Meet The 2016-2017 Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars

The Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars Program attracts the highest-achieving researchers from premier universities in the United States and Canada to do postdoctoral research in Israel. Six postdoctoral scholars are entering the STEM Leadership Program in 2016. Here are their profiles.

  • Dr. Matthew Cordes
    Postdoc at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

    Dr. Cordes works in geometric group theory, an exciting and modem area that lies at the nexus of geometry and algebra. His central work was on Morse boundaries of spaces. He is known as an excellent researcher who explains his work with clarity and ease, and who quickly learns new topics.

    At Brandeis, where he received his doctorate, he took part in a teacher training program for graduate students that included an apprenticeship program followed by teaching his own sections.


    Dr. Cordes also used his pedagogical skills in several volunteer settings, including the Posse Foundation, started by a Brandeis graduate, which focuses on students with strong academic potential who might be overlooked by the traditional college-admissions process. In this context, Dr. Cordes taught a group of students from New York City who were accepted to Brandeis as a group to support each other.


    Dr. Cordes takes collaboration seriously. He and current Zuckerman postdoc Emily Stark are pursuing research at the Technion together with five other researchers from around the world. He also strives to bring many different viewpoints to the material he teaches.

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  • Dr. Joseph Kinghorn-Taenzer
    Postdoc at Tel Aviv University

    Dr. Kinghorn-Taenzer received his PhD in Experimental High Energy Physics at the University of Toronto. Beginning as an undergraduate at McGill University, he took a strong interest in ATLAS, one of the four major experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva, Switzerland. His thesis was titled “Study of the Higgs boson produced in association with a weak boson and decaying to WW* with a same sign dilepton and jets final state with the ATLAS detector at the LHC.”

    Dr. Kinghorn-Taenzer has played several roles in connection with ATLAS, including maintainer of the ATLAS jet calibration software packages, a role which involved not only software development but also providing support to ATLAS colleagues who used the software.

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  • Dr. Laura McCaslin
    Postdoc at Hebrew University

    Dr. McCaslin received her PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. As part of her studies, she constructed and benchmarked novel atomic natural orbital-type basis sets for use in spin-free exact two-component relativistic calculations, designed and built a module to analytically transform full quartic force fields and vibrational/rotational parameters between isotopomers, and performed vibrational and rotational calculations in collaboration with experimental chemists to assign spectra and calculate best-fit structures.

    Dr. McCaslin has enjoyed teaching and leading from a young age, and during summers in college she organized four 14-day leadership workshops. In graduate school she participated in the Inspire Mentorship Program where she assisted an undergraduate student in preparing a research paper and presentation on the topic of women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields. The student then presented at the 21st Annual Conference on Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies.

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  • Dr. Benjamin Passer
    Postdoc at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

    Dr. Passer received his PhD in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. He is interested in noncommutative geometry, group actions, operator theory, functional analysis, and algebraic topology. His dissertation topic was “Noncommutative Borsuk-Ulam Theorems.” As a graduate student, he held three service positions within the mathematics department and participated in a seminar designed to ease early graduate students into research study. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant, Dr. Passer elected to lead his own courses.

    In recognition of these efforts, he was awarded both an endowed scholarship and a teaching award from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He looks forward to contributing to projects of the operator algebras group at the Technion.

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  • Dr. David Wernick
    Postdoc at the Weizmann Institute of Science

    Dr. Wernick received his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to being a Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholar, he is both a Fulbright Research Scholar and a Weizmann Institute Systems Biology Network Fellow. Dr. Wernick has focused on applying biology to solve engineering problems, culminating in engineering microbial metabolism for efficient production of gasoline-alternative biofuels from wastes, and studying carbon fixation to aid removal of CO2 from the air and increase crop biomass. He has filed three patent applications.

    During his time at UCLA, he served as one of two student representatives selected from all University of California schools to meet with the governor and a team of state legislatures. The school representatives discussed research at the different campuses and made the case for increased funding for graduate student programs. Dr. Wernick is noted for his strong commitment to sustainability, his social skills, and his ability to make his ideas clear and engaging. His very strong background in metabolic engineering is a welcome addition to the field in Israel.

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  • Dr. Anastasia Yanchilina
    Postdoc at the Weizmann Institute of Science

    Dr. Yanchilina was a PhD researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University. Her doctoral thesis was entitled “The history of the last deglaciation through the lens of the Black Sea: new data and changing paradigms.” At the Weizmann Institute of Science, she plans to work in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences on the application of stable isotopes to diagnosing the evolution of opal to chert and Archean paleothermometry. Dr. Yanchilina was active on the Columbia cycling team, and has taken a team approach to her studies, too.

    She has previously done research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where she participated in an expedition to study the atmospheric composition in southwest Pacific and at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts where she reconstructed changes in temperature during the last deglaciation in western Atlantic. She has served as a New York Academy of Science Mentor as a teaching fellow and more recently, as a mentor working with junior high level students in environmental restoration. Dr. Yanchilina has also made several trips to Washington, D.C. as a proponent of earth science in national and international policy.

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