About 50 territory residents got to meet one of the world’s mostpromising young researchers Tuesday when she appeared at the Universityof the Virgin Islands via video conference from the Weizmann Instituteof Science in Israel.

Fellowship Awarded Via Video from Israel

Patricia Gruber, left, presents a fellowship in Israel via telecast at UVI. At right, Marshall S. Levin, Executive Vice President & CEO, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Dr. Tali Kimchi is an expert in animal behavior and particularly thestudy of pheromones, the subtle scents emitted by animals – includingthe human kind. While most people are unaware of them, pheromones play amajor role in communication, particularly on the social and sexuallevels.

Kimchi is the 2012 recipient of the Gruber Award for ScientificExcellence, a three-year fellowship at Weizmann sponsored by St. Thomasresidents Peter and Patricia Gruber. This was the sixth such award, andthe third one conveyed at a ceremony via video hook-up between theinstitute and UVI.

Kimchi spoke briefly about her research and fielded questions fromthe primarily lay audience. She said much of her work has potential forpractical applications, for instance the differences in chemicalreactions between males and females indicate that doctors may need toconsider not only the size of their patients when prescribingmedications, but possibly their gender as well.

Some disorders themselves appear to be related to gender, she said;autism, for example, is four times more likely to occur in males than infemales.

Kimchi’s lab is conducting studies on autism using geneticallyaltered mice, and she said they may have found a clue: Autism may belinked to sensory perception because interfering genetically withsensory perception results in an autism-like condition. Learning howthe brain controls social behavior may eventually lead to finding atreatment for autism and other disorders, she said.

Kimchi hopes her work will “help us to better understand ourselves”and contribute to the betterment of humanity, she said, expressinggratitude for the Gruber Award.

“It will for sure help to advance my studies,” she said.

The Weizmann Institute, located in Rehovot, Israel, has been a centerof scientific research and teaching for 60 years, bringing studentsfrom around the world to study. It focuses on medicine, health, energy,technology, agriculture and the environment.

Philanthropist Patricia Gruber said she and her husband Peter, aretired asset manager, chose to concentrate on supporting sciencebecause they believe it is key to improving the human condition.

“We live in a global world,” she said, so they have emphasized international initiatives.

The Grubers personally support the Weizmann fellowship. Theirfoundation presents awards for groundbreaking achievements in cosmology,genetics and neuroscience, and gives fellowships to young scientists inthose fields.

The Grubers recently closed the St. Thomas office of the foundationand now continue the prize program and fellowships through YaleUniversity.

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