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Meet The 2019-2020 Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars

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 2019. Here are their profiles.

Dr. Shehzad Ahmed
Postdoc at Bar-Ilan University
Extending pcf, a mathematical theory that has been mostly effective for comparatively small singular cardinals, to make it possible to deal with larger singular cardinals.

Dr. Ahmed earned a PhD in Mathematics at Ohio University. His research is primarily in combinatorial set theory, generally focused on pcf theory and singular cardinal combinatorics. Cardinals are objects which are used to measure the sizes of infinite sets, in the same way that the natural numbers measure the sizes of finite sets. pcf (“possible cofinalities”) theory, originally developed by the Israeli mathematician Shelah in the 1990s, tends to be more effective for comparatively small singular cardinals, since a small singular cardinal can be described as a limit of smaller regular cardinals which are “tightly spaced”, and this is not possible for larger singular cardinals. Mathematicians have tried to overcome this obstacle, and Dr. Ahmed is pushing this program further. Colleagues speak of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy and enthusiasm for mathematics.

In the Department of Mathematics at Bar-Ilan, Dr. Ahmed will be working with experts in pcf and the combinatorics of singular cardinals and their successors; he will also benefit from the thriving set theory community in other Israeli universities.

During his time at Ohio University, Dr. Ahmed co-founded a mathematics tutoring lab, helped to found the Association for Women in Mathematics student chapter at Ohio University, and won the Outstanding Graduate teaching associate award.

Dr. Clayton Leroy Barnes
Postdoc at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Studying the macroscopic behavior of systems of diffusions interacting through their reflection term (local time), and investigating free boundary problems for stochastic partial differential equations (SPDEs).

Dr. Barnes earned his doctorate in Mathematics at the University of Washington. He has worked in probability theory, stochastic processes and diffusions, as well as probabilistic representations of partial differential equations (PDEs) and free boundary problems.

At the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion, Dr. Barnes builds on his expertise in the area of probabilistic representations of PDEs and free boundary problems to study the macroscopic behavior of systems of diffusions interacting through their reflection term (local time). He also investigates free boundary problems for stochastic partial differential equations (SPDEs)—an area where very interesting developments have happened in recent years.

Dr. Barnes has used his mathematical knowledge for interdisciplinary collaboration. He participated in the Washington State eXperimental Mathematics Lab (WXML) as a graduate student team lead for a research project on cancer modeling. He and his team of undergraduate students studied the growth rates of tumors for particular cancer models. Later, he worked with architectural design researchers to model the lifespan of American residential housing stock as a probabilistic survival distribution based on available data from the American Housing Survey (AHS). The goal was to help improve the accuracy of environmental impact studies within the built environment.

Dr. Nelli Bodiford
Postdoc at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Designing degradable nanostructured silicon and polymer composite materials for long-term delivery of nerve growth factor to the brain, which plays a vital role in reducing the loss of cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Bodiford completed her PhD in inorganic and materials chemistry at Texas Christian University, where she created a diverse morphological family of composite materials for biomedical applications. Her work there consisted of evaluations of the function of these new materials as drug delivery and tissue engineering devices, but now, in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion, she will probe the opportunities for their exploitation in multiple therapeutic areas.

Dr. Bodiford will be heading her laboratory’s research effort in the design of degradable nanostructured silicon and polymer composite materials for the delivery of therapeutics to the brain. Specifically, the goal is to develop new routes for minimally-invasive delivery of nerve growth factor to the brain. Nerve growth factor plays a vital role in reducing the loss of cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer’s disease. Despite its crucial neuroprotective role, effective administration of the factor to the brain remains a challenge as the protein does not cross the blood brain barrier and it undergoes rapid degradation, which leads to a short biological half-life, limiting its clinical therapeutic effectiveness. Dr. Bodiford’s project will focus on designing new administration routes for long-term delivery systems that will allow for controlled spatiotemporal release of the growth factor.

Dr. Bodiford was a finalist in her college’s Three Minute Thesis Competition (similar to an entrepreneurial elevator pitch).

