Yair Saperstein, 21
Yair Saperstein has been a science guy for a long time (witness the permanently singed hair on the back of his hand from an elementary-school science “‘magic show” that went amiss).
Today, he’s still looking to spread the magic of science. Saperstein, a chemistry major and 2012 Yeshiva University valedictorian, is the founder of Project START Science!, a independently run initiative that sends 150 Yeshiva University students to public schools in nearby Washington Heights to teach science. “Our goal is get these kids excited about learning,” said Saperstein. The key? “Being excited about learning ourselves. And seriously — what’s not to be excited about? Having fun with others while teaching about what we love. When the kids see how much we enjoy what we’re doing, it sparks their curiosity.”
Saperstein founded START Science in February 2011 after his work doing chemistry “magic shows” for the American Chemical Society chapter at YU. “I realized there was a huge niche here — we were students who wanted to teach, and here were students who wanted to learn; it was a simple equation really,” he said. Project START Science’s curriculum boasts courses in biology, neuroscience, electrochemistry, forensic chemistry, and more.
Saperstein has received a slew of prestigious awards for his work in the sciences, including the National Goldwater Scholarship last year. Headed to medical school next year, how will he keep up his philanthropic commitment? “I see no reason I can’t do both.”
Pianist: Yair has played piano for 13 years, and runs Project Music, which brings Yeshiva University students to perform for children at hospitals over the Jewish holidays. Athlete: His idea of a break? Training for the Half Ironman Triathlon — “when I’ve got some free time.”