The Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars Program attracts the highest-achieving researchers from premier universities in the United States to do postdoctoral work in Israel.
30 postdoctoral scholars are entering the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program in 2018. Here are their profiles.
Dr. Nathan CermakPostdoc at Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyStudying how cortical neurons make computations and how they change depending on past computations, potentially leading to new ways of improving human memory and learning.
Dr. Cermak earned a PhD in Computational and Systems Biology from MIT. He is interested in understanding the biophysical mechanisms by which neurons and neural networks make and maintain memories of their past activity, using computational, optical, electrical, and biochemical technologies. In the long term, he hopes to develop new ways to improve and augment normal human memory and learning. At the Technion Faculty of Medicine, in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, he will use mice as model organisms to study how cortical neurons make computations and how they change depending on past computations.
He has been recognized for excelling in many areas: scientific maturity, knowledge, creativity, the ability to work hard and a talent for learning new areas very quickly. He believes in the importance of being a good mentor, stating, “If the goal of science is to understand natural phenomena in order to ultimately improve the well-being of humankind, it’s fundamentally counterproductive to disregard the interests and happiness of students and researchers in your group.”
Dr. Shai ChesterPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceWorking on strongly coupled Conformal Field Theories with applications to quantum gravity and phase transitions in condensed matter physics.
Shai Chester received his PhD from Princeton in 2018 in Physics and is currently a Postdoc at Weizmann in the theoretical High Energy Physics group. He studies strongly coupled Conformal Field Theories with applications to quantum gravity and phase transitions in condensed matter physics. Regarding quantum gravity, he has discovered new aspects of String and M-theory using the holographic principle, which relates these theories of quantum gravity to conformal field theories in fewer dimensions.
Regarding condensed matter physics, he has worked on conformal field theories that describe phase transitions in novel quantum magnets, which could help in the future realization of high temperature superconductivity.
Dr. Yu-Hsun (Timothy) ChouPostdoc at The Hebrew University of JerusalemDeveloping optical techniques, mainly involving semiconductor lasers, to probe light-matter interactions in novel materials, potentially leading to real-world breakthroughs.
Dr. Chou earned a PhD from the Institute of Energy and Lighting Photonics at the National Chiao Tung University in Tainan, Taiwan. He did postdoctoral work in the Physics department at the University of Michigan. Dr. Chou believes that a research advisor’s main responsibility is to educate his or her students to think independently, help them to develop the skills to identify challenges, and then divide those challenges into smaller tractable sub-problems.
His research involves developing optical techniques to probe light‑matter interactions in novel materials. At the Racah Institute of Physics at Hebrew University, Dr. Chou will continue collaborating with colleagues at the University of Michigan on the design of a semiconductor microcavity that can control light-matter interactions, then fabricate the device itself at Hebrew U, and also model and analyze the system. Dr. Chou is known as a team player and a quick learner who hopes to bring his broad background and technical proficiency in optoelectronics to work on real-world technology breakthroughs.
Dr. Marat FreytsisPostdoc at Tel Aviv UniversityLearning how to best take advantage of precision observables at hadron colliders by developing new calculational and analysis tools.
Dr. Freytsis’ PhD in Physics is from the University of California, Berkeley. Since then he has done postdoctoral research both at Harvard and at the University of Oregon. His work is driven by a desire to make the most of the new data becoming available in high-energy particle physics. Involved in a number of projects bringing together theorists and experimentalists from all the major proton-proton experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva, Switzerland, he plans to continue these collaborations at Tel Aviv, in the Department of Physics.
He will be learning how to best take advantage of precision observables at hadron colliders by developing new calculational and analysis tools, with a focus on, as he puts it, “making sure that our theoretical understanding is capable of providing the agile, precise handles necessary to better discern the building blocks of our reality. Future detector performance and theoretical precision need to be closely aligned in order to achieve maximal insight.” He is a native Russian and English speaker who has working proficiency in French as well.
