Announcing the 2019-2020 winners of the MIT-Zuckerman STEM fund. For 2019-2020, the MIT-Israel Seed Fund Selection Board received 15 proposals and accepted 6. Despite the pandemic, this strategic partnership has enhanced collaboration and deepened relations between Israel and the US—the core vision of the Zuckerman Institute. Researchers in each team who were unable to travel last year are planning mutual visits in the coming year. Here are the 2019-2020 proposals with this year’s updates.

A Bone Microstructure Approach to Studying Animal Domestication in the Levant
Christine Ortiz and Max Price of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Science at MIT will collaborate with Filipe Natalio of the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

*The scholars worked with 2 MIT students to take CT scans of bones and analyze them. They now have several scans and have begun initial computer analysis.

Artificial Proteins for Energy Transport Devices
Gabriela Schlau-Cohen of the Department of Chemistry in the School of Science at MIT will collaborate with Nadav Amdursky of the Faculty of Chemistry at the Technion-Israel institute of Technology.

Elucidating the Neural Mechanisms of Expectancy-Based Effects in Psychotherapy
John Gabrieli of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in the School of Science at MIT will collaborate with Sigal Mano-Zilcha of the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa.

*The researchers established a strong link between the two institutions, and currently hold weekly meetings of the postdoc leading the project with a Master’s student and a research assistant from Haifa U, and monthly meetings of the advisors on the project.

* They developed a task to test the project’s feasibility online, running a study with over 400 participants and proving the feasibility of the task that they intend to use in the scanner. They took advantage of COVID to conduct this necessary first step before conducting the main experiment. The online experiment found preliminary results that supported their main hypothesis, and they are preparing to write a short manuscript reporting these initial results.

* The researchers have obtained all necessary ethics approvals for the experiment and are now finishing the development of the task in preparation for conducting the main experiment in the MRI scanner.

* They have obtained additional funding to support the costs of the scans. This allows them to include more people, and have more statistical power.

The Quest for Dark Matter Interactions
Jesse Thaler of the Department of Physics in the School of Science at MIT will collaborate with Tomer Volansky of the Particle Physics Department at Tel Aviv University.

*Three remote presentations by MIT faculty were given on topics related to this project:

  • Tracy Slatyer, May 2020: Tel Aviv University Physics Colloquium on “A Galactic Puzzle in Gamma Rays”
  • Tracy Slatyer, May 2020: Israel Joint Particle Physics Seminar on “Gamma-Ray Tests of Elusive Dark Matter Candidates”
  • Jesse Thaler, November 2020: All-Israel Colloquium on “Collision Course: Particle Physics meets Machine Learning”

*Two MIT-Israel research projects have been initiated:

  • Tracy Slatyer and Patrick Fitzpatrick (MIT) are collaborating with Yotam Soreq and Reuven Balkin (Israel) on enhancements of 3-body interactions of dark matter.
  • Gregory Ridgway (MIT) and Tomer Volansky (Israel) are working on understanding the structure formation and observational implications of dissipative dark matter.

Transient Strongly Nonlinear Dynamics: Opportunities and Challenges
Themistoklis Sapsis of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering at MIT will collaborate with Oleg Gendelman of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

*The researchers had several zoom calls involving the PIs to discuss the setup of the problem and possible student engagement. They also submitted a full proposal to the Binational Science Foundation.

Ultrasound-Induced Immunotherapeutic Nanomedicine Delivery to Brain Tumours Under MRI Guidance
Natalie Artzi of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science in the School of Engineering at MIT will collaborate with Haim Azhari of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

*The two teams are making good progress, and working now to exchange information. Daniel Dahis, from the Technion, has recently came to Boston to learn about some of their technologies and to teach them about the focused ultrasound part of the work. They plan to submit an abstract for presentation in the next few months.

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