The NY Jewish Week interviews YU’s new Dean of Students, Dr. David Srolovitz, who was appointed in June. Previously, Srolovitz, renowned for his scientific research in computational materials science, was chairman of Princeton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering:
…What do you make of the relationship between science and religion?
Science is about understanding nature, and that’s a goal every religious person needs to address. Science is religion’s natural compatriot — from a religious point of view, you must be prepared to ask any question that needs to be asked and see how it goes. For a Jewish person, science and religion have no inherent contradiction, it’s all related to the same thing. For an inquisitive mind, there’s a natural fit.
On a personal level, I haven’t felt I had to deal with the contradiction. One thing that scientists learn quickly is how little we understand, so there’s a natural connection and I never felt pulled in two directions, but rather there’s a unification. If I see something I don’t understand, I think that’s worth looking into more.
…Our country is currently in trouble. We do not produce enough engineers. We do not produce enough scientists. YU has a strong program in the sciences and engineering, but the number of students who plan careers in this area remains relatively low. My goal over the next few years is to entice more and more students to science and engineering by providing opportunities for research together with faculty during the academic year and during the summers.
YU is the perfect place to be asking the hard questions. YU will not provide the answer to the “apparent controversy over science and religion.” We will provide thinking, honest individuals who are prepared to address these issues.
Are you concerned about the recent rightward tilt of institutions like YU and the impact such a tilt will have on academic excellence and achievement?
I think it is a misrepresentation of the facts to characterize what is going on at YU as a “recent rightward tilt.” YU has been and continues to be an institution that strives for a balance in Torah learning and secular learning. … YU welcomes a wide range of orthodox Jewish students and is committed to continuing to do so, it is at the same time that we are striving to bring our academics to the very highest levels of this country.…