DR. Aaron Brewer
Postdoc at Weizmann Institute of Science
Investigating rare earth element (REE) adsorption by detrital plant biomass in order to elucidate how these emerging pollutants are transported in soil. These results could also inform the design of sustainable REE recovery techniques, including using plant material as a solid phase extractant for REE recovery and purification. REE recovery and environmental hazard assessment are critical to Israel and the US given the importance of safeguarding a continuing REE supply and limiting the environmental and human health impacts of REE production.

Dr. Brewer’s PhD is in Earth and Space Sciences and Astrobiology from the University of Washington – Seattle, and he did much of his research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are becoming increasingly significant to the international economy with the widespread use of technologies such as permanent magnets, like those found in hybrid vehicles and consumer electronics. Their recent prevalence has caused an increased risk of REE pollution at potentially hazardous levels.

In the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Weizmann, Dr. Brewer is investigating REE adsorption by detrital plant biomass in order to elucidate how REE pollutants are transported in soils. An improved understanding of these processes could also inform the design of sustainable REE recovery and purification techniques, including possibly using plant material as a solid phase REE extractant. REE extraction efforts and environmental hazard assessments are of immediate importance to Israel and the United States as they are among the world leaders in hi-tech research and development, so they need to safeguard a continuing REE supply and limit the environmental and human health impacts of REE production.

Dr. Jonathan Church
Postdoc at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Establishing a molecular understanding for systematic design of light-sensitive proteins and tailoring specific properties using computational tools and biomolecular modelling, in order to one day be able to use photoreceptor properties for more specific and sensitive applications.

Dr. Church received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Photoreceptor proteins are the key molecules for response to and sensing of light in many organisms. They mediate a variety of functions in nature such as visual perception, regulation of circadian rhythm, phototaxis and light-oriented growth of plants. Because they are able to translate light into biological information, they are increasingly being used in biotechnological applications, such as super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, optical memory and light-triggered switches that regulate enzyme activities.

At the Institute of Chemistry at Hebrew University, Dr. Church is attempting to establish a molecular understanding for systematic design of light-sensitive proteins and to tailor specific properties using computational tools and biomolecular modelling, in order to one day be able to use photoreceptor properties for more specific and sensitive applications. He is studying the cyanobacteriochrome TePixJ, using multi-scale modelling to derive a fundamental understanding of how these proteins achieve the desired properties. He hopes that eventually a detailed understanding of these processes on a basic atomic level will form a foundation for future knowledge-based rational design of photoreceptors.

Dr. Claudia Ciotir
Postdoc at University of Haifa
Exploring the genomic basis of adaptive variation in crops and their wild relatives by analyzing domestication-related traits and evolutionary processes that affect the genome content, structure, and evolution of cultivated and wild wheat. Understanding the genomic basis of adaptive variation in plants could potentially be applied to improving the productivity and resilience of grain crops.

Dr. Ciotir earned her PhD in Environmental Life and Sciences at Trent University in Canada where she investigated evolution of rare and invasive plants. She is fascinated by crop evolution and domestication that uses artificial selection. At the University of Haifa, in the Institute of Evolution and Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, she will use her research background from botany, conservation, and population genetics to explore the genomic basis of adaptive variation in durum wheat (Triticum turgidum) and its wild progenitors. Using a combination of genetics, genomics and greenhouse experiments, she will study domestication-related traits and evolutionary processes that occurred during the transition from wild to domesticated wheat. She hopes that understanding the genomic basis of adaptive variation in plants could be applied in the future to improving the productivity and resilience of grain crops.

This is Dr. Ciotir’s second postdoc. During her previous position at Saint Louis University, she also served as a research associate at the Missouri Botanical Garden investigating wild perennial herbaceous species candidates for perennial grain crop domestication.

Dr. Ciotir is interested in discovering and generating research that benefits society and changes the future of the world. One way is to develop sustainable perennial grain crops using new herbaceous perennial plants such as perennial grasses, legumes and oilseed species. At the same time, she aims to connect people with science in a meaningful way and increase their understanding, appreciation and conservation of nature.

Dr. Hillary Anne Craddock
Postdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Using diverse cutting-edge, next-generation sequencing technologies to assess the transmission of antibiotic resistance via wastewater, identify important exposure pathways and ultimately help translate these data into potential infrastructure improvements for the Bedouin that will improve public health in Israel.

