Global Collaboration

Ofer Waldman, Recipient of First Joint PhD from the Hebrew University and Freie Universität Berlin

Ofer Waldman

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"I have two passports, two SIM cards, two addresses, and two credit cards. Luckily, I have only one email account."

Ofer Waldman grew up in Jerusalem, next door to the Edmond J. Safra Campus, and attended the Hebrew University High School, known as Leyada. He excelled at the French horn, playing with the Arab-Jewish West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded by Daniel Barenboim and Eduard Said, for three years. Later, Barenboim invited Ofer to further his musical studies in Berlin. He accepted – eventually earning a diploma from the Berlin University of the Arts. 

Ofer remained in Berlin, playing with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Opera Berlin, and occasionally with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. In 2008 the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra invited Ofer to participate in a short-term project, during which he met his future wife, an Israeli who was living in New York at the time. They married and moved back to Israel in 2009. Ofer joined the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion (the resident orchestra of the Israeli Opera) the same week he began his master’s degree at the Hebrew University’s DAAD Center for German Studies.

"I was living my dream. Having grown up next door to the Hebrew University, I was finally honored to be among its students. It was a great pleasure and privilege to attend this fine institution."

Ofer completed his master’s degree with honors, receiving both the Rector's Prize for Excellent Students and the Dean of Social Sciences’ Award. He decided to continue studying towards a PhD, under the supervision of Prof. Yfaat Weiss from Hebrew University’s Department of History of the Jewish People and Contemporary Jewry. His research focused on Thomas Brasch, a writer of Jewish descent who grew up in East Germany and his complex relationship with the German socialistic state, which his parents, sworn communists returning to Berlin from war-time exile, helped build. Back when he lived in Germany as a musician, Ofer had been immersed in vestiges of East Berlin: his neighborhood, friends, and most of his orchestral colleagues were all rooted in the eastern part of the city. And yet, as Ofer came to realize, the lion’s share of Israeli historical research into Germany had focused on West Germany. 

In 2014, Ofer’s wife’s job offered a relocation to Berlin. Thanks to Prof. Weiss’s ties with Freie Universität (FU), Ofer was able to continue his doctoral research  there. Within a year, marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, the Hebrew University and Freie Universität signed an agreement to grant joint doctoral degrees. Ofer decided to enroll. He approached FU literary scholar Prof. Dr. Jürgen Brokoff, who agreed to co-supervise his doctoral research. Much assistance was provided by FU Prof. Susanne Zepp, who oversees this strategic cooperation on behalf of her institution. Ofer also He received additional support from an international scholarship of the DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service. Ofer’s research also benefitted from the fact that nearly 30 years had passed since German reunification, and almost all of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) archives were open and accessible.

In 2018 Ofer’s family returned to Israel, where he completed his dissertation. When it came time to defend his thesis, the Coronavirus had struck and Ofer delivered his defense over Zoom. 

Today, Ofer continues to straddle both worlds. Living in Israel, he is a regular contributor to German public radio (Deutschlandfunk) as well as other German media. He writes, speaks, and protests on a variety of social and political causes, ranging from immigration and asylum seekers in Germany to democracy and human rights in Israel. One reoccurring theme of his work in the German media, along with his collaborator Noam Brusilovsky, is the German obsession with all things Israeli. In this vein, the duo’s radio drama, We Love Israel, was chosen to represent Germany in the European radio contest – Prix Europa. The show went on to have two successful seasons on SWR2. Other topics include the refugee crises of 2015/16 and Germany`s transition towards becoming a migrational society. Ofer’s next feature, again with Noam Brusilovsky, will touch upon the radio broadcast of the Eichmann Trial, whose 60th anniversary will be marked in April 2021. 

"As an Israeli Jew living in Berlin, as an Ashkenazi man, and as a student of the humanities, I recognize my many privileges. Immense public resources have been invested so that I can learn, research, gain knowledge – and I feel indebted to society. I cannot sit in the ivory tower and think critically to myself; I am obliged to open the window, hear what other people are saying, bring their stories to the fore. I feel that both Israel and Germany are on the brink of dramatic changes. In Israel, this is taking form of a threat to the country’s core democratic values, and my role is to contribute to a space of public discourse that is intellectual, relevant, and non-violent.