Dr. Jennifer GildaPostdoc at Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyFocusing on myofibril breakdown during muscle atrophy, a debilitating process that occurs in bed-ridden patients, upon spinal cord injuries, and systemically during fasting and many human diseases.
Dr. Gilda earned her PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Davis. At the Technion, in the Department of Biology, Dr. Gilda will focus on a medically crucial field – the question of myofibril breakdown during muscle atrophy, a debilitating process associated with fatigue, weakness, insulin resistance, bone fracture, disability and death. It occurs in bed-ridden patients, upon spinal cord injuries, and systemically during fasting and during many human diseases. No approved therapy exists. This rapid loss of muscle mass and strength results from the accelerated destruction of the fundamental contractile machinery in muscle, the myofibrils. Dr. Gilda’s work on myofibrils could potentially lead to the identification of therapeutic targets.
Her research involves international collaborations with the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the University of California, San Francisco as well as collaborations with several different labs at the Technion. An outstanding teaching assistant and instructor, she also excels at academic writing, and is the author of quite a few research articles, as well as book chapters and reviews.
Dr. David S. GlassPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceStudying the division of labor in multicellular organisms which could have uses in tissue engineering, and in the bioproduction of chemicals and fuel.
Dr. Glass earned his PhD in Bioengineering at Stanford. Dr. Glass is interested in natural multicellular systems, which demonstrate cooperation among large numbers of cells organized into intricate spatial patterns. Such cooperation relies on several processes that can be difficult to tease apart. At Weizmann, in the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Dr. Glass plans to “decouple” two of these processes, metabolic interdependence and adhesion-driven colocalization, in order to understand to what extent each contributes to stable coexistence between differing cell types.
He will conduct his experiments on the familiar Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. His work on the division of labor in multicellular organisms could aid in engineering division of labor within synthetic cells when bioproducing chemicals and fuels. It could also have uses in engineering living materials and in tissue engineering. Dr. Glass is also a dedicated teacher who excelled in his ability to relate to undergraduates and to improve their understanding.
Dr. Jessica GrahamPostdoc at Tel Aviv UniversityObserving mice in an urban environment to see how they adapt as compared to mice in a rural environment, with implications for how other species adapt to urbanization.
Dr. Graham received her PhD from North Dakota State University in Environmental and Conservation Sciences, where she researched selective traits associated with timing of reproduction in songbirds. While there, she worked as a Bird Banding Station Educator at the nearby Buffalo River State Park.
At Tel Aviv University, in the School of Zoology, she plans to (literally) compare a test group of city mice with a group of country mice. She will observe how the mice’s biological rhythms (when they awake and when they feed, for instance) are affected by these different living situations, and then observe whether those different biological rhythms are connected with different personality traits, such as exploratory behavior or aggression. In the wild, biological rhythms help animals time their activities to avoid predators, forage, and reproduce at optimal times.
Dr. Graham will examine how artificial light at night in an increasingly urbanized world affects the health and behavior of animals, hopefully leading to a better understanding of how species (including possibly humans) adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The mice will be housed as two separate populations at the I. Meier Segals Garden for Zoological Research on the TAU campus.
Dr. Angela B. GrommetPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceDecorating nanoparticles (NPs) with coordination cages to develop a drug delivery vehicle for improved treatment of cancer.
Dr. Grommet received her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge in England. As an undergraduate at Kansas State University, she won the very competitive Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, awarded to only 300 STEM undergraduates nationwide.
At Weizmann, in the Department of Organic Chemistry, her research will involve decorating nanoparticles (NPs) with coordination cages to develop a drug delivery vehicle for improved treatment of cancer. These “nanocage” particles are expected to 1) decrease the size of cancer tumors using heat generated from the NPs and 2) locally deliver a chemotherapy agent upon release of the drug from the thermoresponsive cage. This targeted delivery will increase the local concentration of the drug in the tumor, rendering the drug more potent and also decreasing side effects resulting from the drug acting upon healthy tissue.