Dr. Craddock earned a PhD in Toxicology and Environmental Health from the University of Maryland. She is interested in teaching and conducting research on matters of water quality and global health, specifically regarding antibiotic resistance, a critical public health issue both globally and in Israel.

At Ben-Gurion University, in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Dr. Craddock will use diverse cutting-edge, next-generation sequencing technologies to evaluate the impact of household wastewater reuse on levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock and agricultural products among the Israeli Bedouin. She also plans to use these findings alongside socio-behavioral data to identify appropriate and feasible public health interventions to reduce environmental exposure pathways for such bacteria in this population.

Dr. Craddock is known for her strong dedication to improving global environmental health. In addition to her regular teaching responsibilities, she has spent time overseeing undergraduates on the Ethiopia team of Public Health Without Borders, and mentoring students at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel.

Dr. William C. Daniels
Postdoc at University of Haifa
Performing multi-proxy paleoclimate reconstructions in the Bering Sea area to evaluate the history of migration of indigenous people in the Americas, factors in megafauna extinction, climate drivers, and sea level reconstruction.

Dr. Daniels earned his PhD at Brown University in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.

At the University of Haifa, in the Department of Marine Geosciences, Dr. Daniels will examine core samples from Lake Hill, located on an island in the center of the Bering Sea, to research the following aspects of this sensitive region: the history of migration of indigenous people in the Americas, factors in megafauna extinction, climate drivers, and sea level reconstruction. The samples, collected by scientists in 2013, offer a unique opportunity to evaluate deglacial and Holocene climate changes in the region, which is now believed to be a late-persisting site for the occurrence of woolly mammoths. Using multi-proxy paleoclimate reconstructions to contextualize the climate in which these mammals lived and perished (approximately 5,600 years ago) should offer important insights into the ecology of these important megafauna. Dr. Daniels hypothesizes that sediments from Lake Hill can also serve as excellent archives for studying the environmental settings that prevailed in the region.

During his time as a Zuckerman Fellow, Dr. Daniels will travel to Alaska to continue the teaching he has been doing in the Kaktovik Oceanography Program, a weeklong science camp for Inupiat (native Alaskan) children in Kaktovik, AK.

Dr. Jeana Drake
Postdoc at University of Haifa
Studying coral skeletal and membrane-associated proteins toward a better understanding of corals’ biomineralisation mechanisms, specifically, comparing the skeletal proteomes (the complete set of proteins retained in coral skeleton) of coral planulae and adults from free-living and reef-building species. Potentially addressing important questions about the effects of ocean acidification on coral calcification that may pertain to current and future climate change.

Dr. Drake completed her PhD in Oceanography at Rutgers University, and previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of coral biomineralisation. Stony corals, calcifying cnidarians in order Scleractinia, secrete an external aragonite skeleton through a highly controlled process. The compilation of these skeletons formed by many coral species in one location, termed coral reefs, forms ecosystems that support high biological diversity and provide extensive services but are under threat due to anthropogenic climate change.

As UCLA, she used modern and fossil coral protein sequences to study skeletal protein preservation and evolution. Thus she is at the forefront of environmental biochemistry, as she has extracted and sequenced proteins from coral fossils that are over one hundred thousand years old, which has not previously been done for any fossil invertebrate biomineral.

In the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, she has joined the Coral Biomineralization and Physiology Laboratory to study coral skeletal and membrane-associated proteins toward a better understanding of corals’ biomineralisation mechanisms. Specifically, she compares the skeletal and membrane-associated proteomes (the complete set of proteins retained in coral skeleton) of coral planulae and adults from free-living and reef-building species. Her work could potentially address important questions about the effects of ocean acidification on coral calcification that may pertain to current and future climate change.

Dr. Avital Fischer
Postdoc at Tel Aviv University
Dr. Fischer strives to identify stress biomarkers and gene expression profiles in order to personalize and improve breast cancer treatments and prevention efforts. Her research at TAU focuses on developing and implementing a psycho-behavioral intervention to mitigate the psychological and physiological stress accompanying the peri-operative period of breast cancer surgical resection.

