Ely Kovetz

Krill Prize 2022
Ben-Gurion University

Although a widely accepted cosmological model has been established and has withstood multiple observational tests over the last two decades, there remains a series of unanswered questions regarding the fundamental properties of our Universe, such as what is dark matter? What is dark energy? And what drives the period of cosmic inflation at the nexus of the big-bang?

Kovetz’s research focuses on phenomenology in cosmology and stretches between two focal points. One is the development of models to address these fundamental questions and determine if they have potential observable signatures. The other is to confront the flood of data from a host of ambitious observational campaigns targeting the deep Universe using modern analytic, simulation and statistical methods to look for evidence in support or against the different theoretical models.

Sivan Refaely-Abramson

Krill Prize 2022
Weizmann Institute of Science

Understanding the energetics and dynamics of excited states formed by light-matter interactions is essential for applications across optoelectronics and photophysics. In systems of reduced dimensionality, strongly-bound particles named excitons serve as the main energy carriers, with long diffusion and relaxation lifetimes. As exciton dynamics are coupled to optical selection rules that stem from the atomic structure, enhanced exciton transport efficiency
can be achieved through local structural modifications, such as atomic impurities, interface design, and crystal fluctuations. Yet current theories lack a predictive description of the underlying interactions due to such structural modifications, highlighting the need for new tools that can capture these complex exciton dynamics.
Taking advantage of ever-growing computational frontiers, our research group aims to derive and apply new theoretical approaches, based on the predictive many-body perturbation theory, to compute exciton dynamics as a function of structural complexity in realistic materials. We explore and examine our approaches on emerging excitonic systems of reduced dimensionality, e.g., organic molecular crystals, layered transition metal dichalcogenides, and two-dimensional hybrid perovskites. We are particularly interested in studying the effect of atomic defects, heterostructure compositions, and lattice fluctuations on the mechanisms dominating exciton relaxation and diffusion and their resulting mobility and lifetime.
Rafaely’s research is thus focused on gaining a comprehensive and predictive understanding of the underlying physics dominating complex excited-state phenomena in materials of emerging interest via front-line computations. As such, Rafaely’s Lab aim at offering novel and tunable design principles for optimized functionality in applications ranging from efficient conversion and storage of sunlight energy to intelligent design of quantum emitters and materials-based quantum computing.

Moran Yassour

Krill Prize 2022
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

In the Yassour lab, we study the infant gut microbiome, its maternal origins, its natural history in the first few years of life, and its impact on pediatric health. Our research is based on establishing diverse human cohorts, longitudinally sampling newborns, infants, and children (and often their mothers as well) and profiling their microbial communities. We combine multiple DNA sequencing technologies with cutting-edge computational methods to better characterize the dynamics of these microbial communities and to identify the microbial hosts of genes of interest, such as antibiotic resistance and carbohydrate-utilizing genes. This combined approach coupled with unique human cohorts, helps us understand the mother-to-child vertical transmission of bacteria, and its impact on pediatric health.

Jonathan Ruhman

Krill Prize 2022
Bar-Ilan University

In contrast to what is often presented in popular literature, quantum effects are important in “large” macroscopic objects with an immense number of particles. Ruhman’s research focuses on understanding quantum effects in such systems.

The perfect example is superconductivity: A state of matter where all electrons in a piece of metal join into a single coherent quantum wavefunction. One of his biggest fascinations is understanding how superconductivity emerges in systems which are not expected to do so according to standard lore. Examples include semiconducting and magnetic materials.

Another question Ruhman explores regards the more typical situation: The absence of quantum strangeness. As it turns out, our “classical” day-to-day experience is enabled by the strangest of quantum effects: Entanglement. My research also focuses on the dynamics of entanglement in many-body systems.

Yehonadav Bekenstein

Kril Prize 2022
Technion

In recent years, there has been a concentrated research effort to find materials with the ability to self-repair in order to deal with the rapid wear and tear on various electronic devices. The study’s success is expected to revolutionize the industrial manufacturing areas of its electronic components and has important environmental implications. One of the great promises in this field lies in the Halide Perovskites – semiconductor materials that have unique properties.