Dr. Grommet has collaborated internationally – with researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colorado, and at the University of Tokyo, Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology. She also served for two years as President of the Cambridge University Rambling Club, a hiking club composed of 100 active members, which organizes one or two hikes every weekend during the academic term.
Dr. Siddharth GuptaPostdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the NegevDesigning and analyzing algorithms, mainly parameterized and approximation algorithms for graphs, and also working with data structures.
Dr. Gupta earned his PhD in Theoretical Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. His research interests are in the design and analysis of algorithms, mainly parameterized and approximation algorithms for graphs, and in data structures.
During his PhD, Dr. Gupta studied two kinds of geographic and geometric graphs: road network and clustered graphs. A road network graph has a vertex at each intersection of roads and an edge for each segment of road between the intersections. A clustered graph’s vertices belong to properly nested clusters. He considered them as embedded graphs, where the ordering of edges (clockwise or counter-clockwise) incident on each vertex is uniquely defined. He developed algorithms and models for some problems related to these different kinds of graphs.
At Ben-Gurion University, he will focus on approximation and parameterized algorithms, and algorithms for planar graphs and road networks. He will be part of a research group that works on parameterized algorithms for problems in computational geometry.
Dr. Gupta is known as a clear and engaging speaker, with the rich blend of creativity, temperament and discipline required for a career in research.
Dr. Christopher IrwinPostdoc at Tel Aviv UniversityTheoretical research, involving analytical calculations and numerical simulations, of rare and peculiar events in the transient sky, potentially contributing to an understanding of how stars end their lives.
For his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Virginia, Dr. Irwin researched interacting supernovae—when an exploding star becomes superluminous due to the interaction of the explosion with dense material that the star itself ejected a short time before exploding. This research has already had more than 250 citations.
Superluminous supernovae are one of several known kinds of rare and peculiar events in the transient sky. At Tel Aviv, in the School of Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Irwin is continuing to work on such transient events, specifically, gamma ray bursts that are very long-lived or unusually faint. His theoretical work, involving analytical calculations and numerical simulations, can inform future observational surveys, potentially moving us, as he writes, “one step closer to a complete understanding of how massive stars end their lives.”
Among his many academic awards and honors, Dr. Irwin was a recipient of the Jefferson Fellowship, a competitive five-year award at the University of Virginia that emphasizes interdisciplinary interaction, teaching, research and public communication of that research.
Dr. Daniel KaganPostdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the NegevUsing particle-in-cell simulations to determine whether relativistic magnetic reconnection produces high-energy particles and radiation from astrophysical sources, in hopes of contributing to our understanding of how high-energy particles and radiation are produced in astrophysical systems.
Dr. Kagan received his PhD in Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. His work centers on particle acceleration.
At Ben-Gurion, in the Department of Physics, he will use particle-in-cell simulations to determine whether relativistic magnetic reconnection (one of several particle acceleration processes) produces high-energy particles and radiation from astrophysical sources. He is currently collaborating with researchers at Université Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, France on an investigation of the properties of realistic flux rope reconnection configurations, which is astrophysically relevant. He hopes to make a major contribution to our understanding of how high-energy particles and radiation are produced in the many astrophysical systems we observe.
The Zuckerman scholarship will not be Dr. Kagan’s first experience in an Israeli university. He is currently a Kreitman fellow at Ben-Gurion University. Before that he was a joint postdoctoral fellow at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, and as an undergraduate he spent a summer as a research intern at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Dr. Nanami KikuchiPostdoc at Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyUses the CRISPR/Cas9 system for gene editing as part of a large international program investigating the regulatory rules of RNA sequences, potentially leading to decoding genomic information.
Dr. Kikuchi earned her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Central Florida. She is already an expert in engineering nucleic acid-based molecular devices that could be used in a mix-and-read format for point-of-care molecular diagnostics. Now she will be turning to the field of genetic engineering, which has become not only easier and faster, but also more efficient, thanks to the discovery of CRISPR, a genome editing system.