Upon finishing her Bachelors of Science degree, Dr. Fischer was accepted into the Medical Scientist Training Program (M.D./Ph.D.) at the University of California, Irvine. There she completed her Ph.D. in Epidemiology. Her dissertation focused on the relationship between stressful life events and breast cancer risk in the population of Orange County, CA.

At Tel Aviv University Dr. Fischer is working to identify stress biomarkers and gene expression profiles in order to personalize and improve breast cancer treatments and prevention efforts. She hopes to further the understanding of psycho-social contributors to breast cancer pathogenesis on a molecular and epidemiological level. She is working to implement a psycho-behavioral intervention to mitigate the psychological and physiological stress accompanying the peri-operative period of surgical resection of solid tumors.

As a researcher who focuses on stress and cancer, Dr. Fischer believes the Israeli population is a target of both. Exposure to stressful and/or traumatic events is a hallmark of military deployments, and veterans and their family members may be at a higher risk of experiencing the adverse prometastatic effects of stress-inflammatory responses. She expects that her postdoctoral studies at Tel Aviv University will enable her to form ties and facilitate scientific collaborations between the U.S. and Israel for future projects.

Dr. David Greenberg
Postdoc at Bar-Ilan University
Examining endocrine and behavioural markers of synchrony (systematic motor and affective coordination between the therapist and the client) in an attempt to see if psychoacoustic interventions (music therapy) can improve clinical outcomes in autistic adults, eventually hoping to inform clinical guidelines for practitioners such as music therapists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Dr. Greenberg’s PhD in Psychology is from the University of Cambridge, UK.  He has published in leading journals including the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences and Psychological Science, and received an early career research award from the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. At the Department of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan, he will examine endocrine and behavioural markers of synchrony (systematic motor and affective coordination between the therapist and the client) in an attempt to see if psychoacoustic interventions (music therapy) can improve clinical outcomes in autistic adults. He hopes his research will lay the groundwork for future interventions and studies that use systemizing approaches like music as interventions in autism. It will be a much-needed advancement in the literature on the evidence basis of music-based therapies. Importantly, it will inform clinical guidelines for practitioners such as music therapists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Dr. Greenberg believes in “dreaming big” and surrounding himself with people who can make his vision a reality. He hopes to return to the Northeastern region of the US, noting that his primary research interest, autism, has the highest prevalence rate in New Jersey, with 1 in 34 children being diagnosed there.

DR. Nili Krausz
Postdoc at Weizmann Institute of Science
Developing assistive and rehabilitation robots and increasing understanding of how neurological disorders affect function and behavior. In particular, aiming to improve the control and human-robot interaction for users of these devices.

Dr. Krausz’ PhD in Biomedical Engineering is from Northwestern University. Her research interests include mechatronics and neurophysiology for rehabilitation and assistive wearable devices, with emphasis on mechanical design, shared and semiautonomous control, computer vision, and human motor control, for improved intent recognition and human-machine interaction. In the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Weizmann, she hopes to continue working towards the development of assistive and rehabilitation robots and increased understanding of how neurological disorders affect function and behavior. In particular she aims to improve the control and human-robot interaction for users of these devices. She hopes her research will aid individuals with physical and neurological pathologies. She points out the value of studying abroad, since being in a small field like assistive and rehab robotics makes it particularly important to develop and maintain good working relationships with researchers around the world.

Dr. Krausz has been in charge of a non-profit community-based organization to provide self-growth and improvement courses for young women in the Chicago area, established robotics and science clubs for local middle schools, and participated in a university-based outreach program to interest middle school students in the STEM disciplines by engaging them in problems related to rehabilitation medicine.

Dr. Alexandra Lai
Postdoc at Weizmann Institute of Science
Researching the biological effects of exposure to atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5) released by biomass burning (organic matter used as a fuel), and the relationship between these effects and the chemical composition of the PM2.5 sources.

Dr. Lai earned a PhD in the Environmental Chemistry & Technology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focused on the sources and chemical composition of atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in diverse locations including China, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and the United States.