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Broadening Academic Horizons in British Columbia

Omer Nehoray

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Omer Nehoray chose to study at the Hebrew University for its strong academic reputation, and because it offered the option of double majoring in business administration and philosophy. 

Omer is an aspiring entrepreneur; he sees business as the engine that moves society forward. His heroes include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos; their innovations have shaped the world that we live in today. At the same time, Omer often waxes poetic about his views, experiences, and thoughts on the world – evincing his philosophical side. 

In his second year of studies, Omer decided to participate in the Jerusalem School of Business Administration’s exchange program with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He spent an entire semester living in Vancouver and taking classes alongside local and exchange students.

"Studying abroad was such a pleasure. My horizons were broadened in so many ways, and I felt empowered. I encountered people, cultures, and opinions that all varied from my own. Nothing was homogenous."

In particular, Omer recalls one course he particularly enjoyed. The topic was entrepreneurship; how to take an idea, something you believe in, and turn it into a business venture.

"There’s a methodology for creating a start-up. It takes time and not everyone succeeds. But this course broke down the process into smaller, tangible steps, enabling me to work more effectively towards realizing my dreams."

Omer is now considering pursuing a graduate degree abroad. But at the end of the day, Omer says that Israelis are simply more authentic and direct than other cultures. “I feel more culturally at home in Israel, but value opportunities to have adventures abroad.”

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Solomon Oguche, Bio-Medical Sciences

Solomon Oguche

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Preparing for a Career in Protein Engineering 

Solomon Oguche grew up in north central Nigera and earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Jos. He first experienced the joy of laboratory work during his fourth year of studies, when he was required to undertake a research project. 

As Nigeria is home to the largest number of diabetics in sub-Sahara Africa, Solomon was motivated to study the synergy between the aqueous extract of lemongrass, and metformin, the leading drug used to help diabetics lower their blood sugar levels. While lemongrass has been shown to have anti-diabetic effects and is commonly used in Nigeria, Solomon wanted to examine the interplay between both remedies. His research, conducted using animal models, demonstrated that diabetes benefitted from using both concurrently. 

After graduating, Solomon completed his mandatory national service at the Ministry of Agriculture, where he taught data analysis at a private institute. At the same time, he was planning his next step and began researching graduate programs. Specifically, Solomon wanted to specialize in protein engineering, with the hope of eventually earning a PhD and contributing to the cure of infectious diseases in Nigeria and worldwide. 

When he came across the Hebrew University’s International Graduate Bio-Medical Sciences Program he realized he needn’t look any further. The program boasted top-notch classes and excellent research and laboratory opportunities. 

For the first time in his life, Solomon traveled abroad – arriving in Jerusalem. Today, alongside his classes he conducts cancer biology research in the lab of Prof. Nataly Kravchenko-Balasha. Solomon enjoys learning about running a lab, as he hopes to eventually become a principal investigator and contribute to humanity through his scientific research.

"The international bio-medical science program is superb. It has been an eye-opening experience for me, as I’ve come to understand the nitty-gritty of scientific research. Gaining hands-on research experience and learning how to manage a laboratory will be invaluable for my future"

Although he had tried to prepare himself for life in Israel by reading up about the country online, he’s found daily life much more peaceful and relaxed than he expected. He shares an apartment in the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood with another Nigerian student and enjoys studying and researching alongside Israeli and international peers. The only thing he misses – is the food back home.

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Wén in China, Do as the Chinese Do

Eitan Waxman

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Eitan Waxman was born in the United States and made aliya with his family as a child. During his military service he held a number of leadership positions, helping him realize his potential as a leader. In addition, he’d long been interested in Asia and wanted to incorporate the region into his studies.  

Eitan decided upon the Hebrew University, which offers a double major in business administration and east Asian studies. He thought that the business world would be a good place to apply his leadership skills. Furthermore, he was lured by the University’s exchange agreements with many Asian universities, which would enable him to study abroad. 

Although most students spend only a semester abroad, Eitan was determined to spend an entire year at Tsinghua University, one of China’s top research institutions. He had entered the Hebrew University speaking some Chinese and had taken additional language classes. Yet Eitan knew the only way to truly grow was to immerse himself in the culture and language. 

