Not only does Rachel Furhang ’17 have a white belt in jiu jitsu, she has certainly reached “black belt” status in the academic arena. The College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student is a recipient of the impressive Rosemary O’Halloran Scholarship. The Biochemistry major, who is minoring in Mathematics, is also working on an honors thesis in Biochemistry with Alejandra del Carmen Alonso, PhD, focusing on understanding the tau protein’s pathogenic state.
A graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshivah High School in Teaneck NJ, the 21-year-old has always had a “clear vision” of what she wants to accomplish.
“When you are working toward a goal, all your choices become easier to make. That said, a goal is just the road map. Hard work will take you the rest of the way,” said Furhang, a Bulls Head resident, who was born in Manhattan.
She is grateful to Dr. Alonso who “has been helping me understand the components necessary to drive forward a research project and has very generously spent time guiding me through my honors thesis.”
“I was lucky that Rachel chose my lab to work in. From the beginning I noticed that Rachel is a special student. While we were discussing the research project, she not only was able to follow the research objectives, but she was jumping ahead and asking questions on how to answer unsolved problems. She designed her research actively. Not too many students have that capacity that requires another level of abstraction. Rachel is making excellent progress, and I am sure she will leave us with more pieces to build our proposed mechanism of neuronal disruption in Alzheimer disease,” noted Dr. Alonso.
In addition to her busy academic life, Furhang is also a note-taker for the Center for Student Accessibility, has served as Vice President of the Pre-Medical Pre-PA club, and was a part of the CUNY Service Corps, placed at the Institute for Basic Research.
Furhang studied in Hong Kong in fall 2015, tutoring students in English and Biology, learning Mandarin Chinese, and taking in the local culture. She calls the experience “one of the most memorable parts” of her time as an undergraduate.
“Studying abroad was fun, but it also taught me many skills about learning across different cultures,” said the student, who also spent a summer at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine studying the PTEN protein, which is implicated in cancer and autism.
As a student in Charles Liu, PhD’s, Science and Technology seminar, Furhang continued to impress with her broad interests and pursuits.
“Did you know that Rachel’s also a talented painter and digital artist?” asks Dr. Liu, Director of the Verrazano School and Macaulay Honors College. “Whether it’s science, art, culture, or anything else, Rachel is unafraid to push limits and bend boundaries – and we in the CSI community are all enriched by her uplifting audacity.”
Furhang plans to pursue an MD and PhD dual degree and become a medical scientist, focusing on the fields of neurodegenerative diseases, bacterial evolution, and the genetics behind both. Naturally, her plans include obtaining that black belt in jiu jitsu.