Campaign Priorities

Leadership for Tomorrow

Leadership for Tomorrow

 

 


The future of the Hebrew University is only as bright as the talent and faculty it can attract in the coming years. Therefore, we are committed to attracting the very best students and scholars. With the continued support of our generous community, we can drive the innovative breakthroughs needed to solve the world’s complex problems, and together make the Hebrew University of tomorrow a reality.

Global Collaboration

Global Collaboration

 

 

In an increasingly connected world, technology is reducing and eliminating traditional borders and boundaries. Information and knowledge are being shared faster than ever before and real-time communication is bringing people and ideas together, often without even meeting face-to-face.    

Better World

Better World

 

 

Driven by its mission to develop science and knowledge for the benefit of humankind, the Hebrew University embraces initiatives that aspire to a better world by:

  • Training future researchers, professionals, and leaders to pursue in-depth scholarship, ask big questions, and develop new approaches to solving local and world challenges.

  • Creating knowledge with far-reaching potential and sharing it with students and colleagues from around the world.

Building Capacity

Building Capacity

 

 

Allowing the next generation of scholars to solve society’s most pressing challenges requires places and spaces. Hebrew University is committed to building the necessary laboratories,  libraries, classrooms, and more, so that our students and faculty can meet, share ideas, engage in pioneering research, and ultimately change the world.

Human Impact

AFHU's Bubby Goes Viral

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The American Friends of Hebrew University launched a new marketing campaign, and their bubby films have gone viral.

Meet Judith Cohen, once you meet her, you won't forget her! Watch the clip below.

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Applying Computational Tools to Curing Cancer

Yotam Drier
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Dr. Yotam Drier, from the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University, has set out to cure cancer. Using sophisticated computational methods, he is able to decipher the complex mechanisms that regulate the activity of thousands of genes and show how these mechanisms go awry in cancer. 

Cancer: The Evasive Killer  

Cancer is the number one killer in western society, and has proven a formidable disease to combat. One reason is that cancer cells are constantly changing (mutating) while also multiplying, acquiring new abilities and evading therapies. How do cancer cells do this? The key lies in mis-regulation of their genes.  

Cancer occurs when one of the trillions of cells in our body begins multiplying uncontrollably, giving rise to a tumor mass. This may be caused by gene overactivity or under-activity. For example, a gene might receive mis-repeated instructions to multiply (thus growing out of control), or a gene meant to block cell growth may become inactive. As cancer progresses, several such key genes tend to mutate, resulting in permanent changes to their activity.

Yet perfectly healthy genes can still drive cancer. How? The answer lies in the regulatory DNA, the “other” 97% of our DNA that does not contain genes. These regulatory elements dictate which genes are active within each cell, but it is not very straightforward. Their complex interactions, with each other and with multitudes of genes, make it challenging to uncover how they work.   

At the Cutting-Edge of Cancer Research  

Using advanced tools for genetic analysis and novel computational algorithms, Dr. Drier’s work has revealed several key ways in which gene regulatory elements can drive cancer:

Epigenetics: Chemical “markings” upon the regulatory DNA affect how the genes are regulated. Numerous simultaneous epigenetic changes can drastically change gene activity and drive cancer.  

3D genetic “tangles”: Each cell contains a sort of “tangled” DNA pom-pom, in which genes and their regulatory elements are in close proximity and interact. This structure is often changed in cancer cells. Without proper interactions, genes are not properly activated, driving cancer. 

Dr. Drier has successfully associated between particular changes to the regulatory DNA and specific types of cancer, including pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, tumors of the salivary gland, and others.

"I’m aiming to systematically uncover the code of regulatory DNA and its disruption in cancer. This will allow us to both better understand how basic processes are regulated by, and encoded in, the DNA, as well as to uncover what drives various tumors we do not yet understand. We can suggest better strategies to manage these diseases and new drugs for targeting them."

At the Frontier of Computational Medicine

Dr. Drier’s lab team applies cutting-edge experimental techniques to studying and characterizing tumors in high throughput. In other words, rather than studying a specific gene or type of cancer, he studies a system: the entire cancer genome. Dr. Drier’s lab generates and analyzes a significant amount of data, including the tumor’s genetics, epigenetics, structure, gene expression, and more. 

By applying powerful algorithms, Dr. Drier integrates his findings with other databases and develops computational models capable of predicting cancer-driving events, focusing on changes to regulatory DNA elements. Such events may include changes and differences among healthy and cancerous cells and what causes the cancer to appear, keep growing, and metastasize. In other words, Dr. Drier is capable of predicting the function of observed changes to regulatory DNA and their role in driving cancer. 

Dr. Drier is currently taking a very broad approach; after identifying specific regulatory DNA alterations responsible for causing a particular form of cancer, his team will experimentally check whether indeed introducing these changes to cells causes the predicted outcome in order to establish cause and effect between regulatory DNA changes and cancer (rather than mere correlations).  

Dr. Drier’s work is at the forefront of computational medicine, both at the Hebrew University and globally. His work has greatly contributed to our understanding of how disruptions to regulatory DNA can lead to cancer, and his breakthroughs are illuminating new ways to treat cancer patients.

"I am very grateful for the opportunity to work in the diverse and stimulating environment that the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine provides, where collaborations naturally form between physicians, experimental biologists, and computational biologists, an intersection that provides for very rewarding science."

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The Unit for Equal Opportunities: Preventing Student Drop-Out

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In order to enable more students to excel at their studies and maximize their potential, Hebrew University Rector, Barak Medina, issued new directives for preventing student dropout.

The University hired support counselors (YOTAMs), who identify and reach out to students who show indicators that they may be at risk for dropping out. The YOTAMs are graduate students who are familiar with the undergraduate courses and requirements in the department under their supervision. Today, the University employs 32 YOTAMs (12 Jewish, 20 Arab), who enter the classrooms and introduce themselves at the beginning of the year.

Additionally, certain first-and second-year courses have been defined as indicator courses. Early in the term, the university receives information about students’ attendance and basic writing assignments. The YOTAM follows up with the flagged students, creating a holistic support plan for each student, based on their needs.

One form of support is a peer-tutoring program. Advanced students tutor first- and second-year students on a weekly basis. Offered free of charge, the tutor receives a stipend or two academic credits for their work. Tutors also participate in monthly training sessions. During the Fall 2019 semester, 530 students volunteered to tutor (340 Jewish, 190 Arab). The tutoring may last the duration of the semester or be short-term, depending on the need. Some tutors even met with numerous students or groups.

As the tutor and YOTAM get to know the students better, they can direct them to additional sources of support where relevant – whether they need personal, psychologica, financial, or social support.   

In addition, academic units reach out to students who have not signed up for classes, notify the university when students fail to take their exams, and generally track student progress.

At the same time, students from particular disadvantaged backgrounds enjoy unique benefits, including tutoring, assistance with living expenses, and more. This includes new immigrants, Arab students, graduates of ultra-Orthodox institutions, and students of Ethiopian descent.

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Taking Lethal Inflammatory Storms – By Storm

Raymond Kaempfer

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For the last three decades, Professor Raymond Kaempfer has been tackling one of medicine’s largest problems: evolving antibiotic resistance and lethality of many bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.  

The mechanism by which these bacteria kill is quite straightforward: they produce toxins that our immune system would ordinarily identify, target, and neutralize. Yet these particular toxins, called superantigens, evoke our immune system to vastly over-react, resulting in severe, and often lethal, inflammation known as a cytokine storm. The potential of these toxins for ruin is compounded by the fact that they can remain active for years and are heat resistant, rendering them suitable as biological weapons. Indeed, it was the Pentagon that first approached Prof. Kaempfer, asking him to develop an antidote to this feared biological threat. 

Eureka! Deciphering the Mechanism of Cytokine Storms 

While progress had been made in the late 20th century, Prof. Kaempfer was the first to fully decipher how these toxins evoke cytokine storms, which he published in 2011 – the greatest breakthrough in this field in 22 years. Based on this novel insight, he developed unique, small protein molecules capable of attenuating excessive inflammation, and not only in infected animals (his molecules combat infections by lethal mixtures of live bacteria in mice) but especially in severe sepsis patients, specifically, those suffering from necrotizing soft tissue infection, commonly called “flesh-eating bacteria.” Rather than fighting the bacteria or toxins, Prof. Kaempfer treats the body’s self-induced inflammation, in an approach known as a Host Oriented Therapeutic strategy. Because the human immune system will not change over a single lifetime, nor over the course of a few generations, pathogens cannot become resistant through mutation. This is a major advantage over antibiotics. 

A New Drug is Born? 

Prof. Kaempfer’s first-generation molecule successfully underwent all three phases of FDA clinical trials. This month, he will be submitting his FDA application for a new drug for treating flesh-eating bacteria, the first of its kind. His second-generation molecules are proving to be up to 300 times more potent in treating wound infections in animals. Indeed, per the Pentagon’s request, Prof. Kaempfer is now testing his molecules upon wounds infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Not only did Prof. Kaempfer succeed at deciphering a mechanism that had stumped scientists for decades, but his molecules are noteworthy for another reason: they counter the body’s excessive, harmful immune reaction while leaving the basal response intact, enabling the body to continue fighting infections on its own and developing protective immunity. 

A Call from Pandemic-Stricken New York  

In February, Prof. Kaempfer received a phone call from a large New York hospital, asking for his molecules in order to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients suffering from pulmonary cytokine storms, which closely resemble those resulting from superantigen toxins or bacteria. Yet he couldn’t just go to the post office and send a package of un-approved molecules.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, Prof. Kaempfer is hopeful that his FDA application will soon be successful. Although his application specifies the first molecule be used to combat necrotizing soft tissue infection, once approved it can be used in controlled trials on COVID-19 patients. This is especially pertinent, as many COVID-19 fatalities are due to cytokine storm. In addition, recovered patients often continue to suffer from varying degrees of multi-organ failure, also due to Coronavirus-induced inflammation.    

Throughout the pandemic, Prof. Kaempfer’s lab has been running non-stop, including during the countrywide lockdown and holidays, testing his molecules against viral and cellular components, released once the coronavirus kills infected cells, that over-activate human immune cells and evoke a cytokine storm. His entire career has prepared him for this moment: his groundbreaking research has the potential to save millions of lives worldwide, and he cannot afford to take a single day – or minute – off.

"My lab has been very lucky – if you define luck as the result of decades of hard work. One of my passions is ’survival science’ – applying my scientific knowledge, encompassing chemistry and microbiology, to creating a better world."

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Hannah Goldstein, MSc in Nutrition

Hannah Goldstein

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Hannah Goldstein grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating with a BSc in Communication, she decided to make aliya. She studied at a Kibbutz Ulpan for a year, then volunteered for the IDF’s Spokesperson's Unit.  