After landing, Eitan didn’t waste a second. He rented an off-campus studio apartment, tasted everything, and began taking classes with both international and Chinese students. As the semester progressed, he made friends, met and visited locals at their homes, joined a tea club, participated in a Chinese language competition, and even joined the University orienteering club – traveling with the club to compete in different cities.

In his efforts to fit in, Eitan adopted a Chinese name: Wén Yì Tán (文毅潭). Wén means culture and echoes his last name – Waxman.  Tán, besides being a homophone for Eitan, means will power () and a deep body of water (Tán).

"I was thankful on a daily basis for having learned Chinese. Whether taking a class with Chinese students or participating in team sports, speaking Chinese put me on the inside, I was one of them."

One memorable academic experience was a class on e-commerce, taught by a Chinese professor. Although the course was introductory, it provided an in-depth view into the local market and culture, where cash is rapidly becoming obsolete – an experience simply unavailable elsewhere. 

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus broke out between semesters. After hearing that Tsinghua University would transfer all its classes online, Eitan decided to return home to Israel. As things turned out, Israeli universities soon followed suit – and Eitan had a virtual spring semester nonetheless.

"I gained so much from studying abroad. Although I speak English and Chinese, I’ve never had to study academically in either language. Being immersed in a different culture, seeing how people from different backgrounds relate to each other, and even experiencing life on a very different campus – all challenged me as a student and enriched me as a person. This was the experience of a lifetime.

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Joseph Addae, IMPH Student

Joseph Addae

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Joseph Addae was born and raised in northern Ghana. Both his parents were medical professionals; his mother was a midwife and his father a medical assistant. As a result, Joseph and his family would move every few years, as the government transferred his father between posts.

"As I moved around, I was impressed by the international NGOs and their commitment to improving the lives of rural people, whether through nutrition, sanitation, construction, medical services, or other humanitarian relief. This inspired me to earn a degree in Development Studies."

After completing his bachelor’s degree and national service, Joseph received a scholarship that enabled him to study at Brandeis University, where he earned an MA in Sustainable International Development. It was during this time that Joseph became interested in health, as he realized that nearly every aspect of our lives affects our health – for better or for worse.

Upon returning to Ghana in 2013, Joseph was hired by King’s Village Ghana (KVG) as a Program Manager in charge of water, sanitation, and public health and was eventually promoted to Central Administrator of the organization and a Health Planner at the affiliated King’s Medical Center. His responsibilities include planning, coordinating, and executing interventions aimed at improving care. 

KVG is a faith-based, evangelical community organization that operates a primary and middle school, a hospital, and community development services. Joseph’s job is multifaceted, and he works on numerous programs and projects at once. 

One example of Joseph’s work was saving young children who were suffering from malnutrition. The prominent cultural belief in the northern region was that malnourished children were an indication that an evil spirit was present. As a result, mothers were expected to abandon their children deep in the forest and return to the village without ever looking back – otherwise the evil spirit would persist in their household. 

In response, in 2008 KVG established a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre. As part of his job, Joseph supervised the team that would enter communities and make contact with the elders, aimed at both changing beliefs and providing services. Now, mothers have an alternative – they bring their child (often surreptitiously!) to the Centre, where the child is nursed back to health and the mother given knowledge and tools to better nourish her offspring. Since its founding, the program has saved the lives of over 4,300 severely and moderately malnourished children. Joseph was also influential in advocating for the establishment of a mental health unit in the hospital and the establishment and operation of a high-dependency unit for malnourished children in the district.

These projects led Joseph to study in the International Master of Public Health program (IMPH), where he is focusing on public health and nutritional data. Upon graduating, he will return to his job in Ghana – ready to make an even stronger impact on people’s health.

"The knowledge and exposure I’ve received in Jerusalem will make me a better leader of my organization, and I will be more equipped to impact society. Learning to understand the cultural dynamics in Israel has taught me to be a better Christian and a good citizen of the world."

In the long term, Joseph plans to pursue further research into ways to strengthen health care systems, in order to help direct his country and the west African sub-region towards better health care for all.

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Okot Samuel Obonyo, IMPH Student

Okot Samuel Obonyo

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Okot Samuel Obonyo was born in the Agago district, northern Uganda, in 1986, a year before the founding of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the onset of the violence that plagued that region for two decades. He belongs to the Acholi tribe. 