At Weizmann, in the Faculty of Chemistry, Dr. Lai will broaden her research to investigate the mechanisms driving the biological effects of exposure to PM2.5 from burning biomass (e.g. wood, crop residues, and other organic matter used as a fuel), which have been studied considerably less than those of other major PM2.5 sources, such as traffic. She will conduct biological assays using organic and aqueous extracts of PM2.5 from field samples as well as from laboratory-generated tar balls, a proxy for biomass burning PM2.5. Broadly, Dr. Lai aspires to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between PM2.5 sources/composition and their biological effects.

These field samples are part of a study with investigators in Canada (McGill University), the US (Colorado State, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and UW-Madison), the UK (Imperial College London), and China (Tsinghua University). Dr. Lai is looking forward to continuing and extending her international research collaborations through the Zuckerman Fellowship.

Dr. Lucia Myongwon Lee
Postdoc at Weizmann Institute of Science
In the fast-expanding field of research on supramolecular stimuli-responsive materials, incorporating chalcogen elements in developing molecules that are capable of changing their behavior in response to external stimuli such as light (“photoswitching”), thus gaining insight into the effect of chalcogen bonding on structural and functional components.

Dr. Lee’s career has spanned inorganic, organic, and computational chemistry. Her PhD (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada) research, supported by a prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grant, advanced the understanding of a phenomenon that has recently began been called “chalcogen bonding” (ChB) and its application in the construction of supramolecular materials.

Dr. Lee has already done a postdoc at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Now, in her second postdoc, at the Department of Organic Chemistry at Weizmann, she is expected to make significant contributions to the fast-expanding field of research on the supramolecular stimuli-responsive materials. She will incorporate chalcogen elements in developing molecules that are capable of changing their behavior in response to external stimuli such as light (“photoswitching”). Through this project, she will gain insight into the effect of chalcogen bonding on structural and functional components.

Dr. Lee served in the McMaster Graduate Students Association and Chemistry Society, organizing a cross-Canada conference where graduate student leaders initiated collaborative projects and shared expertise regarding governance.

DR. Amanda Lounsbury
Postdoc at Tel Aviv University
Examining pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), a class of contaminants, by collecting wastewater samples from treatment systems and from staple crops, testing them, and using comparative risk assessment studies as well as cost-benefit analyses to determine best practices and risk assessment for waste water reuse, both in Israeli and in Palestinian areas.

Dr. Lounsbury did her PhD in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University. Her goal is improving the quality of life of the global community, and she believes this is inextricably linked to its surrounding environment. She has worked in both Ghana (as a Fulbright Fellow) and in Mali on local water-filtration projects.  Now she brings her skills to Israel, a leader in waste-water reuse, which recycles approximately 86% of its wastewater and uses reclaimed waste-water for more than half of its irrigation needs. Working in the Public Policy Department of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Lounsbury will examine pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), one class of contaminants that is often not removed completely by wastewater treatment, and that presents risks at very low exposure concentrations. She will collect wastewater samples from treatment systems and from staple crops, test them, and use comparative risk assessment studies as well as cost-benefit analyses to determine best practices and risk assessment for waste water reuse, both in Israeli and in Palestinian areas. This will not only advance scientific knowledge but it should help decision makers charged with sustainably meeting drinking water quality goals.

Dr. Margaret Lutz
Postdoc at Tel Aviv University
New particles may be produced in displaced decays of the Higgs boson, and can travel several centimeters before decaying within the ATLAS inner detector. Dr. Lutz will work on devising a new trigger algorithm which will enhance the ability to search for these types of displaced decays.

Dr. Lutz’ PhD in physics is from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she searched for Hidden Sector particles that decayed into displaced hadronic jets in the ATLAS detector. (ATLAS is one of the four major experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva, Switzerland.) In the Department of Particle Physics at Tel Aviv University, she plans to devise a trigger algorithm sensitive to physics that existing algorithms are largely blind to: new particles which are produced in decays of the Higgs boson (a fundamental particle discovered in 2012), which then travel for several centimeters before decaying within the ATLAS inner detector. To maximize the sensitivity, she will focus on Higgs production via gluon-gluon-fusion, as this is the dominant production mechanism for the Higgs, yet is also challenging to trigger on, due to the relatively little energy left in the detector. To address this challenge, her trigger algorithm will utilize the key properties of such displaced decays.