At the Technion’s Department of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, she will be conducting experiments using the CRISPR/Cas9 system for deciphering genomic codes. Her work is part of a large international program investigating the regulatory rules of RNA sequences. This could potentially lead to understanding basic genomic information for each living organism, and to the ability to tailor individual treatments for various medical conditions based on a person’s individual genomic make-up.
Dr. Daniel KillamPostdoc at University of HaifaInvestigating seashells from the bittersweet clam to try to understand where they originated, with ramifications for a better understanding of Mediterranean tsunamis, ecological change, climate conditions, and unraveling the natural history of this delicate coastline.
Dr. Killam’s PhD in Paleobiology, which he received at the University of California, Santa Cruz, involved collaborating with paleobiologists, modern-day conservation biologists and climate researchers in the United States, Israel, Italy and Jordan. His interdisciplinary approach is well-suited to his research in sclerochronology (the study of the growth bands of seashells, similar to growth rings in trees), an area which is of interest to researchers of both modern and paleontological biology.
In the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Haifa, Dr. Killam will be investigating seashells from the bittersweet clam (G. nummaria), which are abundant along the Northern Mediterranean coast of Israel. Radiocarbon dating indicates that most are between 2000-5,500 years old. Yet living representatives of this species are rare and not known from the beach or shallow zone. Dr. Killam will investigate their growth bands to try to understand where they originated—one theory is that they were transported by a tsunami from another Mediterranean region. Ramifications of his study include a better understanding of Mediterranean tsunamis, ecological change, climate conditions, and unraveling the natural history of this delicate coastline. Dr. Killam is a Certified Scientific Scuba Diver.
Dr. Tiffany LewisPostdoc at the University of HaifaExploring the question of why jets form in some active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and not in others, eventually benefiting the broader study of galaxy evolution.
Dr. Lewis’s PhD in Physics from George Mason University dealt with active galaxies, where the light produced near the central supermassive black hole exceeds that of the rest of the galaxy combined. These active galactic nuclei (AGN) can power astrophysical jets that are the most energetic sustained phenomena in the Universe. When one jet of an AGN is pointed at Earth, it is called a blazar, and Dr. Lewis created theoretical models to describe the processes we observe from this jet emission.
At the University of Haifa, in the Department of Physics, she plans to expand from blazars to explore the question of why jets form in some AGNs and not in others. She hopes that her work will eventually benefit the broader study of galaxy evolution.
While pursuing her doctorate, Dr. Lewis organized bi-weekly astronomy open houses at the campus observatory, recruiting speakers, scheduling volunteers, and setting up equipment. She helped developed the observatory into a tool for genuine research as part of the KELT (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope) collaboration, making follow-up observations of planets in solar systems beyond Earth (exoplanets). Dr. Lewis finds teaching rewarding, and hopes her students learn that “It’s hard,” is not predictive of “I can’t.”
Dr. David LipshutzPostdoc at Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyResearching sensitivity analysis of constrained or reflected processes, which may have a broad range of applications in modeling systems arising in science and engineering, as well as in operations research, biochemical reaction networks, rank-based models of market capitalization in mathematical finance and random matrices.
Dr. Lipshutz received his PhD in Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego. At the Technion he will do research at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. He has worked on highly demanding and challenging problems in stochastic analysis and its applications. These include his dissertation on stochastic and deterministic differential equations with delay and state constraints, as well as work on a longstanding problem of the differentiability of the stochastic flow associated with reflected diffusions in convex domains.
His research on sensitivity analysis of constrained or reflected processes may have a broad range of applications in modeling systems arising in science and engineering, as well as in operations research, biochemical reaction networks, rank-based models of market capitalization in mathematical finance and random matrices.
While at Brown University on a postdoc, he ran probability seminars and organized undergraduate workshops. Both his professors and his students considered him to be a great TA.
Dr. David LiptonPostdoc at The Hebrew University of JerusalemFocusing on how neural circuits in a brain region called the striatum are arranged and how they function during the learning of rewarded behaviors, since they play a central role in reward learning, and dysfunction of these circuits can result in addiction.
