Comprehensive coverage

Ten winners of the Krill Award for Excellence in Scientific Research have been announced

The Wolf Foundation in cooperation with the Israeli research universities selected the team of promising researchers of the Israeli Academy for 2024

The Wolff Foundation in cooperation with Israeli research universities have selected the team of promising researchers of the Israeli Academy for 2024, who will receive the krill Prize for Young Scientists. Among the winners of this year's prize: a mathematician from Ariel University, a mother of 11 children, who produces geometrical mathematical insights that solve technological problems such as maintaining privacy and preventing information leakage; The scientist from the Weizmann Institute who linked neural mechanisms in the brain to the development of eating disorders, anxiety and depression; the researcher from the Hebrew University who is developing innovative methods to combat deadly fungi in the human body; the researcher from the Technion who developed algorithms for evaluating the reliability of information that enabled, among other things, the Washington Post system to reliably predict the results of the US elections in 2020; The researcher from the Hebrew University who broke through in building a unique model based on the kilofish that helps in developing new strategies to stop or delay the aging process.

The Krill Prize is awarded annually by the Wolf Foundation to promising young Israeli researchers from research universities in Israel who have demonstrated significant research breakthroughs and who are expected to lead research and academia in Israel in the future in the fields of exact sciences, life sciences and medicine, engineering and agriculture. The awarding of the prize constitutes a significant professional milestone in the researcher's academic development path and hence his prestige in the research academy in Israel.

The judging committee of the Krill Awards on behalf of the Wolf Foundation, selects the winning team from among the nominations and candidates submitted on the recommendation of the heads of research universities in Israel and who are considered to be researchers who are expected to lead Israeli research and academia in the future.

Since 2005, Creel awards have been awarded annually (for $10,000 to each winner) to 171 researchers. 

The Krill Prize is funded by the estate of the late donor Avraham Hirsch Krill Shlanger (1912-2007), who was born in Chemnitz, Germany. A year before the outbreak of World War II, he immigrated to South America, where he established a prosperous textile factory. Avraham Krill was active in the Jewish community of German origin in South America and was an enthusiastic supporter of the State of Israel from the day it was founded. The awards given in memory and in honor of his parents symbolize the Keril family's connection to the State of Israel and the family's belief in the close connection between science and vision.


CEO of the Wolf Foundation, Reot Yanon-Berman:
The Wolf Foundation is proud to award the Krill Awards, which are an important pillar of recognition of the importance of promoting scientific excellence in Israeli society. Today, more than ever, it is extremely important to nurture and retain young researchers who are defined as stars in their field and to prevent as much as possible the brain drain to research institutions abroad. Their crowning as the team of promising researchers is a direct investment in their scientific activity as pioneers and in establishing and strengthening their academic development path."

Dr. Yoav Livna, Weizmann Institute of Science - The mechanism that causes mental illnesses and eating disorders

Dr. Yoav Livna, winner of the 2024 Krill Prize. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Yoav Livna, winner of the 2024 Krill Prize. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Yoav Livna, Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Biology, is awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for significant contributions to the understanding of the cellular mechanisms and neural circuits underlying the activity of the insula, and the consequences of damage to these mechanisms on the development of mental illnesses, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

The body and the brain maintain a continuous dialogue between them, based on internal sensing of the body's states. Dr. Yoav Livna studies the way the brain perceives different physical signals - from heart rate and temperature to hunger, thirst, fatigue and arousal - and how this communication can go wrong, which can lead to poor health function.

The insular lobe (the insula) extends over both hemispheres of the brain and plays a central role in interpreting and processing sensory signals originating in the body. The insula serves as a center for mediating behaviors related to the way the brain senses the states of the body - a process known as "introception". Through introspection, the insula allows us to feel tiredness and alertness, hunger and satiety, heat or cold, and allows us to relate these sensations to emotions, and perhaps even helps consciousness and self-awareness. The insula helps motivate us to eat, sleep, engage, escape, hide, or relax.