In many ways, Samuel’s life story is marked by the most notorious aspects of that bloody conflict; he repeatedly escaped death, while witnessing horrifying massacres. At the age of 13, he narrowly escaped abduction by the ruthless rebels, who intended to brainwash and train him as a child soldier. Unfortunately, several of Samuel’s family members, relatives, and friends lost their lives to the rebels.

Amidst all these conflicts, Samuel persisted and was lucky to continue his primary and secondary education, all while dreaming of becoming a medical doctor.

"I saw my classmates drop out one by one. They lost hope in their studies, in their future. Many joined the LRA. Others lost parents to fighting or HIV/AIDS and needed to support their families. I estimate that out of 300 primary students, only a tiny handful has reached any type of higher education."

Thanks to relatives living in central Uganda, Samuel was able to move to a more peaceful region and eventually completed his high school education. He began studying towards a bachelor’s degree in environmental health at Makerere University, located in Kampala – 600 km away from his family.

Between semesters, Samuel would travel by bus back home – which was an internally displaced person’s camps (IDP). The IDP camps were established by the government to provide protection yet were largely run and serviced by international NGOs. In the camps, people suffered from an array of maladies, including hunger, malnutrition, dysentery, hepatitis E, cholera, and HIV/AIDS.

Due to the region’s volatility, very few qualified health workers or volunteers were willing to work in northern Uganda. As a result, Samuel began volunteering in the IDP camps during his breaks from school, teaching people about hygiene and sanitation, malaria prevention, cholera, and more. When his break ended, he would board the bus and return to his studies at the University. 

Upon the completion of his degree in 2010, Samuel returned home to continue serving his people in the IDP camps. Peace talks had resulted in a burgeoning sense of peace in northern Uganda, and the government advised people to return to their ancestral homes, while NGOs began scaling down their activities. 

For the last three years, Samuel has worked for the Nwoya district local government, as an Assistant District Health Officer in charge of environmental health. In 2019 he moved to Jerusalem to begin the International Master in Public Health program (IMPH). This was Samuel’s first time outside of Uganda. After graduating, he will return home and assume his job, as he continues to serve the war-ravaged, impoverished district.

"I aspire to one day work for the Ministry of Health as a Commissioner, or as a Public Health consultant. I want to advocate for the health of marginalized populations, because of everything I’ve seen and been through."

Samuel is greatly enjoying his time in Jerusalem and has been very impressed by Israel’s healthcare system. The IMPH program has been challenging and interesting, and he hopes to apply everything he has learned towards improving the lives of Ugandans, especially in the northern region.

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Stefanie Mockert, Visiting Researcher

Stefanie Mockert

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Stefanie Mockert is a visiting researcher at the Hebrew University. She is studying towards a Master’s degree in Musicology at Humboldt University in Berlin and writing a thesis on the musical development of the Jewish community in pre-WWII Munich. Thus, it was a natural choice to spend the 2019/20 academic year conducting research at the Hebrew University’s Jewish Music Research Centre (JMRC), located within the National Library on the Edmond J. Safra Campus. Alongside her research, Stefanie took classes in the musicology department and is currently taking Ulpan at the Rothberg International School.

"The JMRC is an outstanding academic institution for researchers in the field of Jewish music studies. I had the chance to learn from Prof. Edwin Seroussi, a leading expert in the field of Jewish liturgical music research. Under his direction I developed the focus of my master’s thesis topic."

While in Jerusalem, Stefanie is working on two research projects: The first, German Jewish Musical Intersections, aims at discovering the soundscape of German Jewry in the early 19th century, before the outbreak of WWII. This project is closely related to her thesis. The second project is researching the Berlin-born musicologist Edith Gerson Kiwi, a pioneer in the research of Jewish communities in Israel who immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1935. 

Stefanie is greatly enjoying her time in Jerusalem. Dividing her time between the relaxing Safra campus and the beautiful desert landscapes surrounding Mt. Scopus, she feels that Jerusalem is a perfect place to focus.

"The academic staff and the students at the Musicology Department have been extremely welcoming and helpful; especially with academic advice, with language support when needed in seminars, and with the latest concert recommendations."

