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Physics Major Earns Research Award at Harvard

Adam Jabak’s work impresses judges and peers

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Adam Jabak and Dr. Thaya Paramanathan at Harvard conference

Ivy League students often take home the top awards at the National Collegiate Research Conference.

But, this year, Bridgewater State University’s Adam Jabak, ’20, joined the ranks of elite undergraduate researchers, when he earned first place in the physical sciences presentation category at the event, which is held at Harvard University.

“I was not expecting to get an award,” Adam said. “I wanted to have fun presenting. I was thinking there are so many intellectual, smart individuals there working on these projects. … I was just shocked.”

Adam’s achievement is impressive for any student. But, he’s come a long way – literally. The physics major moved from Lebanon to the United States, fleeing violence that plagued his home country, a place which also offered limited career opportunities.

Adam Jabak works in Single Molecule Lab

He began his higher education journey at American University of Beirut the same year terror attacks killed more than 120 people in Lebanon. Adam came to the United States, enrolling at Massasoit Community College before transferring to BSU.

At Bridgewater, he excelled in Dr. Thaya Paramanathan’s Single Molecule Biophysics lab.

His conference presentation highlighted collaborative research between BSU, Northeastern University and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden that could support development of better cancer medication. Their work focuses on understanding how a metal-based compound binds to DNA. Adam is continuing research done by Nicholas Bryden, ’17, the first Bridgewater student to present at the National Collegiate Research Conference.

Adam, who works in car sales, is appreciative of Bartlett internship and scholarship awards, as well as funding from the Adrian Tinsley Program, that allows him to focus more on his studies and research.

“He always goes overboard doing hard work,” Paramanathan said. “Hard work always gets rewarded.”

Adam, who is part of a team believed to be the first undergraduates to build dual-beam optical tweezers, excelled at the Harvard conference.

“I saw the passion come out of him and the confidence he had,” Paramanathan said.

A judge praised his strong personality and the quality and thoroughness of the research, which is at the graduate school level.

Adam, who hopes to continue studying biophysics in graduate school, said he appreciated the opportunity to network at the conference.

Students present at Harvard conference
“I was really inspired just being there,” he said.

Caitlin Rowley (pictured in photo at right), ’19, a political science major (mentor: Dr. Melinda Tarsi), and Kelly Gately (pictured in photo at left), ’19, a biology and elementary education major (mentors: Dr. Heather Marella and Dr. Nicole Glen), were also selected to present at Harvard along with Adam. The three students’ work helps bolster Bridgewater State as an institution known for excellent student research.

Adam concurred: “It shows BSU has great opportunities for undergraduates to do research.”  (Lab photo by Drew Cambra, ’19)

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