Dr. Livna studies the cellular mechanisms and the neural circuits underlying the activity of the insula. His discoveries help to understand how malfunctions in its function and introspection contribute to mental illnesses ranging from eating disorders through anxiety to depression. An understanding of the mechanisms involved in these processes may contribute to the development of future medical treatments. In his work, Dr. Livna combines pre-clinical research in animal disease models, basic research at the level of the cell and the neural circuit, using innovative optical and optogenetic tools. This allows, among other things, to reveal the neural circuits of hunger and thirst which increase the response of the cerebral cortex to food and water signals, for example in television commercials.

Dr. Livna was born in San Francisco, USA, completed his doctoral studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and post-doctoral studies at the "Beit Israel Deaconess" Medical Center at the Harvard Medical School in Boston. He currently serves as a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Dr. Mor Nitzan, Hebrew University: Activities of cells in states of health and disease

Dr. Mor Nitzan, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Mor Nitzan, winner of the Krill Prize for 2024. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Mor Nitzan, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rachel and Salim Benin School of Engineering and Computer Science, is awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for her research that promotes the understanding and control of the collective behavior of tissues, and uncovers various aspects of the activity of cells in health and disease states.

Dr. Nitzan's research deals with deciphering complex collective behavior in biological systems by combining tools and ideas from computer science and physics. She develops theoretical and computational tools, based on machine learning and dynamic systems, with the aim of deciphering layers of hidden information encoded by cells and related to the structure of body tissues and dynamic biological processes. The aim of the research is to better define basic principles that shape multicellular biological systems, thus promoting the understanding and ability to control collective biological behavior.

Dr. Nitzan researches, among other things, how cells encode information and communicate with each other, and how such processes can be deciphered with the help of multidimensional biological information. Her research deals with transforming complex data, the amount of which is growing exponentially, into insights and principles of multicellular biological systems. The work advances the understanding and control of the collective behavior of tissues, and reveals various aspects of cellular identity in health and disease. Her work is of great value for both basic and applied research and it will be possible to improve the health of all of us with their help.

Dr. Mor Nitzan has a bachelor's degree in physics, mathematics and cognitive sciences, a master's degree and a doctorate in physics, all from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a combined post-doctorate at the Hebrew University, Howard, and the Broad Research Institute at MIT. She is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, and works in collaboration with the Rakah Institute for Physics and the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

Dr. Neta Schlesinger - fight against fungal infections

Dr. Neta Schlesinger, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Neta Schlesinger, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Neta Schlesinger, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Robert H. Faculty of Food and Environmental Agriculture. Smith, Court School of Veterinary Medicine, is awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for significant contributions to the study of pathogenic fungi, understanding the mechanisms that allow them to overcome the body's immune system, and developing innovative methods to defend against them.

More than 1.6 million people die each year due to fungal infections. Every year, more and more deadly fungal diseases are discovered, and still there is very little knowledge about how to fight them. About five million species of fungi are known in the world, several hundred of which are pathogenic to humans. Some are resistant to drugs, and are described by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a 'serious global health threat'. The fungi are a separate kingdom in nature, along with animals and plants. Some of their properties are still unknown and this makes it difficult to develop drugs to treat the infections they cause.

The increase in fungal diseases is linked to several factors: the climate crisis causes more species of fungi to adapt to high temperatures and thus survive in the human body as well; Smart fungi develop resistance against most types of drugs; New drugs weaken the immune system and make it easier for the fungus to develop in the human body. The fungi have learned to thrive in an environment where we are most vulnerable, in hospitals, especially in intensive care units. About 30 percent of those hospitalized in intensive care units during the Corona period developed fatal fungal infections, and about sixty percent of them died after treatment.

Dr. Neta Schlesinger uses a multidisciplinary approach to understand the mechanisms that allow fungi to overcome the immune system, understanding the immune response of the host body that can protect against fungal pathogens, and developing innovative methods to fight fungi. One of the methods she demonstrated was to make the fungus perform "programmed cell death", or in other words, make it commit suicide. Another method is to recruit the viruses that grow on the fungi (mycoviruses) to fight them. The results of her research are expected to lead to the development of new antifungal drugs and the development of diagnostic tools relevant to public health, agriculture, and wildlife.

