Zuckerman STEM program taps latest North American scholars for cutting-edge research in Israel

This year’s Zuckerman Faculty Scholars at seven Israeli universities join a community of 37 scientists who have returned to Israel to establish labs since the program’s inception in 2016. (Illustrative photo.)
This year’s Zuckerman Faculty Scholars at seven Israeli universities join a community of 37 scientists who have returned to Israel to establish labs since the program’s inception in 2016. (Illustrative photo.)

By JNS  Published: August 8, 2023

This year’s Zuckerman Faculty Scholars at seven Israeli universities join a community of 37 scientists who have returned to Israel to establish labs since the program’s inception in 2016.

Twenty-five scholars from North America and Israel will join the 2023-2024 academic year cohort of the prestigious Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program, an initiative that supports future generations of leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math in the U.S. and Israel while fostering greater collaboration between the world’s most advanced scientific research centers.

The newly announced cohort features seven Zuckerman Faculty Scholars—scientists from North American institutions who will return to their native Israel to launch state-of-the-art laboratories at Israeli universities, joining a community that has now grown to 44 faculty scholars who have returned to the Jewish state to establish labs since the program’s inception in 2016. The labs are jointly funded by the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program, Israel’s Council for Higher Education, and each host university.

“We are proud to welcome the 2023 cohort to our lifelong community of Zuckerman Scholars,” said Zuckerman Institute executive director in Israel, Lina Deshilton. “We thank Israel’s Council for Higher Education for the continuing strategic partnership that began in 2018, which continues to strengthen Israeli academia and recruit North American post-docs to Israel.”

This year’s Zuckerman Faculty Scholars include:

McGill University’s Dr. Danielle Karo-Atar, who is joining Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Faculty of Health Sciences, where she will run the immuno-parasitology lab in the Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Biochemistry, hoping to reveal novel parasite-regulated host epithelial pathways and identify new mechanisms of disease tolerance that contribute to intestinal resilience.

University of Miami’s Dr. Igal Berenshtein, whose lab is in the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, will examine the health of marine ecosystems while analyzing the effects of chronic oil pollution on marine biodiversity and fisheries around the world.

Rockefeller University’s Dr. Leah Houri-Zeevi, whose lab in the Neurobiology Department of Tel Aviv University will attempt to identify common molecular strategies in the evolution of mosquitoes’ nervous systems and the behavior that is encoded by it to reveal genetic and nongenetic mechanisms.

University of California Santa Barbara’s Dr. Eyal Karzbrun, whose lab in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science plans to apply an on‑chip system that recapitulates human neural tube morphogenesis, the first step in brain development.

Stanford University’s Dr. Omer Revah, who as a faculty member of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Koret School of Veterinary Medicine hopes to gain a better understanding of the molecular basis of the multisystemic neurodevelopmental disorder, William Beuren Syndrome (WBS), and develop new therapeutic strategies for treating such devastating disorders.

Cornell University’s Dr. Pavel Sidorenko, whose lab for advanced ultrafast sources at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will research and develop high-power lasers, which are becoming increasingly important in fields from military applications to health care.

Harvard University’s Dr. Moran Yadid will join the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University, where her lab will investigate the novel roles of extracellular vesicles in maintaining tissue homeostasis and modulating metabolism and stress response.

“By adding her expertise in disease tolerance to the wide array of breakthrough research conducted at Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Karo-Atar joins a faculty that drives the vision of David Ben-Gurion by developing scalable solutions from the Negev that effect positive change for all of humanity. We are honored to rally Americans around the University’s game-changing global impact,” Doug Seserman, CEO of Americans for Ben-Gurion University (A4BGU).

“I have no doubt that Dr. Berenshtein will make immense contributions to the University of Haifa’s institution-wide goal of tackling climate change, by harnessing innovative technological capabilities to preserve our marine ecosystems,” said Naomi Reinharz, Chief Executive Officer of American Society of the University of Haifa (ASUH). “Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program has moved Dr. Berenshtein’s living laboratory from South Florida to the Mediterranean Sea, as both represent optimal settings for this cutting-edge and necessary research.”

The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program’s new cohort also includes 12 postdoctoral scholars from premier universities in the United States who will conduct research at one of seven Israeli universities (as part of the Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars Program); as well as six Israeli postdoctoral scholars who have been accepted to a postdoctoral program with a stipend at an American university (as part of the Zuckerman Israeli Postdoctoral Scholars Program).

The 25-member cohort of faculty and postdoctoral researchers grows the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program’s community to 271 scholars since the program began in 2016. These leaders in their respective STEM fields were selected based on academic merit, scientific achievements, and leadership skills. The program’s strategic partnership with Israel’s Council for Higher Education, which began in 2018, continues to strengthen Israeli academia, matching efforts to contribute to Israel’s “brain gain” with support for scholarships for North American postdoctoral scholars at Israeli universities.

Through research, innovation, and creativity, Zuckerman Faculty Scholars make groundbreaking discoveries, drive economic growth, and create a competitive edge for Israel. Fifty percent of Zuckerman Faculty Scholars hold one registered patent, and 25 % hold two or more registered patents. Further, Zuckerman Faculty Scholars publish a significant number of papers each year, with research that makes the cover of various influential scientific publications, including The EMBO Journal, NanoscaleAnalytical Chemistry, The Journal of Physical Chemistry and more.

In more recent years, the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program’s partnership with the Council for Higher Education has enabled the program to promote and encourage globalization as well as to expand research fields at Israel’s universities, such as ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, nanoscience/nanotechnology at Bar-Ilan University, and marine biology at the University of Haifa.