Meet The 2017-2018 Zuckerman Faculty Scholars

This program facilitates the return of top Israeli scholars from North America to join Israeli faculties. Four new faculty scholars are entering the STEM Leadership Program in 2017.

Principal Investigator, Ben-Zvi Lab at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
For his PhD in Life Sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Dr. Ben-Zvi asked the question: How does an embryo coordinate its developmental patterning processes with its actual size? The question was an old one, but his experiments led to a new mathematical model for how patterning scales with size that is now part of developmental biology textbooks.

During his subsequent training at Harvard, where he was a Fulbright and Rothschild post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Ben-Zvi switched fields. He studied the new physiology that ensues after bariatric (“weight loss”) surgeries leading to rapid diabetes resolution and sustained weight loss. Today Dr. Ben-Zvi is an assistant professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School, and he continues to study how bariatric surgeries affect metabolism and physiology. His long-term goal is to discover how to achieve the positive effects of bariatric surgery without surgical intervention, potentially leading to a cure for type 2 diabetes and to reversing obesity. Dr. Ben-Zvi is a Major (Reserves) in the Israel Intelligence Corps, having done his undergraduate studies through Talpiot, the Israel Defense Forces’ elite academic program.

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Principal Investigator, Nano-bio-optics Lab at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Dr. Shechtman is in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion, where he is also a member of the Lorry I. Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering. For his doctorate, also from the Technion, he applied compressed sensing methods to push the capabilities of optical microscopy.

Dr. Shechtman’s post-doctoral studies were done at Stanford with Prof. W. E. Moerner, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2014. There, he studied single-molecule microscopy, aiming to find ways to observe dynamic processes in living cells. His research is interdisciplinary, at the interface between biomedical engineering, optics, and biology. He applies his background in signal processing and optics to designing novel tools for some of the most challenging applications in current biological microscopy, focusing on nanoscale imaging in live systems. Thus he combines an ability to develop new methodologies for imaging microscopy with a keen interest in observing and understanding the complex mechanisms taking place within living cells.

Dr. Shechtman is supervising Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program Postdoc Scholar Lucien Weiss in his lab this year.

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Principal Investigator, Itay Tirosh Lab for Tumor Systems Biology at Weizmann Institute of Science
Coming to the Weizmann Institute of Science from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dr. Tirosh is studying the multicellular ecosystems of solid tumors. He completed his PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he studied gene expression in yeast.

During his postdoctoral fellowship at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, he pioneered the application of single-cell RNA­Seq to solid human tumors. Collaborating with clinicians at Boston hospitals, he established a general approach to studying intra-tumor heterogeneity and revealing clinically important subpopulations. His studies showed the ways single-cell genomics offers insights with implications for both targeted and immune therapies.

At the Department of Molecular Cell Biology at Weizmann, Dr. Tirosh will be establishing a joint computational and experimental research group that will study solid tumors as a complex ecosystem. His work has potential for improvements in cancer research and ultimately cancer therapy.

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Principal Investigator, Wurtzel Lab for Regeneration and Stem Cell Biology at Tel Aviv University
Coming to Tel-Aviv University from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Wurtzel began his studies as a medical student at Tel Aviv University, but felt drawn to doing science, not just absorbing it. His wife suggested that he sit in on a microbiology seminar, which eventually led to his career as a scientist. In the MD-PhD program at the Weizmann Institute of Science, he discovered a novel RNA-regulatory mechanism, the Excludon, which simultaneously activates and represses divergent genetic programs.

Following his doctorate, he decided to pursue his long-time scientific interest in tissue regeneration. In his postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, he studied how simple organisms, planarian flatworms, can recover from virtually any injury by using tissue regeneration. Through the study of highly regenerative organisms, Dr. Wurtzel’s research aspires to unravel principles of stem cell biology and tissue healing in higher organisms, such as humans, where only certain organs and cell types can regenerate.

Dr. Wurtzel believes that his life experiences have taught him that a diversity of viewpoints is essential for creativity, and that a clear sense of purpose fosters enthusiasm that is key to success. He wishes to bring these attitudes to his lab at Tel Aviv University.

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