Dr. Neta Schlesinger graduated with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a doctorate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a post-doctorate at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center. She is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dr. Renana Gershoni-Foran, Technion - Organic Electronics

Dr. Renana Gershoni-Foran, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Renana Gershoni-Foran, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Renana Gershoni-Foran, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Shulich Faculty of Chemistry, is awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for her work in the field of organic-physical chemistry and artificial intelligence for the design of new organic molecules that will be integrated into organic electronics technologies.

Dr. Gershoni-Foran's work focuses on a polycyclic aromatic system (multiple rings) of various molecules that have a significant impact on everyday life and play an important role in a variety of materials. Among other things, they are known for their ability to transport cargo, and are used as semiconductors in various organic electronics technologies. Such molecules often appear in useful chemicals, such as ligands for catalysts and drugs. However, they are polluting and carcinogenic, and there is a need to understand their decomposition processes in nature.

Dr. Gershoni-Foran's research focuses on understanding the properties, behavior, and processes that these special molecules go through. It tries to identify structural motifs that dictate properties and reactivity, and to define rules that will enable the intelligent design of new molecules with desired properties. During her work, Dr. Gershoni-Foran develops intuitive, easy-to-use models and tools that connect the world of abstract concepts with applied synthetic strategies. The research combines organic-physical chemistry with calculation methods and artificial intelligence in order to design new organic molecules that will be integrated into carbon-based organic electronics technologies. Due to their structure and electronic properties, such molecules enable innovative developments such as flexible OLED screens, transparent solar cells that can turn glass windows into energy producers, and sensors that can be implanted in a biological environment. Another advantage is that such molecules are found in nature in abundance and pollute less than the electronic components commonly used today.

Dr. Renana Gershoni-Foran completed her bachelor's, master's and master's degrees at the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry at the Technion, and completed a post-doctorate at the Zurich Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Today she serves as a researcher and senior lecturer at the Technion. In addition to her academic work, she studied classical singing for many years and was a soloist in the IDF orchestra.

Dr. Yaniv Romano, Technion - machine learning based prediction tools

Dr. Yaniv Romano, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Andrew Varna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the recipient of the 2024 Cril award for his groundbreaking contribution in the field of data science, machine learning and signal processing.

The combination of information gathering capabilities and machine learning enables many applications, such as computer vision for autonomous vehicles, credit fraud detection, evaluating the effectiveness of medical treatments, and more. Modern learning algorithms are particularly complicated and complex and there is difficulty in finding the causes of their failure. Dr. Romano's research deals with data science and machine learning and focuses on the development of statistical technology that "wraps" learning systems and ensures their reliability, trustworthiness and stability. The unique technology developed by Romano combines the worlds of statistics and the worlds of learning in a way that empowers each of these fields separately. His recognized contributions include innovative methods for ensuring the reliability of advanced learning systems, a unique theory that explains key aspects of deep learning, and the development of technologies that led to a significant change in the ability to recover visual information from poor quality images. The tools developed by Dr. Romano for estimating uncertainty (prediction interval) were even used by the Washington Post to reliably predict the results of the US elections in 2020.

Dr. Romano completed all his degrees at the Technion. After a post-doctoral training at Stanford University, he returned to the Technion where he serves as a senior lecturer in the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Taub Faculty of Computer Science.

Dr. Itamar Harel, Hebrew University – Studying the aging process

Dr. Itamar Harel, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Itamar Harel, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Itamar Harel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Alexander Silverman Institute of Life Sciences, Department of Genetics is awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for his groundbreaking work in developing a unique model and identifying the activity of proteins related to the aging process.

Life expectancy increased significantly during the 20th century, and with it the rate of senile diseases also increased. With age, physical phenomena develop such as cell degeneration, DNA damage, weakening of the immune system and protein folding malfunctions that damage their structure. All of these lead to diseases, and damage to physical and mental health.