Dr. Lipton earned his PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford. During his PhD, he studied how the connections between neurons, called synapses, form during development. More specifically, he studied how transport of cellular materials is orchestrated to build growing synapses.
Also during his PhD, Dr. Lipton co-founded and co-led “NeuWriteWest,” a group of neuroscience grad students and post-docs who communicate neuroscience to lay audiences.
At the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at Hebrew U, Dr. Lipton will study the neural circuitry of reward and habit formation. He is interested in how the brain produces the sensation of reward, or what we may call pleasure or joy, and how this sensation leads to the reinforcement of particular behaviours. His work will focus on how neural circuits in a brain region called the striatum are arranged and how they function during the learning of rewarded behaviors, as striatal circuits are known to play a central role in reward and habit learning, with dysfunction of these circuits resulting in addiction.
On a meta-level, Dr. Lipton is most inspired by how advances in neuroscience can help us understand complex human behaviour that was previously only studied by social sciences and the humanities.
Dr. Samuel McCauleyPostdoc at Bar-Ilan UniversityWorking on data structures for external memory and similarity search, with applications in areas like databases, recommendation systems, and computational biology.
Dr. McCauley did his PhD in Computer Science at Stony Brook University, and recently completed a postdoc at the IT University of Copenhagen. At Bar-Ilan, he will be working on algorithms and data structures which use techniques like structural insights and randomness to solve fundamental problems. He is particularly interested in data structures for hashing, external memory, and similarity search.
Organizing data to improve access speeds is becoming more and more important in computer science as datasets become larger and spread across more machines. Previous work has shown an enormous amount of potential for mathematical insights to improve this organization, motivating modern research into data structures. Along the same lines, worst-case (rather than average or heuristic) guarantees have particular applications in this area, as these translate into better response times for users. These kinds of considerations motivate Dr. McCauley’s work.
Dr. Nicholas MeadowsPostdoc at University of HaifaEngaging in a long-term research program dealing with higher stack theory, which is useful in a wide variety of geometric contexts.
Dr. Meadows received his PhD in Mathematics from Western University in Ontario, Canada. His topic was Local Higher Category Theory, a subject of his own invention. He sees his doctoral work as the first stage in a long-term research program dealing with higher stack theory, which is useful in a wide variety of geometric contexts. He also has experience in algebraic topology, which can be used to study subjects as diverse as coding theory, concurrency and electrical circuits, and which is needed in both industry and government.
His research has been recognized as impressive, especially the amount he has produced, which is unusual for a graduate student in a difficult area of mathematics. Dr. Meadows was the recipient—twice—of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, a very competitive and prestigious award.
Dr. Meadows has collaborated with other mathematicians in North America, and he plans to continue to do so while conducting his postdoctoral research in the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Natural Science, at the University of Haifa.
Dr. Kelsey MorenoPostdoc at Tel Aviv UniversityComparing the behavior and brain morphology of bats in rural and in urban environments to see how they adapt.
Dr. Moreno’s PhD is from the University of Southern Mississippi, in Experimental Psychology. She is interested in both the biological and psychological sides of animal behavior. For her dissertation, she worked on deciphering the possible use of bubble production for social communication among bottlenose dolphins, a relatively understudied area of research which involved watching an endless amount of video.
At TAU, in the Department of Zoology, Dr. Moreno will work in the Bat Lab for Neuro-Ecology on a project testing the influence of urbanization on the Egyptian fruit bat. Since urban populations have more than doubled in the last 50 years and now contain over half the world’s population, many wild species have experienced dramatic population decline, reducing biodiversity and altering community composition. Dr. Moreno will examine the behavior and brain morphology of animals that thrive in cities, to see how they adapt. TAU has an in-house colony of approximately 50 bats who can be monitored on an individual level at all times. She will use miniature tracking technology (which includes GPS and ultrasonic microphones), MRI, and controlled tasks to compare behavioral and neural differences between urban and rural bats.
Dr. Dahlia PerezPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceInvestigating mechanisms to promote cardiac regeneration after a heart attack, with implications for treatment of infarction in human cases where damage has until now been irreversible.