While working as a teaching assistant (for which she received a teaching award), she was offered the position of head lab TA for an introductory mechanics course. The offer was withdrawn due to lack of funding, but she volunteered nonetheless to take on the extra duties involved. She also served as the lone graduate student representative on the US ATLAS committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr. Danny Minahan
Postdoc at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Examining the effects of malnutrition on the foraging performance and spatial navigation ability of honey bees, seeking to better understand the mechanisms contributing to honey bee colony losses.

Dr. Minahan’s PhD is from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University, at the B. Triwaks Bee Research Center, with its established reputation in the field of honey bee nutrition, cognition, and behavior, Dr. Minahan will examine the effects of malnutrition on adult honey bees. Honey bees are highly valued pollinators, yet colony losses have occurred in many locations, resulting from a variety of stressors, the effects of which are amplified by malnutrition. Honey bees seek to balance deficiencies in essential fatty acids such as omega 6 and omega 3. Dr. Minahan is testing the effects of high and low omega 6:3 ratio on the foraging performance of honey bees. He expects that malnourished bees, those fed a high omega 6:3 ratio, will forage precociously, have longer foraging bouts, forage less frequently, and show earlier mortality. He will also test the spatial navigation ability of honey bees, expecting that malnourished bees will spend a greater amount of time, and make more errors, while navigating a flight maze. This research will contribute to a better understanding of the factors contributing to honey bee colony losses.

As a National Outdoor Leadership School field instructor, Dr. Minahan planned and led 1-4 week-long backpacking and backcountry skiing expeditions to facilitate student leadership development.

Dr. Monica Anne Mowery
Postdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Using a combination of experimental evolution and common garden experiments in the lab to explore brown widow spider invasion history, population connectivity, and genetic differentiation in order to shed light on how invasive species evolve and adapt to new habitats.

Dr. Mowery earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. Her research explores invasiveness in animal populations, developing an integrated assessment of traits related to invasive potential in widow spiders.

At Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Mowery will investigate genetic diversity and adaptation in the invasive brown widow spider, Latrodectus geometricus, a globally-distributed generalist predator with neurotoxic venom. Building on her previous work, which found differences in fecundity, size, dispersal propensity, and plasticity in invasive widow spiders, Dr. Mowery will investigate connectivity and genetic differentiation in traits among invasive populations, using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Invasive spiders can outcompete and displace native species, and may have cascading effects on native prey species and entire ecosystems. To address these issues, Dr. Mowery will lead a research group that studies fast-evolving and ecologically important invasive species using methods in behavioural ecology, evolutionary biology, physiology, and population genetics. The group will use a combination of experimental evolution and common garden experiments in the lab, and studies of the relevance and context of these traits in the field, to focus on how invasive species evolve and adapt to new habitats.

Dr. Hugo Panzo
Postdoc at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Focusing on penalization, a concept related to conditioning, with the goal of proving for scaled penalization a general result of scope.

Dr. Panzo completed his PhD in Mathematics at the University of Connecticut Storrs. He will do postdoctoral research in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Technion.

His main research interest involves conditioning stochastic processes and computing related scaling limits. The problem of conditioning a Markov process on events of probability zero or events with asymptotically diminishing probability has a long and fruitful history. Basic examples of conditioned processes such as Brownian bridge, the normalized Brownian excursion, and the Brownian meander have found their way into a variety of applied models in widely ranging fields such as physics, finance, and biology. His postdoc research focuses on a related concept, that of penalization, which in some sense is more general than conditioning. His goal is to prove for scaled penalization a general result of scope.

Dr. Panzo is known as an extremely thorough researcher, an excellent pure probabilist with a very deep knowledge of Brownian motion who is able to carry out explicit and long computations. His results are expected to be important in analysis and probability. As a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, he assisted with federally funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs and has collaborated on several papers with undergraduate coauthors.

