Outstanding doctoral students selected as Adams Fellows

Ten outstanding PhD students of the sciences will receive Adams Fellowships totaling more than $1 million.

July 16, 2013 01:55
3 minute read.
Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer

scientist 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Sheba Medical Center)

Ten outstanding PhD students of the sciences will on Sunday receive Adams Fellowships totaling more than $1 million.

The fellowships, selected and awarded by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, are considered the most prestigious of Israel and funded by 93-year-old Montreal philanthropist Marcel Adams.

The exceptional doctoral students at research universities here will receive a stipend of more than $100,000 over four years of doctoral studies in addition to exemption from tuition. The real estate magnate will arrive, as he always does, in Israel to hand the fellowships out and to attend the annual Adams Seminar at the academy’s building in Jerusalem.

Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, academy member and 2004 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, will lecture on “The Revolution of Personalized Medicine – Are we going to cure all diseases and at what price?” Academy president Prof.

Ruth Arnon said on Sunday that the meticulous selection process of the universities and the fellowship’s professional committee ensure that those granted fellowships will be at the forefront of Israel’s cadre of researchers in the fields of the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, life sciences and engineering.

The program’s recipients get their postdoctoral training at top universities including Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell and Oxford; then they return to Israel to take up senior positions in universities and hitech companies.

Adams founded the fellowship fund in 2005, and, as of last year, financed the studies and living expenses of 78 promising young researchers.

An avid Zionist, Adams started out as a penniless Holocaust survivor from Romania, fought in Israel’s War of Independence and eventually became a real estate entrepreneur in Canada.

Among this year’s new fellows is Livnat Jerby Arnon, a doctoral student of computer science at Tel Aviv University who develops and applies computational methods for cancer research under the guidance of Prof. Eytan Ruppin. Her research is dedicated to the systematic characterization of cancer cells based on their genetic profiles, aiming to pinpoint their unique sensitivities.

Arnon said that biologic processes, among them the cancerous process, include tens of thousands of components.

Computational-experimental studies are essential for advancing toward a systematic understanding of cancer. In the past decade technological breakthroughs took place, providing huge amounts of clinical information.

“Based on this information, the computational frameworks we develop profile the unique properties of the patient's cancer,” Arnon said. “By doing so, we aim to improve cancer diagnosis and help designing new, and more effective, therapeutic strategies, with fewer side effects.”

Another researcher being granted the fellowship this year is Eitan Schechtman, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University’s Center for Neural Computation.

During the course of his bachelor’s degree studies in psychology, Schechtman began taking part in academic research and has already published three articles in prominent scientific journals. His doctorate, under the guidance of Prof. Hagai Bergman at the HU faculty of medicine, examines a new method of dealing with schizophrenia, which affects 1 percent of the population.

To date, there is no efficient treatment to deal with the disease, even though in recent decades there was certain advancement in the development of drugs that affect some of its symptoms.

Schechtman’s research focuses on treatment based on brain stimulation through electrodes planted deep inside the patient’s brain.

Assaf Manor, a student of Dr.

Carmel Rotschild (himself a graduate of the second cycle of the fellowship program and therefore inaugurating the second generation of Adams Fellows) is a third fellow. Aged 32 and a resident of Haifa, Manor was attracted to sciences and experiments from an early age.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and his master’s degree working on solar energy at Ben-Gurion University’s Institute for Desert Research, where he studied the effect of concentrated sunlight on photovoltaics.

Now at the Technion, Manor works in the Excitonics Laboratory at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

His research focuses on the possibility of boosting solar cells’ efficiency through the thermodynamic manipulation of sunlight, as current state of the art cells are limited in efficiency due to their mismatch in harvesting the solar radiation. Novel cell concepts that solve this problem can reach efficiencies that are as twice as high, enabling a new generation of photovoltaics.

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