Bethlehem University Students Tackle Manhattan College

by RikkiLynn Shields


This summer, five students from Bethlehem University in Palestine came to Manhattan College to participate in the Bethlehem University-Manhattan College Summer Research Program.

Students spent the summer researching a topic pertaining to their field of study while being paired with a professor that acted as their mentor.

Jane Allawi, a Bethlehem student majoring in biology, spent her summer at MC.

Allaw researched how to produce collagen matrices using collagen nanofibrils– the main objec-tive being to create collagen matrices infused with titanium which would be used for transplanta-tions.

Allawi worked with Gennaro Maffia, Ph.D., professor of the chemical engineering department, and other Manhattan College Students.

“Working with the students is always the best part. They were wonderful and enthusiastic and Jane became part of the team very quickly. We managed to publish a paper so Jane’s work was accepted by the scientific community as something novel, using raw material that had not been tried before,” Dr. Gennaro said.

For Alawi, the research she conducted with Dr. Maffia and Manhattan College senior Amanda Peterman, was the first type of research she had ever completed.

“Unfortunately, we did not have enough time. However, we successfully tested the hypothesis of there being no correlation between the matrices’ density with their pores sizes. We concluded that the hypothesis was true and we published a paper on it. The process of making the nano-fibrils was a long process,” Allawi said.

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While Allawi was a bit skeptical before leaving the West Bank to live in the United States for the summer, she knew that this research opportunity was exactly what she needed, not only academically, but also socially.

“Visiting New York City is always a fun experience. Life in the US is very different culturally and socially from Bethlehem,” said Allawi. “During our stay in New York City, we went sight-seeing and tried to explore the city as much as we could. I turned 21 in the summer so it was easier for me to find more things to enjoy as a college student.”

After graduating from Bethlehem University, Allawi plans to continue on to graduate and post-graduate studies, along with continuing her research.

“Besides education, I would like to give back to my community by the best way possible. I am aiming to one day work in either a research facility or a hospital,” said Allawi. “This opportunity helped me gain some experience in the field of research and of course the paper that was published would offer me many similar opportunities in the future.”

Another student, Randa Al-Obayyat, came to Manhattan College to pursue her passions for computer information systems and accounting.

“I came to NY for 2 reasons, first that Jane Allawi & I participated in Business Analysis Competition at Manhattan College which [was] held on May 21st-23rd, so we came earlier than some of our other friends,” Al-Obayyat said.

She continued.

“The second reason was the research opportunity. It was the first time I had a chance to do a research, so it was a very important opportunity for me to visit new university and do a research. I can also say that I truly learned how to do a research,” Al-Obayyat said.

Al-Obayyat titled her research ‘Software Communication Network & Service’. It focused on assessing the next generation of mobile core network entities with the intent to virtualize and adapt them for cloud environment deployment.

“Researching was totally new for me, especially because I hadn’t had any background related to it, so the first thing I did at Manhattan was studying new concepts and techniques that I needed to use in my work. Then, I started working on the research by downloading the necessary soft-ware/programs,” Al-Obayyat said.

Along with spending the summer researching, Al-Obayyat enjoyed all that New York City had to offer. Al-Obayyat expressed that life overall was very different here. Food was different, the weather was different, and the cost of living was much more expensive here.

Regardless, she enjoyed her time in NYC.

“The time I spent in New York taught me how to be strong, work hard, and be totally independent. I’ve learned how to conduct research, and how hard is to work in order to get any information. You have to build yourself up strong to get the job of your dreams,” she said.

Al-Obayyat was blown away by her experience in the United States.

Not only was this her first time abroad, this was also her first time spending Ramadan and celebrating Eid away from her family.

Dr. Afridi hosted the students for iftar, a religious gathering that commemorates the breaking of the fast on each day of the holy month. While at her home, the students were able to enjoy traditional Middle Eastern dishes cooked by Dr. Afridi herself, such as chickpeas and baba ganoush.

Dr. Amir Annabi, professor of economics and finance at Manhattan College, mentored Alyssa Reesor of Manhattan College and Jackline Khoury of Bethlehem University, alongside Dr. Aileen Farrelly.

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“We researched and compared existing financial literacy initiatives in both the Bronx and the West Bank, and investigated how these programs impacted their respective communities by alle-viating financial illiteracy,” said Dr. Annabi. “It was a wonderful experience. Not only I met a remarkable student, but also learned more about where she comes from and region challenges. I really hope I could visit Bethlehem University one day.”

Alyssa Reesor of Manhattan College shared her experience working on a research paper along-side Jackline Khoury of Bethlehem University.

“Having the opportunity to participate in summer research was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I was able to expand my knowledge on the Bronx and educate myself about the West Bank. It was really fascinating to learn about the different NGOs that the Bronx has to offer and I was shocked by the lack of NGOs in the West Bank,” Reesor said.

Reesor continued to discuss her experience.

“The best part of doing the summer research was being partnered with Jackline. We had an amazing dynamic and she is so intelligent.  I could not be more grateful to have worked with her, as well as made a life long friendship with her and share lots of laughs and memories together,” she said.

After graduating in May 2018, Al-Obayyat plans to work for a few years following graduation to gain experience in her field. She hopes to receive a scholarship to obtain her master’s degree out-side of Palestine.

While at the college, along with researching and building friendships with the faculty and other students, the five students were able to travel to places such as Central Park, Cony Island, Times Square, the MoMA, The MET, the High Line and even Six Flags in New Jersey.

Natalie Boliari, assistant professor of economics and finance, met with all of the students at former Dean Ammar’s house party.

“After discovering their interest in jazz during my conversations with them, I arranged to take two of the students, Jackie and Jane, to Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. Dizzy’s is one of the prem-ier New York City jazz clubs,” Boliari. “I learned, once again, that the uniquely American art form, jazz, can bring people from diverse backgrounds together and reveal and strengthen so many of their shared values.”

While the students were unable to present their findings at the Research Scholars Presentation Day on Sept. 29 of this year, they issued presentations to their fellow students at Bethlehem University.

Manhattan hopes to expand and strengthen connections with Bethlehem University in the future while exploring other possible partnerships to connect with the community.