Yoav Jacob believes in leaving things better than he found them — specifically the environment and the University of Michigan.
With an interest in attending medical school in the future, Jacob discovered an interest in plant evolution during his sophomore year. While working as an undergraduate researcher in the Evolutionary and Ecological Genomic Lab of Regina Baucom, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Jacob spent two and a half years working on his independent honors thesis, investigating the effect of nanoparticle exposure on plants.
“I hoped to make predictions about the future of agriculture, industry and its impact on human health,” he said.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Jacob decided to attend U-M after he was accepted to the LSA Honors Program, which he said gave him a sense of community within the broader Ann Arbor campus.
When he wasn’t in the classroom or in a lab, Jacob took on a number of roles that not only enriched his own college experience but also contributed to the vibrancy of U-M’s student life.
He worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant and peer adviser, helping prospective and current students navigate the biology program’s majors and minors.
He was also a campus fellow for the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, which trains Jewish college students on how to articulate the relationship between Judaism and veganism and how to advocate for the ethical treatment of animals.
As a leader in Michigan Hillel, the student group dedicated to fostering and facilitating programs and events for students about Jewish culture and religion, Jacob led a number of “How to Host” workshops, that showed students how to host their own Passover and Shabbat celebrations.
“Teaching was another great way for me to learn,” he said. “But I also discovered I really enjoyed doing things that encouraged community support and community engagement. I now realize that helping others develop their own skills is really important to me and it’s something I want to continue doing in the future.”
Throughout his time at U-M, Jacob continued to connect his varied interests in plant biology, farming and health care by interning at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and he currently works part-time as an emergency medical technician.
“Being an EMT has had a big impact on my Michigan experience,” he said. “Showing me how principles of ecology and the environment directly influence human health has given me a unique perspective of the medical system in the country.”
Before applying to medical school in the next year or so, Jacob wants to take some time off and potentially go to culinary school to gain a greater perspective on the relationships between lifestyle, diet and health.
On advice he’d give to his younger self, he said, “explore all the passions you have whether you think they are crazy or not. Then you will begin to flourish.”