Following her IDF stint, Hannah decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Nutrition. The Hebrew University’s program, taught at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, was enticing – plus, it was taught in English. Lacking a background in science or nutrition, Hannah took a few prerequisite courses – and began the program!

"Getting the email that I would be eligible for the program after taking a few prerequisite courses was definitely the highlight of my year!"

Hannah enjoys studying alongside students from different cultures and backgrounds. The students often hold informal gatherings, sharing food and culture from their home countries. While the African food is often quite spicy, Hannah discovered Ugali – an amazing dish made of corn flour.

"During class discussions and even while hanging out in the dorms, I have become aware of fascinating cultural differences and local African issues that I have never experienced before in Israel or the United States. This has led to some pretty interesting conversations!"

Hannah plans to put both her degrees to work by seeking employment in the field of community and health promotion. She will also be seeking opportunities to continue to a doctoral degree.

During the Coronavirus Shutdown

Living on campus, Hannah was able to walk around and study at the picnic tables outside – even during the strictest days of the shutdown. At some point during this period she found out about the on-campus goat farm and began volunteering to feed the baby goats in the evenings.

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Reem Shemer, Medical Student and Coronavirus Volunteer

Reem Shemer
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Reem Shemer made aliya from England as a young child and grew up in Jerusalem. After completing his military service and traveling the world, he underwent EMT training with Magen David Adom (MDA) – where he fell in love with the medical profession.  

After completing the first three years of medical school, the pre-clinical years, Reem finally entered the hospital to begin his hands-on training. Surrounded by doctors, treating patients, and learning on a daily basis filled him with immense satisfaction.  

Doing rotations in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Reem met Dr. Rosa Ruchlemer, a hematologist, and Dr. Rachel Bar Shalom, of nuclear medicine. He joined their study on the detection of osteoporosis among lymphoma patients. Specifically, they found that PET-CT scans, a procedure all too familiar to lymphoma patients, may also serve the early detection of osteoporosis. Their findings were presented at a conference and will soon be published.  

Looking forward, Reem will begin his internship at Shaare Zedek and specialize in family medicine. He hopes to eventually move to northern Israel, where he can practice community medicine in Israel’s geographic periphery.  

Volunteering during the Coronavirus Crisis 

As the virus spread across Israel, Reem sought out opportunities to volunteer. He joined MDA, first taking samples in people’s homes, and later at the drive-in test site.

"In those first days there was a lot of panic, and people were terrified of a pandemic. Nobody knew how events would unfold, but I couldn’t just stay home without doing anything."

In addition, Reem ordinarily works as a doctor’s assistant in Shaare Zedek’s Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. When COVID-19 patients began arriving at the hospital, he gladly accepted an invitation to transfer to the Coronavirus ward. 

"It was a meaningful experience, but also very challenging. The PPE was stuffy, uncomfortable, and prevented human contact with patients. This was especially true for the older patients who were feverish and confused by these “aliens” in puffy white suits."

Despite his discomfort and patent concerns about bringing the virus back to his family, including his infant son, Reem found the experience gratifying.

"One moment that never failed to touch me was when a severely ill patient finally recovered and was being discharged. As the patient existed the Coronavirus ward, the medical staff stood in two rows, smiling and clapping, as the patient passed between them. For the first time, the patient could see the faces of the dedicated medical staff who had cared for them during their stay."

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Meet Yuval Tarrab, MSc Chemistry Student

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Yuval grew up in the the city of Yehud, south-east of Tel Aviv. She completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Cognitive Science in 2017. Now in the 2nd year of her master’s degree at the Institute of Chemistry, Yuval is researching protein interactions in Prof. Assaf Friedler’s lab as well as working as a teaching assistant. Before joining a lab, she couldn’t have managed without a scholarship.

"Being a student in the Hebrew University is no picnic...I couldn't manage to both succeed in my studies and work in a full-time job."
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Meet Chaja Katzman, Undergraduate Coronavirus Researcher

Chaja Katzman
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Chaja Katzman is a second-year student of Bio-Medical Sciences at the Hebrew University. She immigrated to Israel from the Netherlands three years ago, after volunteering in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for a year.

After making aliya, Chaja decided to study at the Hebrew University. She enrolled in the Rothberg International School’s preparatory program, a year-long academic program that helps new immigrants gain acceptance to the Hebrew University. The program includes three specialized tracks, and Chaja chose the science track.

Prior to this, Chaja had very little exposure to science. Growing up in a religious community, her high school’s curriculum included some science, yet she took only introductory classes. If Chaja gave science any thought at all, she imagined mixing substances and exploding bottles. Chaja successfully completed the program and was accepted to the Bio-Medical Sciences program. Doing so, she became one of the first in her extended family to attend University.

The program offers a summer scholarship to encourage first- and second-year students to gain hands-on research experiences. Chaja applied before her first year – and was accepted. She joined the lab of Dr. Lior Nissim, a synthetic biologist, and has been there ever since.

When the Coronavirus pandemic struck, Dr. Lior’s lab began working on three projects.

  • In collaboration with the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR): Designed a method for infecting mice, in order to test potential vaccines and COVID-19 treatment modalities. Mice lack receptors (a protein) for SARS-2, and thus are naturally immune. Dr.  Nissim’s lab developed a method to cause mice to express these receptors by infection them with an engineered virus, thus enabling subsequent SARS-2 mouse infection. Chaja helped design, clone, and produce this engineered virus, while infecting the mouse lung cells that were submitted to the IIBR for validation. If successful, this will be made available to laboratories worldwide, enabling them to conduct research and explore vaccines on animals, before beginning human trials.
     
  • Together with Prof. Amiram Goldblum’s lab, developing an integrated computational and synthetic biology platform for testing the effectiveness of anti-viral drugs against COVID-19 – without handling live samples of the SARS-2 virus in the lab (working with live samples requires strict bio-safety measures which are rarely available). This modular platform can potentially be adapted to screen drugs for virtually any virus type. Chaja helped design the synthetic gene circuits required and engineer the virus, and is preparing to conduct initial screenings with repurposed, FDA-approved drugs identified by Prof. Goldblum.
     
  • Developing a 1-minute diagnosis for COVID-19, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and several hospitals. This project was largely supported by Israel’s Ministry of Health.

Chaja has been working relentlessly on these projects, 10-16 hours a day in the lab, seven days a week. In fact, thanks to her tireless efforts, Dr. Nissim’s lab completed the first project in two and a half weeks rather than the requested month (which was already considered a very demanding deadline). In addition, Chaja received a congratulatory letter from Rector Barak Medina, along with a scholarship.

Chaja greatly enjoys working in Dr. Nissim’s lab, for its radically different approach. She says, “Most biologists study, understand, and manipulate existing genes. But synthetic biology often seems closer to engineering. I am fascinated by this field, it's like a puzzle.”  

 

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The team in Dr. Lior Nissim's lab

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Supporting Students from Non-Traditional Backgrounds

Aviad Harel

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Meet Aviad Harel

Aviad Harel grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem. He studied at yeshivas, which focused solely on Judaic subjects – with barely any math, science, or English. At the age of 18, he decided to leave the ultra-Orthodox world. Like an infant, everything was new: social norms, popular culture, how to dress, how to speak, etc.

Having grown up in a family that didn’t prioritize education, Aviad began working odd jobs while trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He gradually realized the importance of an education – both in terms of personal growth and financial security. He decided to complete his matriculation exams at the Hebrew University’s preparatory program, run by the Dean of Students Office. If it went well, he figured, he might consider pursing an undergraduate degree.

Initially, Aviad was thrilled to be learning new things, things that were common and basic knowledge in the secular world. Yet soon he began to worry; there was so much to learn in so little time. He would sit for endless hours reviewing words in English. He recalls a math exam early on, in which an X appeared. In yeshiva, this was the multiplication sign. He’d never seen an equation before, or learned to solve for X.

"The preparatory program’s staff was amazing. Everyone helped us cope with our complete lack of knowledge. They truly gave us tools to succeed. It wasn’t easy, but they didn’t give up on us, and didn’t let us give up on ourselves."

By the second semester, Aviad was able to tutor other students. He eventually graduated from the preparatory program with honors and realized he wanted to embark on a meaningful career, to alleviate suffering and save lives. He decided to study nursing and is considering transferring to medical school upon graduation.

"I’m the first person in my family to pursue a higher education. It’s a privilege to study at the Hebrew University, to gain knowledge, invest in myself, and realize my potential."

The Hebrew University offers students like Aviad, graduates of ultra-Orthodox institutions, a comprehensive support package that includes academic tutoring, financial support, and social activities. Aviad is thankful for this backing, a sign that the university believes in him – and his ability to succeed.

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Yakov Shapiro, Communications and International Relations

Yakov Shapiro

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Jacob (Yakov) Shapiro is a third-year student in the departments of Communications and International Relations. He was born to parents who immigrated to Israel in the early 1990s from Minsk (now Belarus). When Jacob was four years old, his parents separated. His mother raised him, while also caring for her aging mother. Jacob’s father cut off all contact.

A few years after his parents separated, Jacob’s grandmother suffered a stroke. She was moved to a geriatric nursing home, where she remained, uncommunicative, until her death twelve years later. All the while, Jacob’s mother cared for both her mother and son. To help with the finances, Jacob began working at an early age.

Jacob excelled at school and was placed in a class for gifted children. He also volunteered at the nursing home where his grandma had lived and at the sports center, assisting coaching children in tennis.

After completing his military service, Jacob volunteered for a Jewish Agency delegation to Cherkasy, Ukraine. It was there recognized his sense of mission and representing Israel to the world. Throughout his studies, Jacob continued to travel to Ukraine twice a year and the dream of becoming a diplomat began to take shape. He is fully committed to strengthening ties between Diaspora Jewry, Judaism, and Israel, and hopes to enroll as a cadet in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ training course after graduation.

"I am very proud of overcoming so many challenges, and know that I couldn’t have done it myself. The fact that I, a second-generation immigrant, will soon graduate with a degree from Israel’s best university shouldn’t be taken for granted. I am thankful for the scholarship and support and look forward to my future. I can’t wait to see where life will take me!

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Hebrew University Alumni at the Front Lines: Combatting COVID-19 Worldwide

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The Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine’s International Master of Public Health (IMPH) currently has over 900 alumni worldwide, and maintains an active alumni network.

Holding key positions across the globe, IMPH alumni are truly at the front lines of the pandemic, as they are involved in setting national or local policies, planning, coordinating, and providing health services, as well as developing other responses to the Coronavirus crisis. Many of these alumni reached out to their alma mater for professional advice and guidance. 

In response, the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School, in partnership with MASHAV (Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), launched the BRAUN-MASHAV Global COVID-19 Forum

To date, 12 webinars have taken place, featuring Israeli and international public health practitioners and researchers who share their experiences, successes and challenges fighting COVID-19. In addition, participants have the opportunity to ask questions, share their experiences, and network. 