The research group led by Dr. Bekenstein has developed nanometer crystals of this type that know how to heal themselves. For the first time, they have been able to observe the healing process of matter at the atomic level and are also developing methods to control the healing process. This discovery is essential for technologies requiring a long lifespan with little or no maintenance, such as electronic components in various space devices or inside the human body. The new technology has great potential for significant improvement of important applications such as efficient solar energy production and improvement of quantum communications.

Ittay Eyal

Krill Prize 2022
Technion

 

Decentralized systems are experiencing a renaissance with the proliferation of cryptocurrencies and smart-contract platforms. This success is leading central banks to consider digital fiat currencies with decentralized aspects. Moreover, increasing public attention to Internet freedom encourages the development of decentralized public services like digital identity.

But while demand rises and experimental designs are explored, basic questions remain open. The focus of Dr. Eyal’s research is the principles underpinning such systems. His group combines theoretical analysis, measurements, and implementation, using tools from distributed systems, game theory, and applied cryptography. Eyal’s theoretical results are readily implemented by the industry and the open-source community, leading to safer and more efficient operational systems.

Haitham Amal

Krill Prize 2022
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Amal’s research combines multidisciplinary tools to discover novel drug targets and diagnostic biomarkers for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Alzheimer’s disease, and other pathologies. The Amal lab combines advanced proteomics technologies with computational biology, biochemical, pharmacological and behavioral methods. This allows them to unravel novel molecular mechanisms in the brain under physiological and pathological conditions. The Amal Lab uses both clinical samples and transgenic mouse models to achieve their ultimate goals. Their findings on mouse models will lead to translating the results of biomedical research from preclinical to clinical stages. This multidisciplinary work is expected to yield breakthroughs both for diagnostics and therapy of ASD and other neurological disorders.

Gili Bisker

Krill Prize 2022
Tel-Aviv University

Dr. Gili Bisker combines theoretical and experimental research. On the experimental side, the students are working on developing near-infrared optical nanoprobes for imaging and sensing applications. The group designs tailored functionalization of fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotubes for detecting and quantifying important biomarkers, including proteins, enzymes, microRNA, metabolites, and small molecules. Dr. Bisker pioneered the development of nanotube sensors for protein recognition and demonstrated the detection of the target analyte in complex environments such as blood and cell-culture media. Moreover, the lab has recently demonstrated real-time monitoring of enzymatic activity, detecting cellular oncometabolites, and imaging active processes in microscopic model organisms.

In addition, Dr. Bisker aims for a deeper understanding of molecular processes within live cells using nonequilibrium physics and stochastic thermodynamics. The theoreticians in the group are developing analytical tools for quantifying nonequilibrium in complex systems, hoping to shed light on the fundamental processes in living systems.

Ron Rothblum

Krill Prize 2022
Technion

Dr. Ron Rothblum’s research focuses on developing and studying efficient proof-systems for verifying computations. Such proof-systems can, for example, enable a computationally weak client to outsource its computations to a powerful server, so that the result can be verified very efficiently (in particular, much faster than performing the computation). Other types of proofs that Dr. Rothblum has studied, known as zero-knowledge proofs, enable the server to prove correctness of its claims without revealing anything else. Such proof-systems, which grew out of the theoretical computer science literature, are now having an important real-world impact in the domain of crypto currencies and blockchain applications.

Uri Ben-David

Krill Prize 2022
Tel-Aviv University

The research in Ben-David’s lab focuses on a fundamental, understudied trait of cancer, called aneuploidy — a change in the number of chromosomes in cancer cells. Cancer aneuploidy is a biological enigma and a missed opportunity for cancer therapy. A basic reason for this gap is our limited understanding of the contribution of aneuploidy to tumor development and progression, and of the cellular and molecular consequences of aneuploidy.

Ben-David’s lab develops and applies a variety of experimental and computational approaches to: studying the biological processes that lead to aneuploidy; uncovering the selection pressures that shape aneuploidy evolution during tumorigenesis; and developing novel strategies to selectively target aneuploid cancer cells.

 

Ultimately, Dr. Ben-David aspires to expand the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer and to open new avenues for personalized cancer treatment.