DR. Gustavo Ramirez
Postdoc at University of Haifa
Studying how marine bacteria transform light energy into chemical energy in the process of photoheterotrophy in non-photosynthetic proteorhodopsin (PR)-containing prokaryotes, hoping to determine if PR photoheterotrophy provides a selective advantage to marine bacteria inhabiting nutrient-poor waters. Samples of marine bacteria are taken on research cruises, and incubation experiments in the lab use the derived next-generation sequencing data. Potentially expanding our understanding of the ecology of photobiology in the ocean surface, the most widespread habitat on earth.

Dr. Ramirez earned his PhD in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography at the University of Southern California. In the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, he studies how marine bacteria transform light energy into chemical energy. Photosynthesis is the best-known mechanism for this, but Dr. Ramirez focuses on the less explored process of photoheterotrophy as it takes place in non-photosynthetic proteorhodopsin (PR)-containing prokaryotes. He hypothesizes that PR photoheterotrophy provides a selective advantage to marine bacteria inhabiting nutrient-poor waters. Dr. Ramirez builds on the extensive experience he has gained in past research voyages in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. This time he is collecting samples of marine bacteria on research cruises in different seasons and in different geographic sites to see which marine environmental factors trigger light-mediated energy production. In the lab, he runs incubation experiments using the derived next-generation sequencing data, drawing on his expertise in bioinformatics. His work could potentially expand our understanding of the ecology of photobiology in the ocean surface, the most widespread habitat on earth.

As a teenager in the U.S. Army JROTC program, Dr. Ramirez devoted significant time to understanding and practicing leadership skills such as bearing, courage, decisiveness, dependability, and endurance. He feels that his training has paid countless dividends in nearly every important professional and personal decision in his life.

Dr. Crystal E. Rapier
Postdoc at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Generating a personalized Blood Brain Barrier-on-Chip device that could biologically mimic the human blood brain barrier, leading to the ability to reproduce a disease on the device, administer therapeutics, and measure tissue response, ultimately resulting in vaccines and other therapeutic measures for dealing with infectious and chronic diseases.

Dr. Crystal Rapier earned her PhD from the University of California, Irvine in Biomedical Engineering. She is interested in using a microfluidic platform to develop novel biomimetic materials, devices, and therapeutics.

Dr. Rapier is known for her self-motivation, creativity and strong independent research capability. Her knowledge of cell signaling of the immune system helped her conceive a method to activate the body’s defense system to specifically target a pathogen. She then formulated the idea of building microfluidic devices for producing lipid vesicles that could act as artificial cells for treating immune-deficiency diseases (e.g. AIDS).

Dr. Rapier hopes to develop new research skills in the Nanobioelectroics Laboratory (NBEL) at Ben-Gurion University, including integrating electrodes into microfluidic devices and then using these devices to model human biological responses. Eventually she would like to generate a personalized Blood Brain Barrier-on-Chip device that could biologically mimic the human blood brain barrier (BBB). She could use schizophrenic patients’ cells to personalize one of these devices, for instance, and then observe how the recapitulated BBB responds to antipsychotic drugs or artificial cells.

Dr. Rapier’s method might ultimately lead to the development of vaccines and other therapeutic measures for dealing with chronic and infectious disease outbreaks.

Dr. Michael Rauch
Postdoc at Weizmann Institute of Science
Working in the area of green catalysis, developing methods towards environmentally benign synthetic methodology, such as a completely new mode of catalytically utilizing carbon dioxide.

In the Department of Organic Chemistry at Weizmann, Dr. Rauch will be working in the area of green catalysis, developing methods towards environmentally benign synthetic methodology, such as catalytic utilization of carbon dioxide. For example, using metal-ligand cooperation (MLC), catalysts will be developed aiming to convert aromatics to alcohols via CO2 and H2, hopefully resulting in a completely new mode of catalytically utilizing CO2 and opening new pathways for green chemistry. The lab at Weizmann where Dr. Rauch will be is one of the leading research groups that develops environmentally benign synthetic processes.

Dr. Rauch’s PhD in Chemistry is from Columbia University in New York. As a graduate student, he synthesized main group metal hydride, alkyl and fluoride complexes with various catalytic applications. As an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, he worked with his mentor in the field of chemical education to investigate why students migrate out of STEM fields, and developed active learning techniques to improve results and retention.