Approximately 40 alumni, representing 15 countries, participate in each session. These have included members of the national task forces in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria; World Health Organization officials from Sierra Leone and North Macedonia; and other alumni in decision-making capacities in Albania, Honduras, Columbia, Ethiopia, and Norway/Afghanistan – among others.

"I'm proud to say that Israel is at the forefront of providing immediate response in the wake of humanitarian crises, strengthening its commitment as a member of the family of nations. We have done so in the past, we are doing it today, and we will do it whenever and wherever our assistance is needed."

        Amb. Gil Haskel, Head of MASHAV

The BRAUN-MASHAV Global COVID-19 Forum has focused on a variety of topics, including mental health services, food security, personal protection with a focus on masks, cyber-surveillance, protecting vulnerable populations, virus sequencing to understand variations, smoking behavior and tobacco control, and aging populations, among others.

"Each week we are reminded of how much we can learn from one other, and how much we are dependent on one another to tackle this global public health crisis."

          Professor Yehuda Neumark, Director of the Braun School

The most recent webinar, which focused on screening strategies that would permit the safe re-opening of college campuses, was delivered by Prof. David Paltiel of Yale University and Prof. Rochelle Walensky of Harvard University. They offered participants a mathematical model for testing and isolating, to keep infections under control. This included sharing an online calculator into which participants can plug in their own data, adjusting for the number of students, compliance levels, the frequency and accuracy of tests – and more. Ultimately, Prof. Paltiel and Prof. Walensky concluded that frequency trumps accuracy; frequent testing would compensate for any false negatives, while also quickly locating and isolating infected students before the virus could spread out of control.

"Thank you for the presentation, amazing insights into the importance of testing in the “new normal."

    IMPH alumna from North Macedonia

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World Food Day 2019 - October 16 2019

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The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment aims to help local and global societies to eliminate hunger and malnutrition while preserving our natural resources.

Read more about the Faculty's work to help reduce world hunger and promote wise use of the world's resources here.

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Special Exhibit at the Cinemateque - ELSC in 1.5 minutes

ELSC Future Building

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5 years of construction in less than a minute and a half: special exhibition at the Cinematheque

Based on a translation from Kol Hair Jerusalem, February 26, 2018

A special exhibition at the Jerusalem Cinematheque "Action > Potential" presents a special documentation of the construction of the new Suzanne and Charles Goodman Brain Sciences Building of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University. Construction of the new building on the Edmond J. Safra Campus began about five years ago and is expected to be completed this year - in a special film that is less than a minute and a half long, the construction of the building is presented. The "Action > Potential" exhibition will be held from February 25 to March 19 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

 

 

The exhibition is part of the Art & Brain Week of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Curators Michal Mor and Alona Shani-Narkiss have compiled nine posters, pairs of architectural elements from the Suzanne and Charles Goodman Brain Sciences Building, which is being built on the campus of the Hebrew University, with elements from the brain world produced by M.R.I photographs, microscopic photographs and more. The posters show the similarity between the brain and architecture, as well as the inspiration they give each other. In addition to the banners, a one-minute time lapse video documents the construction site, which follows five years of construction.

What happens when brain science researchers meet with architects to realize their vision of creating the ultimate space in which intensive research activity brings together researchers from different disciplines? The realization of this dream was made possible when scholars, architects and donors joined forces under the auspices of the Hebrew University to establish a single unique building in Israel.

The Suzanne and Charles Goodman Building for Brain Sciences, which will soon open on the Edmond J. Safra Campus, was designed by renowned architect Norman Foster and the Jerusalem office of Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects, and incorporates formal influences that simulate and inspire the human brain. The synergy between the architect and the scientist took place on various levels. On the one hand, the architects were inspired by concepts and structures from the realm of the brain and applied it to the interior design of the building and its encasement. On the other hand, they had to design a building that would serve the unique needs of brain researchers, the campus of architectural tradition, and the city, with its many characteristics.

A central element in the vision of ELSC was to establish a building that would encourage multidisciplinary ties between researchers on a daily basis. In the encounter between the architect and the researcher, the possibility of translating the vision into physical realization was enacted. Charts, microscope photographs, imaging scans and mathematical formulas collected over the past century have become visual tools in the hands of architects and have been translated into concrete components in the modern structure.

Original article: https://www.kolhair.co.il/culture/46646/ 

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Two Birds with One Stone: Combatting Smoking and the Coronavirus

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Dr. Yael Bar-Zeev is on a mission: to eliminate tobacco and smoking from Israel. As a public health physician, behavioral scientist, epidemiologist, and tobacco treatment specialist, Yael is well-equipped to tackle smoking.

She is a faculty member at the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, helped found and currently chairs the Israeli Medical Association for Smoking Cessation and Prevention, and is a regular participant in Knesset meetings, Ministry of Health Committees, and the media. 

Smoking in the Age of a Global Pandemic 

As the Coronavirus introduced new buzzwords such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve,’ Dr. Bar-Zeev’s mind was somewhere else entirely: how would the pandemic, and the looming shutdown, affect Israelis’ smoking habits? 

She identified two contradictory forces: On one hand, stress levels were skyrocketing, possibly leading to increased smoking rates. On the other hand, widespread unemployment and financial woes, coupled with a heightened awareness of pulmonary vulnerability, might lead to a reduction in smoking. An additional concern was exposure to secondhand smoke, which might become more prevalent during a shutdown or quarantine.

"Smoking kills 8,000 Israelis each year and is damaging our ability to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of Health and health-care providers must not neglect the fight against smoking, which continues to be the leading risk factor for mortality and morbidity in Israel."

An Exploratory Survey 

Dr. Bar-Zeev and Prof. Yehuda Neumark designed a survey targeting smokers and ex-smokers. It was disseminated through social media, reaching 660 participants, and revealed interesting data: 

First, 45% of respondents reported an increase in their motivation to quit. Yet only 7% of respondents actually stopped smoking and another 16% were unsuccessful in their attempts. Taken together, these 24% are an improvement; during ordinary times, this number hovers around 20%. Of those who attempted to quit, nearly 16% used some form of behavioral and/or medical support.  

On the flip side, 44% of respondents reported upping their intake by an average of 3 cigarettes per day. While they may have been motivated to quit, they felt incapable of doing so. 

In terms of secondhand smoke, over 80% of respondents noted no change in their home smoking rules. This may be good news, as nearly 88% already restricted smoking in their homes, including nearly 70% who limited smoking to the balcony or outdoors. At the same time, 6.6% (equaling roughly 80,000 smokers) reported that their home smoking rules worsened during the shutdown, exposing their loved ones to more secondhand smoke. 

A Missed Opportunity? 

Dr. Bar-Zeev’s data, along with similar surveys conducted worldwide, indicate that the pandemic might be an ideal time to reach out to smokers and actively offer guidance and support for quitting or reducing one’s cigarette intake.

"The pandemic has presented a golden opportunity to leverage smokers’ heightened motivation to quit and provide them with free, effective support, all while taking specific, immediate steps that could aid also in the management of the Coronavirus pandemic."

Yet despite the immense potential, reality was sobering. During the period of severe restrictions in Israel, group counseling workshops already in progress transitioned to one-on-one telephone consultations, and all scheduled cessation workshops were cancelled. The two health-care providers that routinely provide quit-line phone services require that patients must first obtain a referral from their primary care physician – posing an additional logistical hurdle. Only now, over six months into the Coronavirus pandemic, these providers have begun offering scant online group workshops. 

In January, the Israeli Ministry of Health opened a national quit-line – with little fanfare and even less advertising. As a result, when the pandemic struck, very few Israelis, including medical practitioners, were aware of the quit-line’s existence.  

In addition, it took the Ministry of Health until June to create two Coronavirus-themed anti-smoking ads, which are published on alternate months. These ads were the first to feature the national quit-line number. 

Don't Double Your Risk

The two Ministry of Health Coronavirus-themed anti-smoking advertisements. The first ad (right) came out in June 2020.

Translating Findings to Policy Recommendations  

Dr. Ben-Zeev has plenty of ideas how to leverage the Coronavirus crisis to help combat smoking. These range from requiring the health-care providers to actively reach out to smokers to training cessation counselors to help smokers reduce or maintain their intake, to prevent increases. In addition, she was a signatory on a policy paper issued by a variety of medical, health, and anti-smoking organizations, submitted to the Ministry of Health this May. 

Among their recommendations:

  1. Gather accurate smoking data and history of all Coronavirus patients.
  2. Run public awareness campaigns on ways to quit and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, including adding a specific insert and the national quit-line number on all tobacco products packaging.
  3. Create a national, proactive plan to support people who wish to quit, including staffing the phone lines, planning workshops in accordance to the Ministry’s Coronavirus guidelines, and foster interorganizational cooperation.
  4. Limit smoking in public and include anti-smoking policies within the Ministry’s guidelines; specifically, banning outdoor smoking in public places such as restaurants and coffee-shops, so people do not have to choose between reducing their exposure to the Coronavirus and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  5. Continue expanding the ban on advertising tobacco products to include the print media.
  6. Continue implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Israel has ratified.
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HU Researchers Searching for a Cure

Corona Research

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Diagnostics: HU researchers are designing and testing rapid diagnostic kits, as well as ways to identify individuals who have been exposed – by detecting antibodies in their blood. This may enable us to map resistance, improve isolation modes, and minimize the spread of the epidemic. These efforts involve a number of scientists, including Prof. Yuval DorProf. Eylon YavinDr. Maayan Salton.

Vaccine development: This effort is being led by scientists with previous experience with similar viruses: SARS and MERS. Our scientists are designing new vaccines and have begun producing the necessary proteins. Many researchers are involved, including Dr. Alex RouvinskiProf. Ora Schueler-FurmanProf. Sigal Ben-YehudaProf. Ilan Rosenshine, and Dr. Reuven Wiener.

Improving the capacity of the immune system to combat the virus: The immune system can be a double-edged sword: When fighting the Coronavirus, it produces antibodies to defeat the virus, while also producing factors that aggravate the disease, particularly the virus-induced pneumonia. Our scientists are designing novel ways to reinforce the constructive components while weakening the destructive ones. These researchers include Prof. Ofer MandelboimDr. Michael BergerDr. Oren Parnas, and Prof. Yinon Ben-Neriah.

Model systems to study the virus and develop new drugs: Animal models are essential for testing new treatments and drugs. Our scientists are developing ways to infect mice (who are naturally immune), which will serve as models upon which to test vaccines and newly developed anti-viral drugs. These researchers include Dr. Lior Nissim and Dr. Yossi Buganim, among others.

Molecular epidemiology studies to identify susceptible and resistant populations: Genetic variations among people may explain why some people are infected and others not, and why some develop more severe disease than others. Genetic studies may reveal ways to stop this – and subsequent – epidemics. We are constructing a new biobank to study and screen genetic factors contributing to disease susceptibility. These include Dr. Shai CarmiDr. Yotam DrierProf. Asaf HellmanProf. Hanah Margalit, and Dr. Yuval Tabach.

Drug development to block infection and reduce tissue damage: Our cellular biologists and pharmacology scientists are experimenting with repurposing clinically approved drugs and food additives to reduce infectivity and reduce tissue damage caused by the virus. These include Prof. Shmuel Ben-SassonProf. Moshe Kotler, and Prof. Albert Taraboulos.

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Multiculturalism and Diversity Legal Clinic

Clinic Workers and Students

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The Multiculturalism and Diversity Clinic operates within the Faculty of Law, giving voice to the different cultural groups within Israeli society by using the law and other strategies such as dialogue among different populations. Each year, some 16 students participate in this clinic. They employ a variety of tools to promote minority groups and fruitful dialogue between communities in Israeli society; study multicultural theory; and provide legal representation for cases and advance policy in areas such as profiling, segregation in education, and structural discrimination of minorities in the criminal justice system.

Impact & Achievements

  • In 2017/18 the Clinic handled 35 cases, 4 of which went to court; 38 legal requests and appeals were made.
  • Presented position papers at the Knesset on integration of students of Ethiopian descent and advancing policy for combatting police brutality.
  • Presented a report that led to the establishment of the Forum of Israelis of Ethiopian Descent in the Criminal Justice System.
  • Conducted groundwork for a proposed reform to history curricula in high school to include Mizrahi history.
  • Submitted 16 different Freedom of Information requests for Israelis of Ethiopian descent, after the Population and Immigration Authority had failed to provide any response at all.
  • Filed a libel suit against a radio station for using a picture of a student wearing a hijab as an illustration of a Muslim woman who supports terrorism.
  • Handles 20+ legal cases each year (several set precedents); representation of various clients experiencing discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, transgender status etc.
  • Launched an information campaign entitled ‘Stop Profiling: Look at Me' to raise awareness of racial profiling on public transportation.
  • Hosted the bi-lingual Inti B’tichki Arabiya (You Speak Arabic) event featuring art, academia and experiential learning of Arabic.

In the photo: Students and Clinical Lawyers, in role of ‘friend of court’ and representatives of the Noar Ke’Halacha NGO, at a court hearing on discrimination within education system against ultra-Orthodox girls of Sephardi background.

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Ending the Year on a High Note: The Street Law Project

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The Street Law Project works with youngsters who have been convicted, as part of their court-mandated rehabilitation plan, as well as care cases – children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. The year usually ends with a large production: a mock trial, written by law students and the teens and staged before parents, probation officers, other guests, and judges – members of HU’s Faculty of Law.

This past year, 45 youngsters were in the program, divided into three groups. They participated in weekly workshops run by students in the Rights of Youth at Risk Clinic on the Mt. Scopus campus. The Coronavirus struck just as they were scheduled to begin preparing the mock trial.

During the shutdown, the law students tried to maintain contact via phone calls or Zoom, despite the teens differential access to technology and the internet. Within each group, a core of participants continued meeting, yet the mock-trial was a lost cause. The clinic encouraged the students to think of an alternative project, to end the year on a high note.

The group of East Jerusalem youth, led by law students Hanan Hneif, Francis Tuma, and Mona Gawi, decided to focus on case studies. They divided participants into smaller groups, and each analyzed a separate scenario dealing with sexual assault, fraud, freedom of expression, or the penal code. The teens outlined how the law required them to act, their rights, and more. At the group’s final meeting, which took place on campus, each group presented their case study and fielded questions.

Hanan, Francis, and Mona also prepared a game show to summarize the year and distributed certificates. Each teen was given the opportunity to share how the program had impacted them.

Law students Smadar Laufer and Adiel Zanzouri led a West Jerusalem group of teens. They were inspired by a question they’d posed earlier in the year, both to their peers and the teens: How do you see the law? While students saw the law as a tool for empowerment, the teens saw the law as controlling and belittling. Thus, the students asked the teens to think of a law they disagreed with and develop a legal argument to support their position. The topics ranged from animal rights, the LGBT community, and the mandate to wear a protective mask. The teens gained experience applying the law in support of their own beliefs. The event took place in the largest auditorium, enabling parents to support their children while also socially distancing.

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Developing Drought-Tolerant, High-Yielding Tef Varieties

Muluken
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Muluken Demelie Alemu is from Debre Markos, northwest Ethiopia. He holds a bachelor's of science in Crop Production and Protection and a master's of science in Horticulture, both from Haramaya University. Muluken has taught and conducted research at the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research respectively.

Today, Muluken is a PhD student in Field and Vegetable Crops at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. His research aims to establish the basis for developing drought-tolerant, high-yielding tef varieties. Tef is a cereal crop, a major commodity in Ethiopia. To this end, he is growing a large collection of tef genotypes with differing amounts of water, currently in Israel and subsequently in Ethiopia. Muluken will collect and analyze morphological, phenological, and physiological data, as well as conduct DNA analysis to identify drought-tolerant tef genotypes and characterize the mechanisms underlying their superior performance.

"By developing drought-tolerant tef varieties, we will be able to enhance and sustain tef production and productivity. This will help to improve food security, nutrition, and income, especially for those living in drought-prone regions of Ethiopia and worldwide."
 

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Renana Atia, Communications

Renana Atia
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Exploring Questions of Representation and Stereotypes

Renana Atia is a doctoral student in the Smart Family Institute of Communications at the Hebrew University. She was educated in both ultra-Orthodox and National Religious schools, and later completed her national service working with people from diverse backgrounds. 

Moving between different worlds, Renana has always been interested in questions of representation – specifically, how the media (mis)represents  certain groups (e.g., women, religious communities). She chose to study political science and communications at the Hebrew University, hoping to gain practical skills for creating social change. Yet early in her studies, she was drawn to research, as she discovered the importance and joy of methodologically studying social issues. By the end of her first year, she had decided to pursue a graduate degree.

Renana eventually earned a master’s degree in political communication with a minor in gender studies at the Lafer Center for Women and Gender Studies. At the same time, she began working as a teaching assistant for both undergraduate and graduate courses. Beyond gaining and honing her own teaching skills, Renana was thankful for the opportunity to help shape and guide the younger students in their own academic journeys.

Today, Renana is a doctoral student, conducting research under the supervision of Dr. Meital Balmas-Cohen and Prof. Eran Halperin.

"I study the cognitive motivation necessary for changing perceptions of stereotypes, and the possibility that individuals who do not adhere to stereotypes may contribute to minimizing inter-group tensions."

Her research will employ quantitative methods and be rooted in data from  several countries, including Israel, the United States, and Germany. Renana greatly enjoys her studies and is particularly thankful for the Faculty of Social Sciences' support, which ranges from lectures on publishing, assistance editing English texts, and information about post-doctoral opportunities.

Outside of her studies, Renana practices archery and is involved in an organization that aims to increase women’s participation in the sport, including women who are either at-risk or come from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Looking forward, she hopes for a career that combines research and teaching.

"The Hebrew University, and in particular the Faculty of Social Science, have provided me with amazing support, while also granting me the freedom to conduct my doctoral research. The Hebrew University has never ceased to challenge me.

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Sowing, Harvesting & Laughing Together

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6:40am. A minibus pulls up, and twenty-six Hebrew University pile in. Some are ready to go, while others are still half-asleep. Everyone aboard, the minibus heads westward. As the sun rises, the students begin to chat, half Hebrew, half English.

The minibus heads to the Joseph Marguleas Experimental Farm near the Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The group is a mix of first year Israeli BSc students and international MSc students. Once a week, they travel to the Experimental Farm to work alongside farmers who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.

These farmers, aged 65-92, have been at their plots since dawn. Back in Ethiopia, they lived off the land, but this connection was broken when they moved to Israel. In 2016, Hebrew University Prof. Prof. Alon Samach offered plots to eight farmers, and the project took root. Today, the program has grown to include some forty farmers who tend to a variety of crops.

Once a week, the Hebrew University students work alongside the Ethiopian famers, as part of their degree program. In exchange for their help with the heavy lifting, the students gain hands-on experience. After tending to the crops, everyone comes together for a workshop.

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Dr. Suheir Sayed Omar, Chemistry Teacher-Scholar

Dr. Suheir Sayed Omar

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Suheir Sayed Omar has been dedicated to her research in organic chemistry at the Hebrew University for over 10 years. She decided to enroll in the Teacher-Scholar program in order to give school children the tools and encouragement they need to succeed in their studies.

"When I was in high school, no one explained to me how to study or the value of higher education. So my mission as a teacher is to empower my pupils by showing them that if they study seriously, they will be able to fulfill their potential and make choices about their future. This program is my way of giving back to the community by sharing my love of learning with the younger generation."

While Suheir is at the beginning of her Teacher-Scholar training, she is already completely devoted to teaching chemistry for the matriculation exam at a high school in East Jerusalem. A trailblazer in several ways, she is the first Arabic speaker in the program, the first to work in East Jerusalem, and the first connection that her colleagues and students have had with the Hebrew University. 

Suheir's charisma and passion for her subject are infectious. Though initially only nine students signed up for chemistry, another 11 joined her class on hearing their friends enthuse about her teaching. She ignited their curiosity from the outset by a simple, magical experiment: using colors and heat, Suheir demonstrated how understanding the properties of chemical materials can open the door to learning about other chemical processes and phenomena around us. 

Suheir draws on her University research to motivate her students to excel, describing to them the triumphs and failures that are integral to lab work, and telling them about the undergraduates who she helped succeed. Determined to ensure her pupils' progress, even during the Coronavirus lockdown, she made herself available at all hours to answer questions and received effusive compliments from their parents in return.

"I truly believe that every student can succeed when they know their teachers care. I introduced a feedback questionnaire for the whole student body, which every pupil completes after an exam to assess their own performance and to record where they felt they were missing information. Otherwise, as teachers, we miss the opportunity to educate them properly."

Suheir grew up in the Arab town of Deir al-Asad in the Galilee but has spent her whole academic career at the Hebrew University. When not teaching, her research focuses on designing new materials for the catalysis process and preparing capsules for improving the controlled release of active materials.

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Understanding How Human Cells Work – By Studying Animal Evolution

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What can we learn by comparing our genes to those of a giant squid, a frog, or a blind mole? Turns out, a lot. Especially if you throw in 1,600 other species whose full genomes have been decoded in recent years. This is the specialty of Dr. Yuval Tabach at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine – taking apart the genes of thousands of animals, comparing them to one another, and extracting important conclusions about what human genes do, how they influence cancer and other diseases, and how they can be targeted by drugs.

Thanks to exponential developments in genomics, Dr. Tabach now has access to the genomes of 1,600+ species. This is Big Data: the ability to compare millions of genes, representing hundreds of millions of years of evolution. (For comparison, Dr. Tabach’s first paper, published in 2013, was based on 87 species, and in 2019 he had access to 600 species). 

Mining such vast amounts of data to benefit humans is far from simple. Dr. Tabach’s lab develops artificial intelligence algorithms that can search and compare these genomes for evolutionary patterns – identifying distinct networks of genes that execute a particular function. 

Co-Evolving Genes: An Indicator of Mutual Reliance (and Significance) 

How is this done? A guiding principle is that if two genes co-evolve closely together across many species, they are likely to play a similar role and even work together. Co-evolution means that these genes are always found together within a given species, and both absent in other species. In other words, if two genes have evolved together and changed at a similar rate across species, they may rely on each other to execute their tasks.

For example, Dr. Tabach’s algorithms can identify the genes that enable most animals (but not humans) to biosynthesize vitamin C or the genes involved in eyesight. His computational tools can highlight entire gene networks, including genes that might not have been thought to play a role in a given function.

Using his powerful methods, Dr. Tabach recently discovered new functions of genes involved in human breast cancer. By tracking the co-evolution of genes associated with DNA repair (genes that maintain the integrity of our genome) he discovered new genes involved in this important function. When these “repair” genes mutate in cancer, this contributes to the disease. 

Nature’s Superpowers 

Another passion of Dr. Tabach’s is studying nature’s “superpowers”: outliers in the animal kingdom. In particular, he is interested in animals that do not develop cancer and whose aging is slow – including elephants, whales, and naked mole rats. Often these are larger animals, with significantly more cells than humans, and thus have a higher potential for incurring mutations. And yet, these animals have substantially less cancer than other creatures, including humans.

"My team has identified 101 such genes that may play a role in these species’ resistance to cancer. Laboratory tests have shown that one of these genes was capable of reducing cancer potential by 10-20% in human cells, through improving the mechanism of repairing damaged DNA. It is easy to imagine the exciting, vast potential of the other 100 genes, which can be translated into dozens of new anti-cancer mechanisms."

Will We Grow Tusks?

If we begin replacing our genes with elephant DNA, will we become elephants? No. The genetic signatures and genes identified by Dr. Tabach are associated with cancer resistance and can increase life expectancy across species. Having survived millions of years of evolution, these universal, anti-cancer mechanisms may play an extremely valuable role without being highly specific to one organism or another. 

What’s Next?

Computational tools are predictive: they can scan and process large amounts of data and identify patterns. However, the findings and predictions must be tested through laboratory work – first with human cells and tissues, then with live animals. One of Dr. Tabach’s goals is to genetically engineer a cancer-resistant and potentially long-lived mouse. Another direction he is actively pursuing is the development of medications that mimic or replace genes. These may serve as preventative or curative measures.

Dr. Tabach’s work is both broad and specific – and offers hope of a healthier future for people worldwide.

"It is really exciting for us to look back through hundreds of millions of years of genetic evolution, and extract information that can impact human health in the present."

To read about Dr. Tabach’s Coronavirus research, click here.

Photo credit: "Mouse ENCODE" by Darryl Leja, NHGRI. Accessed on Flickr, used under a CC BY 2.0 license. The image has been cropped

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Israeli Docs Strike Big Blow to “Superbugs”

Stock Image Microscope

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Hebrew U. Team Brings Hope to Patients with Life-Threatening, Drug-Resistant Infections

Every year in the United States, more than 35,000 people die and 2.8 million get sick from antibiotic-resistant infections.  Now, a team led by Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Professor Nathalie Balaban and Shaarei Zedek Medical Center’s Dr. Maskit Bar-Meir has shown that resilient bacteria may be treatable with currently-available therapies.  In a study published in Science magazine, the researchers show that aggressive bacteria can be controlled - but only if doctors administer treatment within a short window of opportunity.

Like all living organisms, germs like bacteria develop defenses against hostile elements in their environment.  One common tactic is “tolerance”, that is, lying dormant during antibiotic treatment.  In this way, bacteria evade antibiotic treatment because antibiotics can only spot and kill growing targets.  However, this intermediary stage called “antibiotic tolerance” lasts only a few days and cannot be detected in standard medical labs.  Therefore, doctors miss the tolerance window and with it the opportunity to treat a serious infection before it becomes altogether resistant.  This short window does not affect most healthy adults but for those patients fighting off a blood infection with a weakened immune system, this window is critical and could mean the difference between life and death.

In a previous study, Balaban and PhD student Irit Levin-Reisman studied lab-controlled bacteria.  They developed a mathematical model that successfully described, measured and predicted when bacteria would develop tolerance to a particular antibiotic.  Further, they observed that when bacteria developed tolerance to one antibiotic, they were more likely to develop tolerance to other antibiotics in the cocktail.  “We observed that bacteria acquired tolerance within a few days. These tolerance mutations then acted as a stepping stone to acquire resistance and, ultimately, treatment failure,” described Balaban.

Now, as published in the latest edition of Science, HU’s Balaban lab and Dr. Jiafeng Liu teamed up with Bar-Meir and repeated their study and tolerance test technique.  Only this time, they analyzed daily bacterial samples from hospitalized patients with life-threatening, persistent MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections.  The pattern that they found was strikingly similar to their lab findings: First, the patients’ bacteria developed tolerance, then resistance, and ultimately antibiotic treatment failed. 

Looking ahead, Balaban believes that the same evolutionary processes involved in the development of antibiotic tolerance and resistance are likely at play in cancer and might be used to inform treatment.  For example, tumor cells might first become tolerant of chemotherapy, develop resistance to it, and then develop resistance to other cancer drugs, as well.

In the short term, Balaban and Bar-Meir would like to give new hope for patients with life-threatening infections by encouraging medical centers to adopt the laboratory test they developed which gauges antibiotic tolerance.  This readout would enable doctors to quickly and easily detect whether a patient’s bacteria are tolerant of a planned antibiotic treatment before it’s administered.  Further, based on the patient’s bacteria profile, doctors could handpick antibiotics with a greater chance of success that, as is currently done, blindly choose antibiotics for which the patient may have already developed a tolerance. “Using the right combination of available antibiotic drugs at the outset could dramatically increase a patients’ survival rate before their infection becomes tolerant to all the antibiotics in our arsenal,” Balaban concluded.

CITATION: Effect of tolerance on the evolution of antibiotic resistance under drug combinations. Liu Jiafeng, Orit Gefen, Irine Ronin, Maskit Bar-Meir, and Nathalie Q. Balaban. Science, January 10, 2020. Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 200-204. DOI: 10.1126/science.aay3041

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Something in the Air: Serious Underestimation of Global Warming

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Photo by Sasson Tiram

EMET Prize-winning scientist, Professor Daniel Rosenfeld, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, has developed a satellite imaging method which has determined that the extent of global warming has been grossly underestimated.

Until recently, science was unable to quantify manmade responsibility for climate change, including that of aerosols and their effect on clouds. The new method “enables us to quantify climate effects on a global scope, provides a more accurate assessment of the processes affecting global warming, and reduces the uncertainty there is about climate change," remarked Rosenfeld. With his colleagues, Professor Meinrat O. Andreae from the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, Professor Zhanqing Li from the University of Maryland, Professor Paulo Artaxo from the University of Sao Paulo, and Yannian Zhu from the Meteorological Institute of Shaanxi Province in China, they discovered a new way to determine both cloud-base updraft speeds and quantify aerosol particles’ ability to create cloud droplets. Their new method used measurements from an existing meteorological satellite rather than conventional aircraft and ground stations.

Because current best predictions of global climate change have not had the advantage of this more accurate new satellite-imaging method  of measurement, Rosenfeld believes that using this new methodology “ will lead to more informed decisions with respect to the actions needed to counter global warming".  

Read more here.

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Mehubarim Getting Connected on Hebrew University Campuses

Students Learning

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Mehubarim (connected) is a collaboration between the Hebrew University's Student Union and Rothberg International School. The program started as a language exchange program where Hebrew speaking students were paired with foreign language speaking students in order to help one another improve their second language skills.

The program was founded with an emphasis on language learning skills, while the social aspect was a side benefit. Three years ago, Ira Kirschner, who is now director of the Office of Student Life at Rothberg, and Tal Arama, the Student Union's liaison to Rothberg, decided to shift the focus of Mehubarim and leverage the opportunity to connect international and Israeli students on a social level.

This year's directors, Keren Soimu, from the Student Union, and Orel Achirotem, from Rothberg, are focused on marketing the program and increasing its visibility on campus. These efforts paid off, as of now more than 300 students signed up this semester, ten times more students than last year.

 "The program is a platform that serves as a kind of 'dating app' but for meeting friends. We match students according to personal interests and requests," Soimu explains. “Students are looking for these types of connections, and this platform helps fill this need."

The program has three official meetings each semester, which focus on engaging activities, in hopes that a bond will form and spark a friendship that the students will want to further develop outside of the framework of the program.

"As a student, it took me a very long time to leave my comfort zone and discover the great social life on campus," Soimu shares. “This program could help both Israeli and Rothberg students adjust, network, and feel more connected to the University community."

Soimu explains the importance of working with Rothberg, “Often it feels like there are two separate communities on campus. The study abroad programs are separated and there aren't many opportunities to meet and form connections. Our main goal is to raise awareness and provide a platform that connects the two communities."

“We want students to see the international students as a part of the University and not as a separate entity. We often don't realize how many of them form opinions about Israel, during these experiences; some even consider moving here. Not only does Mehubarim expose them to Israeli culture outside of the classroom, it helps them connect to this place on an emotional, national and social level. As for the Israeli students, we feel like this is a great opportunity to network, make contacts abroad and gain exposure to the global community."

Students Together

Mehubarim students pose with their artwork created at the Paint Date event. 

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The Power of Listening

Girls Talking and Listening

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The Harvard Business Review has published research by Prof. Avraham (Avi) Kluger of The Hebrew University's School of Business Administration, together with Dr. Guy Itzchakov of the Ono Academic College.

The study focuses on the importance of managers listening to their subordinates, and how such listening can enable employees to learn, grow, and improve. The study strongly suggests that supervisors steer away from providing feedback; in fact, Prof. Kluger has published articles demonstrating how feedback actually negatively affects employee performance. Instead, managers should listen attentively, ask constructive questions, and avoid being judgmental or imposing solutions.

Through laboratory experiments and field studies, Prof. Kluger and Dr. Itzchakov discovered that when paired with a good listener, speakers reported feeling less anxious, more self-aware, and achieved higher clarity and nuance. In one study, speakers assigned to talk about their leadership skills with a good listener were more likely to elaborate upon their strengths and weaknesses, compared to speakers paired with distracted or poor listeners.

