy!”

A JOB THAT WORKS

Having said that, Daniella can now look back at her five years of studies — during which she gave birth twice more — from the current comfort of a fulfilling job that brings in the income her family needs. “Of course, my husband was very supportive, and my mother came in sometimes to watch the kids. I also had friends who took notes for me when I was absent, or studied with me at my house when I couldn’t go out.”

A degree in biomedical engineering opens doors to a range of vocational options. Some are more easily reconciled with motherhood and the frum lifestyle than others. As a result, most women choose an academic route, rather than laboratory work. Daniella experienced tremendous siyata d’Shmaya in finding a position that enables her to juggle her career with her domestic responsibilities without too much stress.

“I met someone at a biomedical engineering conference and showed great interest in what she was doing,” Daniella recalls. “She took down my details and a few months later, when an opening arose at her company, she called me with a job proposal.”

 

Daniella works at a company called LeukoDx, where she’s helping develop a device that accepts cartridges containing a patient’s blood sample, and can automatically diagnose various conditions of the cell. This allows for rapid diagnosis of sepsis, for instance, by any random ICU staff member, eliminating the need for a specialist, and thereby potentially saving lives.

“I enjoy my job a lot,” says Daniella. “I like working on a cellular level, performing experiments, and analyzing my own results. This wouldn’t happen if I were working in a bigger company. In a larger place I’d most probably serve as a small cog in a sprawling team of researchers. I wouldn’t get to see my experiment through to the end — someone else would take over. Here I get to go over the results and revise the experiments if they don’t meet expectations. It’s fascinating.”

 

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