Meet The 2018-2019 Zuckerman Faculty Scholars

This program facilitates the return of top Israeli scholars from North America to join Israeli faculties. Four faculty scholars are entering the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program in 2018. Here are their profiles.

Dr. Gili Bisker
Principal Investigator, Bisker Lab at Tel Aviv University
Developing optical nanosensors for targeting biomolecules within living cancerous cells, enabling real time detection of intracellular biomarker dynamics with high spatial and temporal resolution, an advance over current diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

At Tel Aviv, Dr. Bisker is in the Biomedical Engineering Department. Her interests lie at the interface between physics, life sciences, and nanotechnology engineering, and she works on health-related technologies and applications.

Dr. Bisker develops optical nanosensors for targeting biomolecules using fluorescent nanomaterials. Her goal is to utilize these optically active nanoparticles to probe living systems at the nanoscale, aiming for real-time detection of intracellular biomarker dynamics with high spatial and temporal resolution. Focusing on cancer research, her tools can enable long-term monitoring, and open new opportunities for diagnostics and treatment.

In addition to her research accomplishments, Dr. Bisker is an award-winning teacher. She completed the Kaufman Teaching Certificate Program at MIT, which emphasized evidence-based research on teaching strategies.

Prior to joining the Tel Aviv University faculty, Dr. Bisker worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT, followed by a Research Scientist position in the MIT Physics of Living Systems group. She hopes to promote future leaders in Israeli society.

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Dr. Baran Eren
Principal Investigator, Surface Physics and Interface Chemistry Lab at Weizmann Institute of Science
Researching solid/gas and solid/liquid interfaces at the atomic and molecular levels, and developing equipment for that purpose, with implications for heterogeneous catalysis, a process that is part of synthesizing and purifying industrial chemicals.

At Weizmann, Dr. Eren is a member of the Chemical and Biological Physics Department, researching solid/gas and solid/liquid interfaces at the molecular and atomic levels, using a combination of advanced spectroscopy and microscopy. While focusing on basic research, both his research and the state-of-the-art equipment he is developing have practical implications for heterogeneous catalysis in chemical production and energy conversion processes. Heterogeneous catalysis is critical to the synthesis and purification of chemicals at an industrial scale, and mitigates the impact of harmful pollutants on health and the environment by converting them to more inert products.

Dr. Eren expects that the new equipment will help in understanding a wide range of materials including metals, semiconductors, and oxides, as well as other phenomena such as corrosion, and electro- and photochemistry. In his first set of studies, Dr. Eren hopes to gain an understanding of the atomic and chemical structure of the copper-based catalysts used in the ‘methanol economy’ that could lead to a cleaner and greener future energy solution, compared to the prevalent ‘oil economy’. Weizmann is known for supporting young scientists who wish to pursue independent research, and Dr. Eren tries to do this, too, deviating if and when needed from mainstream trends.

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Dr. Itamar Harel
Principal Investigator, The Harel Lab at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Uncovering and characterizing the molecular mechanisms that regulate aging in vertebrates in order to understand why aging is such a potent driver of disease.

Dr. Harel is a member of the Department of Genetics at Hebrew University, part of the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. The Harel lab is a research group combining genetics, vertebrate physiology and cell biology to uncover and characterize the molecular mechanisms that regulate aging in vertebrates. Specifically, Dr. Harel would like to understand why aging is such a potent driver of disease and identify its tissue-specific mechanisms.

For his postdoctoral research at Stanford, Dr. Harel needed to examine aging in an animal with a shorter lifespan than mice and zebrafish, the classic vertebrate models. He turned to the shortest-lived vertebrate, the African turquoise killifish, whose lifespan is 6 times shorter than that of mice and 10 times shorter than zebrafish, and transformed it into a powerful genetic model. Since then, many leading labs around the world have used killifish for aging research. In the summer of 2018, Dr. Harel co-organized an international killifish conference. He looks forward to contributing to the advancement of the Israeli scientific community and to Israeli scientific education.

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Dr. Joseph Lefkowitz
Principal Investigator, Combustion and Diagnostics Laboratory at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology
Addressing the challenges of combustion involved in future aerospace applications using a new combination of advanced infra-red laser diagnostics and plasma-assisted reaction pathways in order to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming, reduce fuel usage without causing engine blowout at high altitudes, and enable high-speed engine concepts.

In the Aerospace Engineering Department at the Technion, Dr. Lefkowitz addresses the complex challenges involved in future aerospace applications of combustion, such as the reduction of emissions in order to mitigate global warming, the attempt to reduce fuel usage without causing engine blowout at high altitudes, and overcoming challenges limiting the implementation of high-speed air-breathing engines.

These require the development of innovative new technologies which will enable engine operation in conditions approaching the limits of combustibility, requiring the stabilizing of flames near the flammability limit, initiating and holding flames at supersonic speeds and controlling detonation waves. To this end, Dr. Lefkowitz has been applying a combination of advanced infra-red laser diagnostics together with a fundamental theoretical approach based on the chemistry and dynamics of reacting flows in liquid, gaseous and plasma phases.

Aside from his doctoral research at Princeton University, Dr. Lefkowitz worked at the Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. There he served as a National Research Council Associate, part of a program conducted by the U.S. government to promote excellence in scientific and technological research.