Listening may make leaders feel weak. Listening takes time and requires being open to change. But this study demonstrates listening's immense benefits: employees are more likely to open up, feel empowered, and share their views.

It's true. Listen to us.

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The Urban Clinic: A Town Square

Luisa Venancio

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Luisa Venancio is a PhD student in urban and regional studies, as well as a staff member of the Urban Clinic. She studied architecture and planning in her native Brazil, before moving to France to study for a master’s degree, where she remained to work in humanitarian architecture, including planning post-disaster, low-cost, and cooperative housing. 

Luisa came to realize that projects might fail, not because they were poorly planned, but because they were not planned together with the community they served. Thus, in 2016 she moved to Israel to begin Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Community Development program. Yet unable to stay away from planning, she immediately became involved with the Urban Clinic. For example, through the clinic she presented to Israeli planners the case study of Medellín, a city in Columbia that undertook a radical, innovative project of social urbanism.

Glocal’s highlight is, undoubtably, the 4-month internship; Luisa decided to intern with Islam Idaes, an Urban Clinic colleague who was the planner for three East Jerusalem neighborhoods. In one of these neighborhoods, a girls’ high school was going to be built. Islam suggested that Luisa teach 9th graders architecture and together develop their vision for the new school, which could be presented to municipal decision-makers. The project was a success, and additional fund raising made it possible to hold an exhibition and publish a tri-lingual booklet. For her thesis, Luisa interviewed the girls about their experiences during the project.

"Everyone seemed in favor of this project, it was in the consensus: teaching girls architecture, technology, and urbanism. So many people offered to help, perhaps because I was an outsider [to the conflict] and they saw the potential for the kids."

With the Urban Clinic playing such a significant role in her studies, Luisa knew she couldn’t leave. She has remained on the Urban Clinic’s staff, while beginning her PhD. She currently works on Urban95, a project focused on toddlers’ experiences living in cities. She’s also a teaching assistant for the course, Big Cities for Little Children. Luisa’s doctoral research will be in this vein, examining the effects of the urban environment upon young children.

"The Urban Clinic has become one of my homes in Jerusalem. It is like a town square, where people come together to share advice, come up with creative ideas, and help one another. My time at the Urban Clinic and living in Jerusalem has taught me to listen and get things done in a polarized environment."

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Meet Karthikeyan Pandi, PhD Dental Student

Karthikeyan Pandi

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Karthikeyan "Karthick" Pandi is a PhD student in the Faculty of Dental Medicine. He grew up in Madurai, a city in southern India, and is the first in his family to pursue a higher education. He studied biotechnology, earning a BSc at Thiagarajar College in his hometown, and then a Msc from Alagappa University, two hours away. He decided to dedicate himself to dental research after a dear friend and neighbor lost their life to oral cancer.

Having been exposed to HUJI research and publications, Karthick chose to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem because it would best prepare him for a career conducting dental research. He currently studies the way in which P. gingivalis, the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, evades the human immune system.

"My education has given me a solid foundation for a career in research, and I am so glad I made the decision to come here. … I am lucky enough to have access to everything that HUJI can offer."

Moving to a foreign country, Karthikeyan wasn’t sure what to expect. He’s surrounded by different languages and is working to learn both Hebrew and Arabic. “I have been enjoying the peace of Shabbath, which you can't find in India,” Karthikeyan says. He enjoys immersing himself in the beauty and history of the Old City.

But in the present, Karthikeyan has found that the University is an excellent way to encounter different cultures and communities, alongside a rigorous academic program. He says, “Apart from the difficulties associated with the language, HUJI seems the best in its hospitality for foreign students.”

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Ravitejas Patil, India, MSc in Plant Science

Ravitejas Patil

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Ravitejas Patil hails from Bangalore, India, which is considered that country’s Silicon Valley. When deciding what to study, he decided against the mechanical and engineering fields, which he had encountered through his father’s work as an engineer. Instead, Ravitejas turned to the natural sciences, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad. 

In considering his next step, Ravitejas wanted to study abroad in order to broaden his horizons as much as possible. A friend living in Israel recommended the International School of Agricultural Sciences in the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

"Israel is a great place to study. The country was built and developed by such a small population, there’s nowhere like it in terms of technology and innovations."

Today, Ravitejas is working towards his MSc in Plant Science, studying how plants react to stress, namely drought conditions. His work is comparative; he studies differences between tomato varieties, including the commercially available tomato, a wild, desert variety, and lines bred by Prof. Dani Zamir.  

In particular, Ravitejas studies the plants’ phenotype, meaning their external characteristics. To this end, he uses the high-throughput physiological phenotyping system (patented by his advisor, Prof. Menachem Moshelion, and Prof. Rony Wallach) to carry out his experiments in the greenhouse, while also manually measuring traits such as a leaf’s water potential and osmotic potential. In this way, Ravitejas can understand how much water plants can hold and retain, as part of their response to drought.

Looking forward, Ravitejas would like to earn a PhD and return to India to put his knowledge to use. Many Indian farmers still employ traditional methods, due to an assortment of barriers to mechanization.

"I want to help famers in India maximize their yield. This means developing and implementing ways to get the best possible crop at the lowest possible cost."

The Coronavirus Shut-Down 

When the country went into lock-down mode, only students who were living on campus were able to access the labs and greenhouses. Ravitejas was one of two members of his lab living in campus. As a result, he was kept busy from morning till night, tending to and advancing his colleagues research – in addition to his own research, which had been scheduled to begin in March. Thanks to his immense efforts, his lab-mates were able to pick up their research and continue – as if nothing happened.

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Tzvi Michelson, Schulich Leader, Computer Science & Psychology

Tzvi Michelson

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Tzvi Michelson is a third-year student double majoring in computer science and psychology. At first glance, these fields seem quite distant, and Tzvi divides his time between the Mt. Scopus and Edmond J. Safra campuses. Yet he is fascinated by their overlap – namely, artificial intelligence. 

To gain hands on experience, Tzvi is involved in two research projects – one on either campus. On Mt. Scopus he works in Prof. Avi Kluger’s lab, conducting a meta-analysis of studies on people who listen to traumatic experiences, otherwise known as secondary trauma. Specifically, Tzvi is interested in how the extent of exposure influences the severity of secondary trauma. One hypothesis is that extensive listening would desensitize the listener, while another, competing, hypothesis is that listeners who perceive themselves as helpful or empathetic would experience more severe secondary trauma. 

On the Edmond J. Safra campus, Tzvi is involved in Dr. Guy Katz’s lab, working on machine learning and studying ways to make neural networks more efficient. For example, drones are capable of “reading” their surroundings to avoid crashes. But the larger the neural network the heavier the drone, and the more expensive the hardware. Thus, simplifying these neural networks has great potential in a variety of fields. 

For the duration of his studies, Tzvi has been a Schulich Leader, along with approximately 40 other Hebrew University students. A few years ago, the Leaders decided to hold tri-weekly meetings and take turns presenting ideas or experiences from their lives. When it was Tzvi’s turn to present, he led a discussion on fear, spanning the fear of failure, fear of success, and various ways to handle and leverage fear within the academic world.

In addition, Tzvi and his classmate Mohr Wenger founded Forstart, in response to two striking observations. First, most computer science students come from academic or high-tech-oriented families. Second, most computer science students were unable to apply for various scholarships, as these required them to volunteer for a high number of hours per week. This initiative, which operates in collaboration with the Jerusalem Education Administration and the Al Bashir Leadership Program, addresses both these issues. Twenty computer science students tutor fifty middle- and high-school students for three hours a week. These sessions take place on the Safra campus, close to their studies. Forstart aims to introduce the youngsters to academia and foster their sense of capability – inspiring them to consider higher education in the future. After the program’s first semester, the youngsters reported a staggering improvement in their technical skills and a dramatic increase in their academic self-confidence. 

Looking forward, Tzvi hopes to continue to a master’s degree in computer science – focusing on artificial general intelligence. This is a combination of many fields – image and language processing, along with modeling emotions. The Hebrew University is a leader in these fields, and Tzvi is plenty motivated – perhaps he will be credited with the next major AI breakthrough!

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Achieving a Deeper Understanding of the World

Skylar Inman

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Skyler Inman grew up Houston, TX. As an undergraduate student at Yale, she studied English language and literature, with a concentration in nonfiction creative writing. She began writing for The Globalist, a quarterly international affairs magazine run entirely by undergraduate students. During her time there, she participated in three annual reporting trips – to Vietnam, Bosnia and Serbia, and Peru. She spent her summers interning at various magazines. 

After graduating, Skyler received a grant to spend a year in Israel and produce a storytelling podcast about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She named the show Intractable.  This experience pivoted Skyler in two entirely new directions. First, it was the beginning of her career in radio journalism. Second, as her podcast progressed, Skyler found herself with more questions than answers.

"I was frustrated with the media at the time and wanted to broaden my understanding of the themes that emerged from my recordings. I was eager to academically investigate the impact of development work on peace, conflict, and identity."

 

 

Friends had recommended Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Development master’s program, and Skyler decided to apply. Entering the program, she was thrilled to be surrounded by people who thought deeply about the same issues as her and found the program’s classes to be a grounding experience. 

For her internship, Skyler worked with Mesila, an organization that works with the families of migrant workers and asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv. She carried out an evaluation for the social work team, as they helped parents to children with special needs realize their rights. As a result of Skyler’s study, Mesila has identified new avenues for programming.

"Thanks to Glocal, I better understand how the world works: international aid, international debt, economics, post-colonial theory – and more. My thinking has been greatly enriched. As a journalist, I’m able to take a more nuanced approach and offer listeners a more thoughtful experience."

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Shelly Engdau Vanda, Social Work

Shelly Engdau Vanda

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Shelly Engdau Vanda was born in Ethiopia and made aliya with her family, via Sudan, when she was five years old. Although she was a bright student, there was nothing about her upbringing that hinted she’d become a trailblazer. Today, Shelly is one of only a handful of Israeli doctoral students of Ethiopian descent.

"Throughout my years in academia, I never had a single professor of Ethiopian descent. Even today, there are none or next to none in Israel. We’ve created a loose network of Ethiopian academics and we support each other."

Shelly was the first in her family to obtain a higher education when she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work. She spent the next four years working in early childhood centers, which offer professional services ranging from speech and occupational therapy to psychological services. Working primarily with families who’d emigrated from Ethiopia, Shelly developed and adapted programs to their needs. Eventually, she was appointed to manage one such center herself. 

Four years later, Shelly decided to pursue a master’s degree. She enrolled in the Hebrew University’s early childhood program. Her thesis was recently published as a book, Resilience in Immigration: The Story of Ethiopian Jews in Israel from a Perspective of 30 Years.  

After completing her master’s degree, Shelly spent the next seven years working for the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality in different management roles. She was also a member of the municipal taskforce that helped immigrants from Ethiopia settle in the city. Shelly began noticing problems in how the social services and educational system treated these immigrants; while the problems initially seemed minor, she gradually realized their systemic nature. 

