AU grad, inspired by grandfather, combines passions for research and patient care

Noy Kaufman is on her way to becoming a physician scientist

AU grad, inspired by grandfather, combines passions for research and patient care

Noy Kaufman graduated from American University in 2018 with a biochemistry degree and now works in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

In 1971, Noy Kaufman’s grandfather fled a communist dictatorship in Romania for Israel with nothing but a couple of suitcases. Growing up in Israel, Kaufman, who recently graduated with a biochemistry degree from AU, said she fostered her love of science while listening to her grandfather tell stories of conducting science experiments in his backyard. His circumstances forced him to sacrifice his education and reduce his love for science to a hobby.

Her grandfather’s passion and perseverance catalyzed Kaufman’s motivation to chase her own scientific dreams at AU. Today, Kaufman works in Boston, doing clinical research in the cardiovascular department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“It’s important to find your passion and your community and your support system,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman’s work in patient care started early on in her time at the University. Beginning in the spring semester of her freshman year, she volunteered at the neurological intensive care unit at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She continued to volunteer at the hospital for three years.

“I wanted to do something that would help people and help patients,” Kaufman said.

Her passion for discovering new ways to help patients extended to the classroom. On her second day of college, her freshman year chemistry professor Douglas Fox asked if anyone was interested in doing research. She immediately said: “Of course!" Fox gave her the space to grow, learn and become comfortable in a lab, Kaufman said.

“For mentors, it’s important that they give you the tools, but they don’t give you the solution,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman’s friend Harry Solomon, also a pre-med graduate from AU, said that Kaufman rose above the intense competition among pre-med students.

“She would make sure that everyone around her were doing their best as well,” Solomon said.

Dr. Shoaleh Dehghan taught Kaufman as a student in organic chemistry and supervised her as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader in that same course. Kaufman was “so dedicated” as an instructor, Dehghan said. Dehghan recalled an instance when Kaufman was returning from an interview in Boston and her flight landed at 9:30 p.m.

“She had an SI session at 10 p.m., and she didn’t cancel it,” Dehghan said. “I like her like my daughter.”

Kaufman said one of the greatest things about attending AU is the ability to create and build relationships with professors.

“I’m so grateful for that,” Kaufman said. “I see friends who don’t have that relationship with their professors from other schools.”

AU also taught Kaufman how important it is to find a community, she said. Spending all her life in Israel, she said she wasn’t accustomed to communities where everyone wasn’t Jewish. At the University, she learned from her peers about different cultures and her own, eventually joining Chabad, a Jewish organization on campus.

“It made me understand where I came from when I was away,” she said.

During her junior year, Kaufman received the Gloria P. Likins Scholarship, a biology department scholarship specifically for undergraduate female biology majors. She used this grant to expand her research on antimicrobial solutions through an independent study.

In her senior year, Kaufman became interested in the I-Corps program, which encourages scientists to go beyond the lab and commercialize their findings. Through this program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Kaufman participated in conferences that taught her the skills necessary to create her own company.

Though the students’ companies are not officially registered through the I-Corps program, Kaufman continues to work on developing her company, currently called IES Solutions, and obtaining a patent for technology to make antimicrobial solutions. Moving forward, Kaufman aspires to become a physician scientist, a position that will enable her to treat patients while also doing research to advance medicine.

“I didn’t want to be working in a basement with chemicals all day,” she said.

As Kaufman applies to medical school, she points to her dual passions for helping patients and working in a lab as driving forces. She is also reminded of her grandfather, who was unable to quench his scientific curiosities with formal education.

“He inspires me to prevail through challenges and appreciate education so much,” Kaufman said.  

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Kaufman watched her grandfather conduct experiments and that she researched enzymes. She researched antimicrobial solutions, and listened to stories of her grandfather's science experiments.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle