Meet The 2016-2017 Zuckerman Israeli Postdoctoral Scholars

The Zuckerman Israeli Postdoctoral Program provides support to Israeli postdoctoral researchers who would like to study and do research in the U.S. Here are their profiles.

Postdoc at California Institute of Technology
Dr. Afik began his scientific career in experimental physics. After obtaining BSc. in Physics and Biology at the Hebrew University, his Ph.D. research at the Weizmann institute focused on complex flows. Interested in the development and ageing of multicellular organisms, he held a short postdoctoral appointment at Weizmann in computational modeling. Now at the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech, he will be studying Caulerpa, a giant single-cell alga which exhibits a complex morphology and differentiated organs, and challenges the notion that pattern formation results from cell-cell interactions.

In addition to the fundamental questions to be explored, this line of research could potentially lead to insights into alternative energy resources and crop optimization.
He will be using his expertise in experimental fluid dynamics and soft condensed matter, as well as in data analysis, to bring a physical and mathematical approach to the study of plant development and regeneration, focusing on the spatio-temporal dynamics of active self-organization.
Dr. Afik is noted for having developed his own tools for obtaining and analysing experimental data, which he then gladly shares with others. His postdoc is also being funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Dr. Afik is married with two children.

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Postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Grinberg Dana’s research interests cover several areas in the crossroads of the Chemical Engineering discipline and Applied Energy research, combining both computational chemistry and experimental approaches. His major research interest is in scalable novel low-carbon approaches to the global energy and environmental crisis. Dr. Grinberg Dana’s PhD is from the Grand Technion Energy Program where he suggested a new paradigm for large-scale energy storage in the form of nitrogen-based alternative fuels, which he has demonstrated to be both environmentally friendly as well as competitive with carbon-based fuels on an energy basis.

His PhD research lead to ten published peer-reviewed journal articles with several more under way. Already recognized as a leader by the researchers he has worked with, he has mentored numerous graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in many settings, and was a head teaching assistant throughout his studies. Dr. Grinberg Dana’s interest in clean and safe combustion, and specifically in scalable novel low-carbon approaches to the global energy and environmental crisis, led him to his current position as a Postdoctoral researcher in the Green Group at the Chemical Engineering Department of MIT. His current research in computational chemistry enhances the Reaction Mechanism Generator (RMG) open-source software with nitrogen chemistry, making it the first automatic mechanism generation software to comprehensively include nitrogen. The Zuckerman Fellowship will allow him to continue working at the same lab, boosted by an even larger supplement from the department there. Besides his many academic awards, he has won teaching awards for every semester he has taught.

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Postdoc at Arizona State University, Tempe
Dr. Orlova did her BSc, MSc, PhD, and postdoc at Tel Aviv University. In her PhD program she unveiled the complex interrelationship between queens and workers in honeybees. Her approach was multidisciplinary, encompassing behavior, chemical ecology and molecular genetics. Dr. Orlova was born in Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, and moved to Israel as a teenager. Now her work, supported by Zuckerman and also by the highly competitive Vaadia-BARD fellowship, takes her to the lab at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State, one of the best places in the US for studying the genomics of honeybees.

She plans to combine this lab’s expertise with her own to better understand honey bee glands and pheromones, and their link to reproductive conflicts within the colony. More detailed knowledge of this field could help closer monitoring of queen health and productivity in commercial hives, an area of research that is greatly needed in Israel. Dr. Orlova’s work has been published in prestigious journals. She has also served as a lecturer and translator into Russian for an Israeli government innovation program for beekeepers from developing countries.

Dr. Merav Stern
Postdoc at the University of Washington, Seattle
Dr. Stern completed her PhD from the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at Hebrew University while collaborating with Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. Dr. Stern is striving for a deeper understanding of how our brains process information. She seeks to identify brain areas that alter their activity during the course of learning a visually-guided behavioral task, to characterize these changes, and to assess for each brain area the intrinsic (local) changes versus alterations in external influences from other cortical areas.

Known as an outstanding student, she excelled at the challenging task of adding a theoretical aspect to the study of the neural networks activity, and in fact her postdoctoral work will consist of beginning a new collaboration between a theoretical group of researchers at the University of Washington and experimental lab scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. Her work is expected to find widespread applications.