Outside of the lab, Dr. Rauch co-founded ScholarBridge, an online resource for helping undergraduates find research mentors across college campuses. Eventually the tool was sold and integrated into a platform operated by another company.

Dr. Michael Roth
Postdoc at Tel Aviv University
Developing a national energy optimization model representing interconnected electric, transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors in order to model Israel’s future carbon mitigation options.

Dr. Roth earned his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in Engineering and Public Policy.

At Tel Aviv University, Dr. Roth will develop a national technology-rich, least-cost optimization model representing interconnected electric, transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors in order to model Israel’s future carbon mitigation options. The model will project future energy use, technological change, and emissions from Israel’s energy system. Dr. Roth will investigate questions such as: “What is the optimal technology choice for Israel to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Paris Climate agreement?” and “How do the emissions of air pollutants such as particulate matter change under different carbon abatement pathways?” Dr. Roth’s work will also focus on renewable energy deployment strategies and the evolution of Israel’s transportation and electric sectors over time.

Dr. Roth’s work will provide policy makers with the information needed to make informed present-day decisions with a greater understanding of the risk and uncertainty that surround energy technology choices. Such information could shape energy and environmental policy, as well as decisions regarding the consumption rate and mix of fuels that supply a country’s future energy demands.

Dr. Roth demonstrated leadership skills when he carried out a wind turbine feasibility study for Oberlin College, as well as during his 9-year tenure in a touring rock band.

Dr. Sho Uemura
Postdoc at Tel Aviv University
Working on the SENSEI (“Sub-Electron Noise Skipper-CCD Experimental Instrument”) experiment, a state-of-the-art search for low-mass dark matter particles, and collaborating in the preparation and installation of a full size silicon detector in a deep mine in Canada (SNOLAB).

Dr. Sho Uemura earned his PhD at Stanford University in experimental particle physics based on the Heavy Photon Search experiment (HPS). He produced the first full analysis of the experiment’s central search for heavy photons.

At Tel Aviv University, in the department of Particle Physics, Dr. Uemura will continue to search for dark matter. Based on astrophysical observations, dark matter, which is not detectable by optical observations and interacts minimally with visible matter, makes up most of the mass of the universe.

Dr. Uemura will work on the SENSEI (Sub-Electron Noise Skipper-CCD Experimental Instrument) experiment, a state-of-the-art search for low-mass dark matter particles that uses Skipper CCD (charge-coupled device) technology, which is uniquely sensitive to extremely weak signals created by dark matter particles interacting with the CCD. This gives SENSEI sensitivity to low-mass dark matter.

Dr. Uemura will also collaborate in preparing and installing a full size silicon detector in a deep mine in Canada (SNOLAB). This detector uses a novel technology that looks for recoil of electrons from interactions with dark matter. Once the detector is installed and takes data, the plan is to build a parallel system at the lab in Tel Aviv in order to pursue measurements which will help interpret the results of that data.

Dr. Judith Wexler
Postdoc at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Investigating holometabolous insects, who have three distinct life-history stages -- larval, pupal, and adult. Using RNA sequencing technologies to integrate gene expression data from multiple tissues and time points in species across the insect tree of life, with the goal of probing the origins of the dramatic morphological changes observed in these insects.

Dr. Wexler’s doctorate in Population Biology is from the University of California, Davis. For the paper which contained the majority of her thesis work, she led an international team that included members of four different research groups on three different campuses. Their expertise ranged from evolutionary genetics to cockroach behavior to oligosaccharide chemistry.

In the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at Hebrew University, Dr. Wexler will be investigating the most successful animals on land — holometabolous insects. They have three distinct life-history stages — larval, pupal, and adult. For hundreds of years, natural historians have wondered how holometabolous insects evolved from ancestors with simpler life cycles. Using gene expression data to establish homology between the different life-history stages of holometabolous insects on the one hand, and the other two classes, ametabolous and hemimetabolous, on the other, Dr. Wexler hopes to shed light on one of the most spectacular examples of an animal evolving into a wide variety of types.

Dr. Wexler plans to use RNA sequencing technologies to integrate gene expression data from multiple tissues and time points in species across the insect tree of life. This will help to probe the origins of the dramatic morphological changes observed in these insects.