Culture & Community

Meet Weizmann’s New Scientists

E-news, January 2020 • TAGS: Community

What better way to begin a new year than meeting some of the Weizmann Institute’s new scientists?

Every year, the Institute recruits several talented young researchers, each of whom is already a standout in their field. One reason the selection process is so particular is that, once on campus, the scientists are given everything they need to kick off their careers, such as a custom-built lab that has the equipment required for each specialty. The results speak for themselves.

We are pleased to introduce you to some of the recent arrivals, and are sure you’ll find them as inspiring – and hope-giving – as we do.

  • Neurobiologist Dr. Takashi Kawashima, the first Japanese principal investigator ever hired by the Institute, came to campus after completing his postdoc at the renowned Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2018). He studies neuromodulation: an aspect of the learning process that is regulated by chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Dr. Kawashima’s research has major implications for understanding both addiction and anxiety disorders. He also anticipates that his work could increase understanding of the effects of neuropsychiatric drugs, which typically target dopamine and serotonin.

  • Climate scientist Dr. Rei Chemke earned his MSc (2014) and PhD (2017) at Weizmann, studying with prominent climate researcher Prof. Yohai Kaspi. Currently at Columbia University after receiving the competitive NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship, he will return to campus in October 2020. Dr. Chemke studies the interplay between oceans and the atmosphere, exploring the climate’s response to natural (e.g., volcanoes) and human-induced (e.g., greenhouse gases) factors. He intends to zero in on the unique properties of oceans, whose large heat capacity and slow dynamics give them a lot of “memory” – a helpful readout of what happened in the past millennium or that could happen over the next decade. Such information could shed light on Earth’s future habitability.

  • Computer scientist and engineer Dr. Tali Dekel, currently a senior research scientist at Google’s Machine Perception Group in Cambridge, MA, will join Weizmann in September 2020 having already combined computer vision and deep learning to resolve a major stumbling block in the field of computer vision. Dr. Dekel also designed the first deep-learning-based model that can accurately interpret the geometry of any moving human in a scene filmed with a moving camera. Future applications are numerous, from advanced computer graphic effects to revealing obstructed objects in videos.

  • Experimental astrophysicist Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami received his PhD in physics from Weizmann (2014), then moved to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for his postdoc after being awarded the prestigious NASA Einstein Fellowship. He is developing advanced instruments and methods to detect “bio-signatures” – substances that provide evidence of life on planets outside of our solar system. At Weizmann, Dr. Ben-Ami will be part of ULTRASAT, a space exploration project capable of detecting and measuring UV emissions from explosions minutes after they occur. ULTRASAT is expected to discover events at a rate 300 times greater than currently possible. The project will transform our understanding of a range of explosive events, such as supernovas and the disruption of stars by massive black holes. 

  • Systems biologist Dr. Leeat Keren received her MSc (2010) and PhD (2016) at Weizmann, studying under both Prof. Eran Segal and Prof. Ron Milo, and conducted her postdoc at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Keren explores the way tumor cells evade the immune system to take over their microenvironment. While at Stanford, she helped create a powerful new imaging technology that reveals the precise amount and location of proteins in each cell, then used it to identify patterns that help predict which triple-negative breast cancer patients may respond to immunotherapy. At Weizmann, Dr. Keren will investigate the complex relationship between the tumor, its microenvironment, and the immune system, aiming to develop personalized diagnostics and cancer treatments.

  • Structural biologist Dr. Moran Shalev-Benami did her postdoctoral research at Weizmann with Nobel Prize winner Prof. Ada Yonath, then pursued further postdoc studies at Stanford and the University of Michigan. Dr. Shalev-Benami has become expert in a state-of-the-art technology called cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) that is capable of visualizing biological molecules with near-atomic resolution. In her new lab at Weizmann, she aims to combine cryo-EM with biochemistry, molecular biology, and mass spectroscopy to study proteins and their role in communication between cells and how, when this communication process goes wrong, it contributes to a variety of diseases and disorders.