Dr. Itamar Harel studies the biology of aging in vertebrates. He studied the African turquoise killifish and developed an innovative model that allows studying how an organism ages and the genetics behind old age diseases in an efficient, fast and cheap way. The killifish is a convenient model for studying aging because, on the one hand, it is a vertebrate, and contains all the organs we have, and on the other hand, it is small and its life span is the shortest of all vertebrates that can be grown in the laboratory. Using this model, Dr. Harel examines manipulations that may affect the rate of aging and postpone destructive age-related diseases. Many diseases are caused by malfunctions in protein folding, including those related to old age such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Misfolded proteins can spread and infect other proteins. In his work, Dr. Harel identified a number of proteins whose folding is impaired with age and found in the tissues of the old fish many proteins that undergo increased aggregation in the organs where they accumulate. He also discovered that the proteins that have undergone increased aggregation behave like prions (infectious proteins) and can infect other proteins and damage their normal folding. This research Helps in developing new strategies to stop or delay the aging process.

Dr. Itamar Harel graduated with a bachelor's degree from Ben-Gurion University in biology, a doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and a post-doctorate at Stanford University. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dr. Hila Peleg, Technion: Improving code writing by programmers

Dr. Hila Peleg, winner of the 2024 Krill Prize. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Hila Peleg, winner of the 2024 Krill Prize. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Hila Peleg, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science Winner of the 2024 Krill Award for significant contributions in the development of tools that increase the productivity and reliability of code writing by programmers.

Dr. Hila Peleg's research deals with programming languages, software engineering, and human-machine interface. Her work focuses on developing tools and programs that increase productivity and reliability in writing code by programmers. In particular, she researches the synthesis of software and programming tools. The synthesis in the software allows programmers to focus on the fundamental aspects of their work - problem solving. Synthesis requires the programmer to define in advance the code requirements but these are sometimes not available since many aspects, such as the details of the application and the division into subtasks, are not known in advance. Studies conducted by Dr. Peleg on this subject emphasize the gaping chasm between the knowledge available to the programmer, and the requirements of the software. Dr. Peleg is working on the development of Exploratory Program Synthesis which will support the programmer in case of "holes" in understanding the initial requirements. This approach provides new work tools and allows programmers to produce code that matches the work path and its purpose.

Dr. Hila Peleg has a bachelor's and master's degree at Tel Aviv University, a doctorate from the Technion and a post-doctorate from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a senior researcher and lecturer in the Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion. In addition to her scientific work, she also holds a bachelor's degree in literature and organizes conferences of the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Dr. Raya Sorkin, Tel Aviv University: the processes of cell migration

Dr. Raya Sorkin. 2024 Creel Award winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Raya Sorkin. 2024 Creel Award winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Raya Sorkin, Tel Aviv University, School of Chemistry, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, has been awarded the 2024 Krill Prize for her significant contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms and roles of proteins in the cell membrane.

Many physiological processes are characterized by dramatic changes in cell membranes. Dr. Sorkin's work focuses on the effect of the curvature and surface tension of the cell membrane on the activity of proteins related to fertilization, communication between cells, and infection by viruses. Understanding the role of these proteins, and how to control their activity, will contribute in the long term to the development of new fertility treatments, non-hormonal contraceptives, and antiviral drugs.

Dr. Sorkin and her lab team succeeded in deciphering the process of creating microsomes - newly discovered cellular organelles that are formed as a result of local swelling of membrane fibers that are formed during cell migration. Microsomes store intracellular biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, proteins and even whole organelles such as mitochondria. At a later stage, they detach from the cell and are released into the environment in the form of membrane bubbles that are used for information transfer and intercellular communication. After the release, the microsome is collected by other cells and thus a certain cell can actually know what the condition of the neighboring cell is. Deciphering this mechanism contributes to a deeper understanding of various diseases, such as various types of cancer, which are caused by poor communication processes between cells. This holds future capabilities for designing innovative treatments for these diseases and for the production of target-oriented biological drugs based on microsomes.

