Sinai and Synapses names new class of 15 fellows

The latest incoming class of fellows for the Sinai and Synapses Fellowship now includes a computer science professor, a spiritual care coordinator, biology professor, rabbi and an ethicist.

This 15-strong group will be seeking out models for productive conversation surrounding religion and science through 2021 and were just named by the group founded by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, who is incubating the group at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

The fellowship, however, is interfaith and is designed to encourage curiosity and the creation of new questions to explore in religion and science. According to the group’s website, the fellows engage in their own communities and create meaningful content that includes podcasts such as: “Down the Wormhole” and “More Light, Less Heat” series.

One of this year’s fellows, Kristel Clayville, plans to work on something public-facing possibly in the form of a podcast focused on religion, science and technology. Clayville is the acting director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, as well as a senior fellow at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. She currently works as a chaplain and ethicist at the University of Chicago Medical Center and focuses on the existential and spiritual issues facing organ transplant patients. She has also done work at the intersection between environmental ethics and bioethics to study the green burial movement.

Here are the rest of this year’s fellows and some of the experience they bring to the fellowship:

  • Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, affiliate associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at University of Washington and the principal data science researcher at KenSci Inc., a Seattle-based company focused on artificial intelligence in healthcare.
  • Rev. Casey Bien-Aime is the Spiritual Care Coordinator and Endowed Chair of Pastoral Care at Lankenau Medical Center.
  • Mark Bloom, professor of biology and science education at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. His research interest focuses on socio-scientific issues including origins (physical and biological), biomedicine (stem cell therapy, CRISPR) and environmental stewardship (climate change).
  • Rabbi Jonathan K. Crane currently serves as the Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in Bioethics and Jewish Thought in the Center for Ethics at Emory University, is an associated professor of medicine in the Department of Religion and is the founding director of the Food Studies and Ethics program at Emory.
  • Telli Davoodi studies cognition over development and across cultures. She did her postdoc at the Graduate School of Education at Boston University, working on how children from three different countries learn about religion and science.
  • Reverend Dr. Eric Elnes is a biblical scholar and the senior minister of Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Elnes is also an active videocaster at and podcaster.
  • Elizabeth Fernandez is an astrophysicist and has worked around the world, using telescopes both on the ground and in space. She is the host and producer of SparkDialog Podcasts, which is a podcast on science and society.
  • Amanda Glaze-Crampes specializes in science teacher education, evolution education research and outreach, and professional development. She is also an assistant professor of middle grades and secondary science education at Georgia Southern University. Her research has centered on the rejection of evolution in the Southeastern United States.
  • Matthew Groves is a science and faith educator from rural Appalachia. He works for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
  • Carolyn Hall is a historical marine ecologist, science communications instructor and award-winning contemporary dancer/performer based in Brooklyn. She was part of an UMass Amherst academic team studying fish and the coastal ecosystem of the northeast U.S., is the research assistant and fact checker for the best-selling author Paul Greenberg (Four Fish), and she will be working with the American Fisheries Society to communicate climate change policies. 
  • Briana Pobiner is a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, studying the evolution of human diets with a focus on meat-eating and helped put together the Hall of Human Origins at the museum in 2005. More recently, she developed a research program in evolution education and science communication.
  • Rabbi Jordan Shaner is the assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto, Ontario. His rabbinic thesis was on theologies in the Babylonian Talmud, including on the way the Talmud presents the intersection between physiology, health, religious practice and spirituality.  
  • Reverend John Van Sloten is a Calgary-based writer, teacher and pastor. Since 2011, he has participated in four John Templeton Foundation sub-grants exploring how to preach scientific texts.
  • Seth Villegas is a PhD student in constructive theology at Boston University. He specializes in issues related to the dialogue between religion and science focusing on how technology affects religious and religious-like ideas.

Susan Barreto


Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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