Culture & Community

Meet Weizmann’s New Scientists

E-news, January 2020 • TAGS: Community

What better way to begin a new year than meeting some of the Weizmann Institute’s new scientists?

Every year, the Institute recruits several talented young researchers, each of whom is already a standout in their field. One reason the selection process is so particular is that, once on campus, the scientists are given everything they need to kick off their careers, such as a custom-built lab that has the equipment required for each specialty. The results speak for themselves.

We are pleased to introduce you to some of the recent arrivals, and are sure you’ll find them as inspiring – and hope-giving – as we do.

  • Neurobiologist Dr. Takashi Kawashima, the first Japanese principal investigator ever hired by the Institute, came to campus after completing his postdoc at the renowned Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2018). He studies neuromodulation: an aspect of the learning process that is regulated by chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Dr. Kawashima’s research has major implications for understanding both addiction and anxiety disorders. He also anticipates that his work could increase understanding of the effects of neuropsychiatric drugs, which typically target dopamine and serotonin.

  • Climate scientist Dr. Rei Chemke earned his MSc (2014) and PhD (2017) at Weizmann, studying with prominent climate researcher Prof. Yohai Kaspi. Currently at Columbia University after receiving the competitive NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship, he will return to campus in October 2020. Dr. Chemke studies the interplay between oceans and the atmosphere, exploring the climate’s response to natural (e.g., volcanoes) and human-induced (e.g., greenhouse gases) factors. He intends to zero in on the unique properties of oceans, whose large heat capacity and slow dynamics give them a lot of “memory” – a helpful readout of what happened in the past millennium or that could happen over the next decade. Such information could shed light on Earth’s future habitability.

  • Computer scientist and engineer Dr. Tali Dekel, currently a senior research scientist at Google’s Machine Perception Group in Cambridge, MA, will join Weizmann in September 2020 having already combined computer vision and deep learning to resolve a major stumbling block in the field of computer vision. Dr. Dekel also designed the first deep-learning-based model that can accurately interpret the geometry of any moving human in a scene filmed with a moving camera. Future applications are numerous, from advanced computer graphic effects to revealing obstructed objects in videos.

  • Experimental astrophysicist Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami received his PhD in physics from Weizmann (2014), then moved to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for his postdoc after being awarded the prestigious NASA Einstein Fellowship. He is developing advanced instruments and methods to detect “bio-signatures” – substances that provide evidence of life on planets outside of our solar system. At Weizmann, Dr. Ben-Ami will be part of ULTRASAT, a space exploration project capable of detecting and measuring UV emissions from explosions minutes after they occur. ULTRASAT is expected to discover events at a rate 300 times greater than currently possible. The project will transform our understanding of a range of explosive events, such as supernovas and the disruption of stars by massive black holes. 

  • Systems biologist Dr. Leeat Keren received her MSc (2010) and PhD (2016) at Weizmann, studying under both Prof. Eran Segal and Prof. Ron Milo, and conducted her postdoc at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Keren explores the way tumor cells evade the immune system to take over their microenvironment. While at Stanford, she helped create a powerful new imaging technology that reveals the precise amount and location of proteins in each cell, then used it to identify patterns that help predict which triple-negative breast cancer patients may respond to immunotherapy. At Weizmann, Dr. Keren will investigate the complex relationship between the tumor, its microenvironment, and the immune system, aiming to develop personalized diagnostics and cancer treatments.

  • Structural biologist Dr. Moran Shalev-Benami did her postdoctoral research at Weizmann with Nobel Prize winner Prof. Ada Yonath, then pursued further postdoc studies at Stanford and the University of Michigan. Dr. Shalev-Benami has become expert in a state-of-the-art technology called cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) that is capable of visualizing biological molecules with near-atomic resolution. In her new lab at Weizmann, she aims to combine cryo-EM with biochemistry, molecular biology, and mass spectroscopy to study proteins and their role in communication between cells and how, when this communication process goes wrong, it contributes to a variety of diseases and disorders.