Stefanie is very thankful to be at the Hebrew University, for both its academic and cultural environment. She’s also thankful to her landlords, who have generously let her practice on their son’s piano – while he’s away studying music in Frankfurt.

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Dr. Fabrizio Fierro, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Fabrizio Fierro

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Dr. Fabrizio Fierro is an Italian Post-doctoral fellow in Prof. Masha Niv’s laboratory. Dr. Fierro arrived at the Hebrew University in 2019, after competing his PhD in computational structural biology at the Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany. Prior to that, he had studied in Rome, earning a MSc in bioinformatics and a BSc in cell and molecular biology.

"Prof. Niv’s lab is recognized worldwide for its excellent research into the sense of taste, the same topic that fascinated me during my PhD studies. During that time, I read many of the lab’s studies and papers. In fact, my research was partially inspired by the lab’s work."

His research mainly focuses on bitter taste, specifically how bitter molecules interact with their receptors in the human body. Interestingly, these receptors are not limited to our mouths, but can also be found in several other places, including the human heart and gut. They potentially may even be involved in pathologies. 

In his current research, Dr. Fierro aims specifically to understand the bitter molecules’ recognition mechanism at atomistic (smallest) level. This knowledge is then applied to identify new natural and synthetic molecules that are capable of binding with bitter taste receptors. Different interacting molecules can have different effects on these receptors, offering the possibility to modulate the receptors’ activation/inactivation process. His work is done entirely using computational, three-dimensional models.

After identifying a potential match, Dr. Fierro works with various collaborators who conduct laboratory research, testing whether his molecule does indeed bind with the receptor.

"In Prof. Niv’s lab I have found the environment in which I can improve my theoretical and technical knowledge. Furthermore, I have been able to expand my network through collaborations with other laboratories all around the world. It’s an exciting workplace with knowledgeable people, graciously supervised by Prof. Niv."

Reflecting on his time in Israel, Fabrizio says:

"Israel offers an exciting and eclectic mix of top- level academic research and creative tech startups. It is the ideal place for young talent to carry out their work and to develop their career."

Coronavirus Research: Google Trends 

As the Coronavirus spread, it became evident that one of its symptoms was the loss of taste and smell. Some have argued that it would be possible to predict outbreaks by tracking where and when people used Google to search for “loss of taste” and “lost of smell.” While Google Trends has proven indicative of other phenomenon in the past, Prof. Niv, along with Dr. Fierro, Hebrew University graduate students Kim Asseo and Yuli Slavutsky, and Prof. Johannes Frasnelli of Université of Quebec in Trois-Rivières decided to examine the data for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The team examined the data for an 8-week period in different regions/states in two hard-hit countries, the USA and Italy. They found that while these searches may have correlated with the spread of the disease at a certain point in time, once these symptoms’ prevalence had become known, and once people had been saturated with information about the disease and its symptoms, Google Trends was no longer an indicative tool.

A pre-print of their paper appears here.

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Preparing for the International Market

Aviv Braun

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Preparing for the International Market

Towards the end of his undergraduate degree in Business Management and Communications, Aviv Braun took advantage of the Jerusalem School of Business Administration’s exchange program by attending a summer school at EDHEC in Nice, France. Currently some 30-40 Hebrew University business students go abroad each year to top universities in North America, Europe, and the Far East.

In addition, 10-20 international students come to study business in Jerusalem. JSBA seeks grow the program by providing scholarships to all qualified students, ensuring that finances are not a barrier to participation. Aviv, now studying for his MBA, is one of the Exchange Program’s biggest advocates.

"The experience took me out of my comfort zone in terms of communicating in a global environment… As well as gaining insight into the complexity of human interaction in an international context."

The Jerusalem School of Business Administration takes pride in training Israel’s future managerial leaders. Outgoing students have the opportunity to experience the business environment and culture in a different country and students who remain at home benefit through interactions with incoming students. Inevitably, both incoming and outgoing exchange students become excellent ambassadors for Israel around the world.