Although Shelly loved working with people, she decided to return to academia to better understanding these issues and hopefully contribute to their resolution. She completed her doctoral studies under the supervision of Prof. Dorit Roer-Strier from the Nevet Greenhouse.

"I saw how programs meant to help repeatedly failed, causing both sides much frustration. I developed a model that was rooted in these immigrants’ resilience, not their shortcomings. This model can be adapted for any population, not just Ethiopian immigrants."

For her doctoral research, Shelly studied social workers and educators who work with children in distress from the Ethiopian community. She examined how these community practitioners perceive aspects of risk and protection in these children’s lives, and the context through which their perceptions are constructed. 

"I spend my days at the library, dividing my time between reading and writing. I’ve published a book based on my master’s thesis and am currently working on my dissertation and a volume of poetry. I love writing, the words just bubble up within me. Without the financial support I’ve received, I wouldn’t have been able to fully dedicate myself to my writing."

Shelly recently submitted her doctoral thesis and was planning on a post-doctoral position in Germany. But the Coronavirus changed her plans, and she will continue her research at the Hebrew University. She hopes to eventually join the Hebrew University faculty. Her husband, also of Ethiopian descent, is also a full-time doctoral student nearing the end of his studies. Besides raising three young children, the couple also provides financial assistance to their parents and siblings. 

In addition, Shelly has been volunteering for as long as she can remember. She’s tutored and mentored children and students, young adults in crisis, and is active in a number of organizations, including the Israel’s social work newsletter, the Coalition for Education from Birth, and Beersheba Mothers Against Police Violence.

Over the course of her doctoral studies, Shelly received four prestigious awards: The Nira Shenhar Prize for Excellence (2017); the Dean’s Award for Ongoing Volunteer Work with Individuals and the Community; The ISEF Award of Excellence (2020); and the Rector’s Award for Community Volunteering.

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Unraveling the Mysteries of the Brain

Shir Filo
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Shir Filo is a PhD student in computational neuroscience at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC). She was born and raised in Tzurit, a small village in northern Israel, where she enjoyed belonging to a tight-knit, supportive community.   

Drawn to the possibility of solving some of life’s biggest mysteries, Shir studied physics and biology in high school. She eventually chose to major in these two fields as an undergraduate student at the Hebrew University and was accepted to the Etgar track for excelling students in the life sciences.

"After graduating, I realized I wanted to combine physics and biology in order to understand the most mysterious part of ourselves – the brain. Physics allows us to describe and understand the world so elegantly, and I believe that when it intersects with biology, the most interesting questions of our lives can be answered."

Developing a Quantitative MRI  

Today, Shir conducts her research in Dr. Aviv Mezer’s laboratory, developing new techniques for quantitative MRI. Currently, doctors estimate, by eye (qualitatively), whether MRI scans look normal. If they suspect a problem, the patient will undergo a painful and invasive biopsy – perhaps unnecessarily.

Yet nearly every other aspect of our healthcare is quantitative. We measure the temperature of our body in Celsius or Fahrenheit and measure the different components of our blood (red cells, white cells, platelets, etc). Why should MRI scans be any different? Shir has come up with a solution. Her biophysical models combine several MRI scans, providing quantitative information about brain tissue, including lipids and proteins.

Shir’s method can provide valuable information about the molecular changes that take place during aging, and it will be helpful for both research and clinical practice. For example, understanding what differentiates a healthily aging brain from an Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s brain, or even to estimate the grade of a brain tumor without a biopsy.

"Not only is ELSC world-famous research center, but it also has a great sense of community, where everyone knows each other and are willing to help. Sometimes ELSC feels like a small village with a unique language and culture. It immediately draws you in and makes you feel like you belong."

Over the course of her studies, Shir has received numerous awards, including prizes from the University Rector and Dean for outstanding academic performance. She has co-published a number of articles and a book chapter.

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The Career Center

The Career Center
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Seeking to provide its students not only with a stellar academic and professional education but also with assistance in finding suitable and fulfilling employment following their degree studies, in October 2019 the Hebrew University opened the Hebrew University (HUJI) Career Center, which operates in conjunction with the Student Union and partners in the Jerusalem municipality.

In the tradition of universities in the United States, the new HUJI Career Center offers Hebrew University students and graduates a range of services, from individual career counseling, through lectures and workshops designed to hone job market skills, to large-scale mediated encounters with potential employers.

The Hebrew University is seeking to more firmly establish the existing activities, some currently funded from various temporary sources, and to expand the activities and services offered to University students (including targeted services for specific populations such as Arab and Haredi students), thus providing all students with the optimal preparation for securing appropriate, rewarding employment following their graduation.

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HU Students Volunteer to Tutor East and West Jerusalem High School Students

Student Tutoring

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Israeli schools shut down just as high school students were beginning to prepare for their matriculation exams. Dr. Inbal Goshen of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University realized that many youngsters were likely not getting the help they needed during this crucial time. Dr. Goshen's was closely familiar with the needs of high school students, as last year she taught a class at the Leyada high school, adjacent to the Hebrew University.

Dr. Goshen contacted the heads of faculties and departments across the University. Within a week, she had assembled a virtual team of 140 student volunteers, which eventually grew to 170 volunteers. Using digital platforms, these volunteers currently tutor 190 high school students from 11 schools in a wide variety of topics, ranging from physics, mathematics, biology, English, Arabic, computer science, history, and Bible.

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Revolutionizing Cancer Treatment

Benzion Amoyav

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Benzion Amoyav was always drawn to science. As a high school student, he studied both chemistry and biology, and was looking forward to continuing studying science at the university level. But at the same time, he also wanted his studies to benefit society. He decided to study pharmacy, which perfectly blended his two passions. 

During his undergraduate studies, Benzion conducted research in Prof. Ofra Benny’s laboratory, focused on developing a system that produces highly tunable micro- and nanoparticles for treating tumors. These “smart” particles primarily attack the tumor and release drugs in a controlled manner, resulting in better patient outcomes and less negative side effects.

After graduating, Benzion completed his internship at Hadassah, received his pharmacy license, and returned to Prof. Benny’s lab to continue with his research, eventually earning a master’s degree.

Today, as a doctoral student, Benzion is researching liver cancer and embolization (blocking solid tumors’ blood supply), a common, yet limited-efficacy, clinical practice for treating various types of tumors. He is taking a radically different approach by countering the microenvironmental conditions that are favorable to tumors. His main effort is to develop a drug-delivery device for focused therapy in combination with embolization.

By releasing the drug in a targeted fashion in close proximity to the tumor, Benzion’s research will enable doctors to reduce side effects, increase efficiency, and improve clinical outcomes.

"I believe that research education is the key for innovation and improvement, because laboratory-based discoveries can help large numbers of people. I am grateful for having the opportunity to impact other people’s lives.

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Student Dormitories

Dorm Photo

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The Hebrew University dormitories are located on and near the campuses in Rehovot and across Jerusalem. The eight residential complexes include 4,500 rooms, which can house 6000 students. In addition, there are around 200 units for families and couples.

Over the last year, the University has improved its residential services in a number of ways. First, a new mobile-friendly website was launched, in both Hebrew and English. International and exchange students are able to learn about the dorms before their arrival, and communicate with the staff more easily during their time in Jerusalem. One dormitory re-opened for short-term stays, making it more attractive to international students.

The University is investing significant resources towards renovating its various facilities. While all buildings need some work, the extent varies. Some buildings receive cosmetic treatment, including fresh paint, new furniture, and new computer labs, while others are undergoing more intensive work, including new bathrooms and showers, upgrading smoke detectors, replacing AC systems, installing new windows and sealing roofs.

In addition, some buildings received upgraded WIFI, while others had a heat pump installed to reduce their carbon footprint.

As a result of these efforts, student satisfaction has risen. At the beginning of the school year, move-in went much more smoothly than previous years. Most significantly, the dormitories remain at full capacity and the staff simply hears less from students – the best indicator that students are having a wonderful experience in the dormitories.  

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HUJI Talks Fascinate Participants of 2019 Board of Governors

Yuval Shani HUJI Talks

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Ted-Style Talks by Keynote Hebrew University Speakers on “High-Tech Jerusalem”

This year’s Board of Governors highlighted High-Tech Jerusalem. While outdoor ceremonies, musical events and a fun-filled culinary evening in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda emphasized the centrality of Jerusalem in the University’s identity, our HUJI Talks showcased the increasing importance of High-Tech in every facet of our research as well as in our daily lives.

Some of the University’s best minds presented groundbreaking research on the cutting edge of science, technology and innovation. Though the topics were wide-ranging, they all demonstrated the symbiotic connection between high-tech and 21st century research.

This year’s distinguished speakers were Prof. Yuval Shany, Faculty of Law; Prof. Eugene Kandel, Jerusalem Business School; Prof. Hagai Eisenberg, Racah Institute of Physics; Dr. Moran Yassour, Faculty of Medicine and Rachel & Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering; Dr. Renana Keydar, Martin Buber Society of Fellows and Faculties of Humanities and of Law; Dr. Amit Zoran, Rachel & Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering; Dr. Yossi Buganim, Faculty of Medicine; Prof. Tommy Kaplan, Rachel & Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering; and Dr. Oren Ram, Faculty of Science.

Topics included the laws of war in cyberspace, what a baby’s diaper can teach us about pediatric health, creating an embryo from skin cells, and a quantum leap to the future.

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Click on the videos below to view the Talks: 

 

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News

Winner Shot

Kinoko Tech Wins Hebrew University’s 2022 Asper Prize for Emerging Startups

15 June, 2022

Kinoko Tech, founded by scientists Drs. Dalia Feldman, Jasmin Ravid and Hadar Shohat, is the 2022 winner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Asper Prize for Emerging Startups.  The 100,000 NIS cash prize was awarded by ASPER-HUJI Innovate - The Innovation Center of the Hebrew University, a Center created to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit amongst students, researchers, and alumni at Hebrew University.

Tarantino

Trailblazing Filmmaker Tarantino Joins 19 Distinguished Leaders from Diverse Fields to Receive Honorary Degree from Hebrew University

13 June, 2022

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino received an honorary degree--“Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa”--from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) at a festive ceremony during the 85th Board of Governors (BOG) meeting.