Dr. Perez received her doctorate in Biology from MIT, specializing in cancer cell biology. She utilized a zebrafish model to understand the initiating mutations of uveal melanoma, the most common ocular cancer in humans.
At Weizmann, she will investigate cardiovascular disease, which is currently the leading cause of death worldwide. A heart attack survivor will typically have scar tissue in the heart after the first infarction, and this fibrotic tissue often leads to complications that ultimately result in another infarction or heart failure. This scar formation occurs because the muscle cells responsible for heart contractility, namely the cardiomyocytes, do not divide to replenish the injured area. The lab in the Department of Molecular Cell Biology where she will be working has developed a model of cardiac regeneration in adult mammals in which application of agrin, a protein in the neonatal heart, promotes cardiac regeneration. Dr. Perez will utilize this protein promoting cardiac regeneration in adult mice to understand mechanisms underlying the regenerative chain of events promoting cardiac repair, with the ultimate goal of contributing to our understanding of how to heal the injured heart in human adults, where damage after infarction has thus far remained untreatable.
Dr. Andrea PricePostdoc at the University of HaifaExamining climactic and paleoenvironmental conditions that contributed to the northward migration of humans’ ancestors (hominins) from Africa.
At the University of Haifa, in the Department of Marine Geosciences, Dr. Price will examine the climactic and paleoenvironmental conditions that contributed to the northward migration of humans’ ancestors (hominins) from Africa. She will use sedimentary archives from ancient seas and lakes, as well as geochemistry, pollen and other microfossils, to reconstruct the variability and influence of tropical storms and monsoons across geologic timescales.
Dr. Price obtained her PhD in Physical Geography from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Following her doctoral studies she received a prestigious fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to undertake postdoctoral work in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). She has participated in oceanographic research cruises in the NE Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.”
Dr. Price has been active in education. She mentored an African American high school student as part of the EnvironMentors program at LSU, which promotes underrepresented students’ success in STEM fields. She also organized a seminar series in which students could present their research, practice their oral communication, and get to know faculty members better.
Dr. John PritchardPostdoc at Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyComparing accessibility patterns in a set of US metropolitan areas to help contribute to the planning of inclusive transport systems in a rapidly urbanizing world.
Dr. Pritchard is interested in efforts to ensure equal accessibility to transport, stating that “accessibility is, in an essential way, a measure of a person’s freedom.” Building on a Bachelors’ degree in Civil Engineering, he did his PhD in Transport Studies as part of the MIT Portugal Program at the University of Lisbon. There he studied the impacts of accessibility and daily mobility on social exclusion in low-income areas of Lisbon. He showed the relationship between social exclusion and subjective well-being (SWB), and how these factors relate to people´s daily mobility and travel behavior (which is affected by the accessibility of their homes to transport). He also did postdoctoral research at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
At the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion, Dr. Pritchard plans to analyze and compare accessibility patterns in a set of US metropolitan areas. He hopes that a better understanding of transport inequities in US cities could provide lessons for other places that are going through rapid population growth, such as Israel and countries in Asia, and could help contribute to the planning of inclusive transport systems in a rapidly urbanizing world.
Dr. Shelby RinehartPostdoc at The Hebrew University of JerusalemAssessing how rodent predators, and predation risk, shape biophysical processes (e.g. nutrient cycling) in snails in the Negev desert, and in turn nitrogen and carbon cycling across spatial scales, providing vital information for the conservation and management of this ecologically and culturally important ecosystem.
In the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology, Dr. Rinehart was simultaneously a student at San Diego State University and at the University of California, Davis. He studied the role of predators such as ladybeetles and crabs on the structure and function of southern California salt marshes. As a visiting researcher at universities in Sweden and in Norway, he investigated the nature of induced defenses in plants and animals.
At Hebrew U, in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, he will assess how rodent predators, and predation risk, shape biophysical processes (e.g. nutrient cycling) in the Negev desert, and in turn nitrogen and carbon cycling across spatial scales, providing vital information for the conservation and management of this ecologically and culturally important ecosystem.