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Meet Arielle Hochberg, Bio-Medical Sciences Student

Arielle Hochberg

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Arielle Hochberg was born in New Zealand and grew up in Australia. Her family maintained strong ties to Israel. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Sydney, Arielle received a scholarship that enabled her to spend a semester at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University. It was there she discovered the research internship program and met Prof. Tal Burstyn-Cohen. As a student of neuroscience, Arielle was welcomed into Prof. Burstyn-Cohen’s lab, studying the development of immune cells in the brain. At the end of the semester, Prof. Burstyn-Cohen invited Arielle to return after completing her BSc.

In 2018  Arielle began studying in the Hebrew University’s International Graduate Bio-Medical Sciences Program. She has been investigating the role of Protein S in microglia (immune cells of the brain) following traumatic brain injury. While conducting her research, she has taken full advantage of the university’s resources and facilities, as well as collaborated with other labs.

"I achieved much more than I thought possible. My understanding of science and research techniques has expanded substantially and I have developed the ability to work independently and in groups, design experiments, generate ideas, teach others and most of all I feel like I am making a contribution to the scientific world."

One of Arielle’s favorite aspects of the lab are the weekly meetings. These are an open forum to share findings, suggest ideas, and brainstorm together. Arielle feels these meetings are “a great initiative to develop critical thinking and problem solving.” In addition, she found her classes to be a refreshing break from the lab. Every week, Arielle and her fellow students broaden their knowledge in classes ranging from biofilms, chromosomes, methods of anthropometry, osteology, and more.

Arielle is proud to have presented at two conferences, one in Eilat and one in Germany.  She also mentored Israeli high school students in the Alpha program. On top of this, she has greatly enjoyed living in Israel and being part of the local culture: festivals, cuisine, and social events with her lab mates.

Looking forward, Arielle hopes to pursue another degree, either a PhD or a MD-PhD. In the meanwhile, she will return home to work on a neuroscience clinical trial.

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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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Meet Sarah Angabo, Dental Student

Sarah Angabo

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Studying Dental Science in Jerusalem

Sarah Angabo came to Jerusalem from Nigeria and is close to completing her master’s degree in bio-medical sciences at the Faculty of Dental Medicine.

The best students on the two-year program, in which international and Israeli students study side-by-side, go on to do their doctoral studies in the Faculty and this is what Sarah hopes to receive a scholarship to do. For Sarah, the best part of the program has been the chance to grow as a scientific researcher.

'It has been exciting and really challenging and I am proud to say that I am beginning to make a major research breakthrough."

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Meet Dr. Smita Todkar, IMPH Graduate

Dr. Smita Todkar

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Dr. Smita Todkar, MD graduated from the International Master of Public Health (IMPH) Program at the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in 2017. With a commitment to “reaching the most marginalized people”, Smita returned to India where she is currently focused on maternal and child health for “Ekjut”, an NGO in Jharkhand. Since returning to India she has been glad to be “able to use the skills obtained from the IMPH program for the benefit of the communities who most need them.”

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Meet Arthur Berrou, PhD Student

Arthur Berrou

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Border-Crossing Brain Science

Arthur grew up in Brittany, France, awash in science. While he was initially torn between studying medicine and conducting scientific research, he was able to reconcile his interests through the MD-PhD program in the biology department at the École Normale Supérieure in Ulm. That’s where he first encountered neuroscience.

During the two years he spent studying the many facets of neuroscience, Arthur became fascinated by the possibility of bridging the gap between neural mechanisms and cognitive processes. As his studies progressed, Arthur became interested in ways to apply mathematical modelling to the brain. He decided to take a hiatus from his medical studies and pursue a PhD in computational neuroscience.

Arthur chose to study at ELSC after visiting the campus, meeting with faculty and students, and attending conferences. He says that in retrospect, “I realized that I’d read several articles from prestigious reviews authored by ELSC faculty, which attested the quality of the publications and the international outreach of the center.”

"ELSC is the promised land for a budding neuroscientist"

Now in the second year of his studies, Arthur greatly enjoys the green and peaceful environment of the Edmond J. Safra Campus. The highlights of his week include walking by the Albert Einstein statue, high-level courses, and weekly seminars. He revels in learning alongside his peers. Although they will eventually part ways, he feels that his cohort has received a rich knowledge base and, ultimately, belong to the same community.

As for his next steps, Arthur hopes to finish his doctorate, then return to France to complete medical school. He would like to become a neurosurgeon. But for the time being, he’s content saying, “next year in Jerusalem.”

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