Winners

The 2022 Hebrew University Dan Maydan Prize for Nanoscience Goes to MIT Prof. Pablo Jarillo-Herrero

25 May, 2022

MIT physics Professor Pablo Jarillo-Herrero has won the 2022 Dan Maydan Prize for Nanoscience Research for his pioneering work on two-dimensional nanomaterials.  The Dan Maydan Prize was established by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) in 2018, with the generous contribution of Dr. Maydan, who played a central role in establishing the Israeli National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI).  The INNI helped position Israel as a leader in nanotech and led to the opening of 10 nanotech centers in the country, including HU’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

Tamir Sheafer

Hebrew University Appoints New Rector—Professor Tamir Sheafer

23 May, 2022

Sheafer Replaces Prof. Barak Medina, HU Rector Since 2017

Professor Tamir Sheafer was chosen by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Senate as the university’s new rector.  For the last six years, Sheafer has served as Dean of HU’s Faculty of Social Sciences.  His field of expertise is digital and comparative communications.  Over the past two decades, Sheafer has led several international research groups to study the impact of political systems and the strength of a democracy on that country’s political processes and communications.

Masada Image

Where were Herod the Great's Royal Alabaster Bathtubs Quarried?

17 May, 2022

From the Middle Bronze Age, Egypt played a crucial role in the appearance of calcite-alabaster artifacts in Israel, and the development of the local gypsum-alabaster industry. The absence of ancient calcite-alabaster quarries in the Southern Levant (modern day Israel and Palestine) led to the assumption that all calcite-alabaster vessels found in the Levant originated from Egypt, while poorer quality vessels made of gypsum were local products.

Yaniv Elkouby

Hebrew U. Study of Zebrafish Ovaries Discovers New Structure Vital for Normal Egg Development

12 May, 2022

It is humbling to realize that we human share about 70% of our genes with zebrafish. There are also a whole host of other similarities that make these small transparent fish an ideal animal model for the study of many human diseases and biological processes.  In the lab of Dr. Yaniv Elkouby at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Faculty of Medicine, the focus is on the development of the immature egg cells (oocytes) of zebrafish.

Ecuador President & Asher Cohen

Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso visits Hebrew University

12 May, 2022

Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso became the 1st sitting president of his country to visit Israel.  He arrived with a 100-member delegation that will remain in country for two weeks to visit Israeli universities and innovative projects.

Today at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Lasso and his wife First Lady Maria de Lourdes Alcivar, inaugurated Ecuador’s Office for Technology and Innovation and held a business conference called “Ecuador Open for Business” to develop investments and public-private partnerships with key players in Israel’s ecosystem. 

Anastasiia Zinevych

Following Hebrew University's Emergency Aid for Ukrainian Academic Staff & Students: 10 Refugees Arrive on Campus

13 April, 2022

Considering the threat on the lives of academics and university students in Ukraine, and in a show of solidarity, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) has offered academic hosting for Ukrainian academic staff and students.  To date, 18 such refugees have been accepted to continue their studies at the University and 10 have already arrived at our Jerusalem and Rehovot campuses. 

Edge Magnetism Illustration

Working with the Tiniest Magnets, Hebrew U. Discovers New Magnetic Phenomenon with Industrial Potential

12 April, 2022

Probing the world of the very, very small is a wonderland for physicists.  At this nano-scale, where materials as thin as 100 atoms are studied, totally new and unexpected phenomena are discovered.  Here, nature ceases to behave in a way that is predictable by the macroscopic law of physics, unlike what goes on in the world around us or out in the cosmos.

Haitham Amal & Moran Yassour

Hebrew University Drs. Moran Yassour & Haitham Amal Awarded 2022 Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research

6 April, 2022

Dr. Moran Yassour at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Dr. Haitham Amal, at HU’s Institute for Drug Research and the School of Pharmacy, have been awarded the prestigious Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research, which is administered by the Wolf Foundation. The Krill Prize is awarded each year to 10 outstanding young researchers who have not yet been granted tenure. Winners are chosen based on standards of excellence and on the subject of their research.

Cats

Hebrew University Veterinary School Concludes 12-Year Study of Street Cats, Reveals How to Successfully Control Population Numbers

6 April, 2022

Increasing numbers of free-roaming street cats is a global problem.  In fact, stray cats are considered one of the world’s most invasive species.  However, while they pose a health risk to humans, destroy large numbers of wildlife and suffer from poor welfare, most people are reluctant to cull their numbers with the fierceness we bring to rat and cockroach populations.

Ceremony

Senior Moroccan Academic Delegation Visits Hebrew University

31 March, 2022

Israel’s academic cooperation with Morocco hit a high point this week with the visit of a senior delegation from Morocco’s Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI).

Seeking to establish a medical school and school of pharmacy, the UM6P representatives met with Professor Dina Ben Yehuda, Dean of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, to learn how HUJI prepares its future doctors for a medical career based on computational medicine and AI, while maintaining humanity and compassion for their patients.

Moshe Shenfeld

Hebrew University Student Wins Prestigious Apple AI Fellowship

17 March, 2022

Israelis Nab 2 Out of 15 Spots Worldwide

Moshe Shenfeld, a computer science PhD candidate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Rachel and Selim Benin School of Engineering and Computer Science has been selected as an Apple Scholar in AI/Machine Learning for 2022.  Shenfeld is one of only 15 awardees worldwide, the other Israeli recipient is from Tel Aviv University.  The PhD fellowship in Machine Learning and AI was created by Apple “to celebrate the contributions of students pursuing cutting-edge fundamental and applied machine learning research worldwide”.

Prof. Kultstein

Extending Fertility & Reversing Aging in Human Egg Cells

8 March, 2022

"Within a decade, we hope to increase fertility among older women using anti-viral drugs"—Hebrew University’s Dr. Michael Klutstein.

Throughout much of the world, increasing numbers of women are delaying having their first child until they are in their late thirties, and even into their forties.  At this age, their eggs are rapidly deteriorating and, even with IVF, their prospects of conception are far from guaranteed.

Flag Photo

Hebrew University Offers Emergency Aid to Students & Professors from Ukraine

7 March, 2022

Plus Teaching Posts, Stipends and Studies for Fleeing Ukrainian Academics and University Students

In a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) and HU Student Union hoisted the Ukrainian flag on its campus on Mt. Scopus.  The University and its students seek to send a message of support and encouragement to Ukraine, which is now suffering the second week of a brutal invasion by the Russian military.

German Photo

German Chancellor Scholz's First Visit to Israel

2 March, 2022

New Hebrew U. Survey Probes German and Israelis Perceptions of One Another, Shows Bilateral Support for Germany as Middle-East Mediator

The visit to Israel on March 2nd of Germany's newly-elected Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, heralds a new era in German-Israel ties.  On the heels of this visit, it is timely to announce the findings of a recent survey conducted in Israel and Germany by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)'s European Forum, which reveals a complex picture regarding Israeli perceptions of Germany, as well as German perceptions of Israel. 

Ficus Photo

Hebrew U. Team Finds How Plants Make Aerial Roots

3 March, 2022

Sometimes, to see the roots, you have to look up.

Roots are normally associated with things that live underground, in the damp and the dark. Think of turnips, radishes and yams. However, many plants make their roots above ground.  Ivy uses its roots to climb on buildings and the mighty ficus tree uses them to support their large branches.  What makes plants form roots in the “wrong place,” so to speak? That would be like us humans sprouting legs from our shoulders.

Photo of Visit

Microsoft R&D Visits Hebrew University

21 February, 2022

Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, General Manager of Microsoft Israel Research and Development Center, along with company management visited the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Selim and Rachel Benin Department of Computer Science and Engineering yesterday, Israel’s leading computer science department.

The visit took place as part of Microsoft’s plans to establish an R&D center in Jerusalem.  While there, they met with HU President Prof. Asher Cohen, Rector Prof.  Barak Medina, and CEO and VP Yishai Fraenkel.

Photo of Visit

Microsoft R&D Visits Hebrew University

21 February, 2022

Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, General Manager of Microsoft Israel Research and Development Center, along with company management visited the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Selim and Rachel Benin Department of Computer Science and Engineering yesterday, Israel’s leading computer science department.

The visit took place as part of Microsoft’s plans to establish an R&D center in Jerusalem.  While there, they met with HU President Prof. Asher Cohen, Rector Prof.  Barak Medina, and CEO and VP Yishai Fraenkel.

Bird Photo

Big-Data Tracking Technologies can Uncover Wildlife Secrets & Reduce their Conflicts with Humans, International Team Led by HU Shows

17 February, 2022

Movement is ubiquitous across the natural world. All organisms move, actively or passively, regularly or during specific life stages, to meet energy, survival, reproductive and social demands.  Movement affects a variety of ecological processes and the ability of individuals to cope with human-induced, rapid environmental changes.

Cigarettes, Illustration

Working on the Covid-19 Frontline Negatively Impacts Public Health at All Levels

1 February, 2022

Stress and Smoking Rates Up Among All Hospital Workers, New Hebrew U. Study Finds

A new study, published in the leading journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research’s special issue devoted to smoking and COVID-19, found that being on the COVID-19 frontlines could negatively impact hospital workers’ mental health—even during lull periods and even for ancillary hospital staff, such as maintenance workers and administrative staff.  

Hebrew University

University of Illinois System and Hebrew University Launch Second Round of Joint R&D Teams

23 December, 2021

$200,000 in Grants Awarded to Innovative Medical, Agricultural Research 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) and The University of Illinois (U of I) System awarded $200,000 to four new interdisciplinary research teams to drive innovations and advance collaboration between the universities.  It is the second round of a seed-grant program that began in 2019.

Ilana Fox Fisher

New Liquid Biopsy Detects Local Immune Activity

15 December, 2021

Blood Test Developed at Hebrew U. Detects Immune and Inflammatory Activity in Tissues, Removing Need for Painful Biopsies and Expensive Imaging

Our immune systems work hard to keep us healthy and to protect us against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and cancerous cells.  When our Immune systems are weakened, we’re at risk for illnesses and dangerous infections; when they’re overactive, we’re at risk for inflammation and autoimmune diseases.  Therefore, accurate monitoring of our immune systems’ activity is vital to our health.  

Bacteria

Newly-Identified State in Bacteria Has Major Implications for Antibiotic Treatment and Resistant Strains

17 November, 2021

For almost two years, newsfeeds have kept us updated on the daily battle to annihilate the coronavirus.  So, it’ s easy to forget that there are also many types of bacteria threatening human health – our survival depends on the constant quest for new antibiotics that can destroy them.  Recent research provides an important insight into the complex response of bacteria to antibiotics and opens up the possibility of developing a novel and more effective class of drugs to combat major bacterial diseases.

Lachish The Assyrian Ramp

Siege Ramps and Breached Walls: Ancient Warfare and the Assyrian Conquest of Lachish

9 November, 2021

Back in the day, the Assyrians were one of the Near East’s superpowers, controlling a land mass that stretched from Iran to Egypt. They accomplished this feat with military technologies that helped them win any open-air battle or penetrate any fortified city.  While today, air power and bunker busters help win the war, back in the ninth to the seventh centuries BCE, it was all about the siege ramp, an elevated structure that hauled battering ramps up to the enemy’s city walls and let the Neo-Assyrians soldiers wreak havoc on their enemies.

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