As Chair of the Marine Ecology and Biology Student Association (MEBSA) at San Diego State, he organized an annual Marine Science Day, attracting 800-1,000 participants a year, which taught the broader San Diego community about local marine and coastal ecosystems. Overall, Dr. Rinehart hopes to build a career looking beyond ecosystem and geo-political borders to understand the processes driving the abundance, distribution, and diversity of species in nature.
Dr. Joshua RosenbergPostdoc at Tel Aviv UniversityDr. Rosenberg’s research area is discrete probability. He focuses specifically on interacting particle systems, which provide models that can be used to study the long term behavior of complex social and biological systems. His research also focuses on percolation theory, which has been used to analyze the transport of liquid through a porous media, the intricacies of network security, the spread of epidemics, and optimal locations for septic systems.
Dr. Rosenberg completed his PhD in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania in the area of discrete probability, specifically focusing on interacting particle systems and branching processes. Dr. Rosenberg will be applying this expertise to his research in the probability group in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Tel Aviv U, where he plans to continue to focus on interacting particle systems, as well as on percolation theory.
Interacting particle systems have gained prominence due to their practical utility as a means of studying the long-term behavior of complex systems. Percolation theory has been used to analyze everything from the transport of liquid through a porous media to the intricacies of network security. Other notable applications include modelling the spread of an epidemic and determining optimal locations for septic systems. Dr. Rosenberg aspires to make substantial contributions to the collective understanding in these areas by developing mathematical tools that allow researchers to analyze them with a greater degree of effectiveness and precision.
A winner of the Good Teaching Award at his university, he also hopes to make a broader impact within his field through the mentoring of aspiring mathematicians.
Dr. Zev RosengartenPostdoc at The Hebrew University of JerusalemWorking in arithmetic algebraic geometry, specifically on the arithmetic of algebraic groups.
Dr. Rosengarten received his PhD in Mathematics at Stanford University. His work, in arithmetic algebraic geometry, and his thesis—on the Tamagawa numbers of linear algebraic groups over function fields—have been recognized as deep and original. At the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at Hebrew University, he will be working on the arithmetic of algebraic groups.
Dr. Rosengarten was an illuminating graduate student speaker, able to get to the heart of an idea, without a lot of abstraction. In two separate summers, he served as head counselor at the Ross Mathematics Program at Ohio State University, an intensive and highly regarded math camp for high school students. Many famous mathematicians made their first strides there as teen-agers. In the future, he plans to continue working with students, since, he notes, “it is essential for the field that older mathematicians mentor younger ones.”
Dr. Laurel Stephenson HaskinsPostdoc at The Hebrew University of JerusalemDeveloping potential models in order to make predictions about dark matter, whose composition remains mysterious even though it may comprise up to a quarter of the energy density in the universe.
Dr. Stephenson Haskins earned her PhD in Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a high energy theoretical physicist, her goal is to understand the fundamental building blocks of nature. She works with phenomena that are outside of what is known as the Standard Model of particle physics. At UCSC, she proposed solutions to one of these phenomena—the strong CP problem, which refers to the fact that the strong force conserves the product of charge and parity symmetries (CP), even though, in principle, there is no reason that it should.
At Hebrew U, where she has already joined the theoretical high energy physics group in the Racah Institute of Physics, she is working on another one of such phenomena, dark matter, whose composition remains mysterious even though it may comprise up to a quarter of the energy density in the universe. Because of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (near Geneva, Switzerland) and other developments, scientists believe that dark matter detection might actually be within reach. Theorists like Dr. Stephenson Haskins must explore many potential models in order to make predictions about detection, so they will have a framework in which to analyze emerging data.
Dr. Ryan ThorngrenPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceDeveloping new applications of topological quantum field theory in an attempt to unify different topological themes in physics.