Dr. Raya Sorkin studied a bachelor's degree in biochemical engineering at the Technion, a master's degree in materials engineering at Tel Aviv University, a doctorate in chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science, a post-doctorate in biochemistry at the Vrije Universitet in Amsterdam, and an additional post-doctorate in physical chemistry at Tel Aviv University. She is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University.

Dr. Chaya Keller, Ariel University: Applied Mathematics

Dr. Chaya Keller, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Chaya Keller, 2024 Krill Prize winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Chaya Keller, Ariel University in Samaria, School of Computer Science Winner of the 2024 Krill Prize for significant contributions in the field of discrete and computational geometry

Dr. Chaya Keller's research deals with discrete and computational geometry. Her research achievements are wide and impressive and recognized in the wider world. Her work provides mathematical insights from the field of geometry which help to find an engineering solution to applied problems, among others in the fields of technology, for example her research in the field of frequency distribution for cellular antennas to use a few frequencies with optimal cellular reception at each point. Another study by Dr. Keller dealt with locating the location of corona patients using geometric tools in order to prevent the disclosure of private information about the patients.

Dr. Keller was part of an international team that managed to find a solution to the "Ringle problem" - a mathematical problem in the field of graph coloring that had not been solved for 60 years. The researchers proved that no finite number of colors would be sufficient to color any set of circles in the plane so that any two circles touching each other would be colored in different colors. Among her other achievements are her work on Krasnoselskii numbers, on Helly-type theorems, and on the theory of geometric graphs.

Dr. Keller graduated with a bachelor's degree at Beth and Garden College in Jerusalem, a master's and a master's degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a post-doctorate at Ben Gurion University, after which she was a research fellow at the Technion. She is currently a faculty member at the School of Computer Science at Ariel University. Dr. Keller was also involved over the years in activities to promote and enrich girls in mathematics studies, building courses for training mathematics teachers, building teaching systems, and making advanced mathematical content accessible.

Dr. Nir Schlesinger, Ben Gurion University: Machine learning everywhere

Dr. Nir Schlesinger, 2024 Creel Award winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation
Dr. Nir Schlesinger, 2024 Krill Award winner. Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

Dr. Nir Schlesinger, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Faculty of Engineering Sciences, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the recipient of the 2024 Krill Prize for his groundbreaking work in the fields of machine learning, signal processing, communication and information theory.

Dr. Schlesinger's research encompasses diverse topics including machine learning, signal processing, communication and information theory. His work in model-based machine learning revolutionized the field, offering hybrid solutions that combine classical inference with deep learning techniques. These methodologies advanced critical tasks in wireless communication and tracking dynamic systems, and established his status as a thought leader in signal processing.

Dr. Schlesinger's work led to practical applications that have far-reaching consequences, for example his research in the fields of massive MIMO networks, joint radar communication systems, and dynamic massive Dynamic Metasurface Antenna (DMA). The elegant methods he developed for designing task-based procurement systems have practical implications for saving memory, power and costs.

Dr. Schlesinger's research productivity and dedication are extraordinary. He serves as an editor in several important scientific magazines, has played key roles in organizing workshops and meetings at prestigious conferences, and has demonstrated his commitment to fostering innovation and discourse within the scientific community. His dedication to teaching and guidance is commendable. Despite his obligations in reserve service in the army, he continued to inspire and guide students, and received awards for excellence in teaching. In this way, he is an example of how intellectual growth, professional development, and social responsibility can be fostered. Due to his multifaceted contributions, Dr. Schlesinger is an inspiration to his colleagues and other academics.

Dr. Schlesinger completed a bachelor's, master's and master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at Ben-Gurion University, a post-doctorate in electrical engineering at the Technion, and another post-doctorate in mathematics and computer science at the Weizmann Institute. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ben-Gurion University.

One response

  1. Kudos to them, Israeli pride.
    Emphasis on Israeli, not Arab, not Muslim, not Palestinian, I'm looking at you, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University, who allowed the supporters of terrorism to demonstrate on the day of the Nakba, and I hate institutions of Israeli refugees.

    Let our real Israelis succeed.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.