Dr. Thorngren’s PhD is in Mathematics from UC Berkeley, although he maintains collaborations with scientists from all over the world in high energy and condensed matter theory groups. His research is an attempt to unravel the relationship between symmetry, topology, and entanglement in quantum materials of all kinds. Dr. Thorngren relishes interdisciplinary collaborations with scientists in different fields and showing up to seminars on topics he knows nothing about.
He also enjoys creating “math toys”, interactive visualizations of geometrical concepts that display in the browser and are accessible to anyone connected to the internet. He is passionate about helping the public understand what science is and why it is important.
At Weizmann, in the Department of Condensed Matter Physics, he looks forward to the open atmosphere of discussion and the intimacy of theorists and experimentalists.
Dr. José VillegasPostdoc at Weizmann Institute of ScienceAnalyzing known protein-protein interfaces statistically in order to identify recurring patterns, then developing and testing hypotheses as to the minimal structural requirements for protein-protein interactions (PPIs), with implications for genetics, evolutionary biology, and medicinal chemistry.
Dr. Villegas earned a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. At Weizmann, in the Department of Structural Biology, he will be working to quantify the influence of protein structural elements on the interactions between proteins. This has implications for the engineering of protein-based biopharmaceuticals, a multi-billion dollar industry, but one that is capital-intensive and time-consuming. One reason is the lack of a clear set of rules governing how proteins interact with other proteins in living cells.
Dr. Villegas will analyze known protein-protein interfaces statistically in order to identify recurring patterns, then develop and test hypotheses as to the minimal structural requirements for protein-protein interactions (PPIs), using living cells for his experiments. He hopes that geneticists use his discovered sequence patterns to mine genomic data for previously unknown genetic interactions, evolutionary biologists use the structure patterns to provide explanations as to the origin and evolution of PPIs, and medicinal chemists apply this knowledge to the design of protein-based therapeutics.
Dr. Villegas is fluent in English and Spanish and has experience establishing connections between cultures from his time visiting homes for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in New York City.
Dr. Douglas WertepnyPostdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the NegevStudying the particle correlations originating from the initial interactions of heavy-ion collisions to help understand Quark Gluon Plasma, one of the earliest states of nuclear matter.
Dr. Wertepny’s PhD at Ohio State was in Physics, and he will be at the Department of Physics at Ben‑Gurion U. Dr. Wertepny’s research is in Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). One of the earliest states of matter composing the universe is known as Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP). In this state, the building blocks of nuclear matter—quarks, anti-quarks, and gluons—are unbound and free to move about, and the QGP behaves as a nearly perfect fluid. Understanding the early evolution of the universe requires detailed knowledge about the properties and dynamics of QGP systems. But when scientists use heavy‑ion collisions to try to create a QGP, they have no method to differentiate QGP signals from non-QGP signals in their results.
Dr. Wertepny hopes to study the particle correlations originating from the initial interactions of heavy-ion collisions to help make this differentiation possible. He did a previous postdoc at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and he believes that both the research opportunities at Ben Gurion U and the potential for cultural growth while in Israel will help him become a better scientist.
Dr. Mark WinterPostdoc at the University of HaifaApplying computational analysis tools to assist in elucidating the molecular control of spicule formation during embryonic sea urchin development.
Mark Winter began applying his background in Electrical & Computer Engineering to biological systems during his MS thesis at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, creating a new object tracking approach called multitemporal association tracking. He applied this algorithm to microscope images of mouse stem cell development and protein transport along neuronal axons.
Mark’s PhD work built upon this tracking paradigm to create a system for inferring the most probable cell segmentation using cellular lineages and tracking information. These algorithms have seen broad application in biological research from cancer therapeutics, aging and regenerative studies, as well as organism development analysis.
At the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, he will apply the same techniques to the study of calcium transport during spicule formation in the embryonic sea urchin. This work will focus on identifying calcium transport differences across multiple experimental conditions to identify the molecular signals affecting correct spicule formation. Understanding the molecular control systems for biomineralization in the sea urchin is a key challenge in developmental biology. This work may also have far reaching implications for our understanding of both invertebrate and complex vertebrate development.