A new discovery regarding the organization of DNA during sperm development and its possible effect on future offspring
Joint research from Technion and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Prof. Noam Kaplan

Prof. Noam Kaplan

Researchers at Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine present new findings regarding the organization of DNA during sperm formation and its implications on future organisms. The research which was published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology was done by Prof. Noam Kaplan and MSc student Haia Khoury from the Technion, together with their colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Leading the research at Cincinnati were Prof. Satoshi Namekawa and research student Kris Alvattam.

The DNA in the living cell is packed, together with the proteins attached to it, in a molecular complex called chromatin. Although it may seem that the chromatin serves only as packaging of genetic data within the DNA, the way in which the DNA is packed considerably influences cellular systems. For example, DNA that is tightly packed may become inaccessible to biological machinery which reads the DNA, possibly leading to inactivation of genes encoded in that DNA sequence.

This current research examined the organization of the DNA during spermatogenesis – sperm development. Although spermatogenesis has been long studied, the way in which DNA is packed during this process has not been mapped in detail due to technological challenges. Now, researchers have met this challenge by using a novel technology, called Hi-C, which combines experimental molecular biology with computational analysis to measure the spatial organization of DNA.

Haia Khoury

Haia Khoury

Each day, millions of sperm cells are created in the human male body. One of the critical stages in the formation of sperm cells is meiosis (cell division). Early in meiosis, DNA is drastically reorganized as the chromosomes condense in preparation of the upcoming cell division. Furthermore, these condense chromosomes swap segments of DNA and in this way increase genetic variation.

The Israeli-American research team successfully isolated mouse sperm cells at the start of meiosis when the chromosomes are condensed and then used Hi-C to measure the spatial organization of the DNA. The researchers discovered that the spatial structure of the chromatin gradually strengthens during spermatogenesis until it reaches its ultimate strength in the mature sperm. They suggest that this organization enables the sperm cells to activate a wide variety of genes during meiosis, enabling the cells to later gain the unique ability to produce all cell types after fertilization. According to Dr. Kaplan, “In the future, we intend to use this approach in order to understand how the genome’s spatial structure may influence fertility.”

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Azrieli Foundation and the Henry and Marilyn Taub Scholarship.

Prof. Kaplan joined the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine in 2016 and established an interdisciplinary laboratory for studying the spatial structure and function of genomes in health and disease.

Haia Khoury completed her BSc at the Technion’s Faculty of Biology and is currently pursuing an MSc in Biomedical Sciences at the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

Changes in the organization of DNA during sperm development. Left to right: developing sperm cells (early meiosis), developing sperm cells (after meiosis) and mature sperm cells. Top row: microscopy image of cells where DNA is marked in black. Lower row: Hi-C interaction maps showing spatial structures of DNA (rectangular shapes). In early meiosis when the DNA is condensed, the DNA structures exist but are weaker, then gradually strengthen after meiosis and in the mature sperm cells.

Changes in the organization of DNA during sperm development. Left to right: developing sperm cells (early meiosis), developing sperm cells (after meiosis) and mature sperm cells. Top row: microscopy image of cells where DNA is marked in black. Lower row: Hi-C interaction maps showing spatial structures of DNA (rectangular shapes). In early meiosis when the DNA is condensed, the DNA structures exist but are weaker, then gradually strengthen after meiosis and in the mature sperm cells.


Click here for the paper in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology

Photo credit: Technion Spokesperson’s Office

For more information: Doron Shaham, Technion Spokesperson, 050-310-9088


EIT FAN is a new EU funded multi-location accelerator programme delivered across Europe. Over a 4 month acceleration period, start-ups will have access to a buffet of tools, connections, mentors, and expertise to help them to succeed. With the 3 best start-ups receiving prizes.

Driven by a consortium of EIT Food partners, representing the very best in academic and industry expertise in the food space, and with MassChallenge, the programme supports high impact food-space start-ups to maximize their success.

The EIT FAN will be held across 5 locations in Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and will start in June 2019.

For further details click here: http://www.eitfan.eu

EITFOOD Invitation

Students from Technion’s Faculty of Computer Science showcase their innovative projects

A navigation system for the visually impaired, a system to prevent drunk driving, and a social app for task-sharing

[Technion January 22, 2019]

BionicEye team

BionicEye team

Undergraduate students from Technion’s Faculty of Computer Science presented 43 projects in the fields of Internet of Things (IoT), Android Applications, Ransomware, and computer communications.

The students, from the Technion’s Systems and Software Development Lab (SSDL) headed by Chief Engineer Itai Dabran, presented a wide range of projects which spanned navigation system for the visually impaired, sensors for a karate match, a recipe search system based on available ingredients, a driving instructor’s logbook, a ‘smart’ glove for a motorcycle racing game, and a family application for managing household chores.

SPIN-IT team

SPIN-IT team

The projects were carried out in cooperation with the Microsoft Israel R&D Center, which assists the students in using new technologies and software during the course of their studies. Guiding the students were teaching assistants Boris Van Sosin, Lina Maudlej, Ron Balter, and Ofir Alexi from Technion’s Faculty of Computer Science and Microsoft’s Director of Academic Programs, Nir Levy.

Among the guests of honor at the project fair were Microsoft’s Jennifer Ritzinger, Senior Director of Audience Evangelism and Justin Garrett, Director of Academic Ecosystems for Cloud & AI. “I was really inspired, listening to the computer science students at The Technion share their projects on IoT, mobile app dev, and ransomware prevention…many powered by cloud platforms like Azure. There’s just an energy, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit here and it’s an honor for Microsoft to be a partner here”, Garrett said.

Among the projects that were presented:

BionicEye system installed on a shoe

BionicEye system installed on a shoe

BionicEye was designed to warn visually impaired people of obstacles in their vicinity and to help them navigate their surroundings.  The development team includes friends and fellow students Aviad Shiber, Shahar Shalev, and Oded Raiches.

The idea for the project was initiated by Shiber, whose mother is visually impaired. “Guide dogs are a good solution for the visually impaired, but they do not know how to deal with an unfamiliar pattern,” he explained. This device helps the user navigate via the use of voice and vibrating applications that safely direct them towards their destination.

DriveSafe is a system whereby ‘smart cars’ are able to identify drivers who have consumed a high level of alcohol and prevent car-ignition. The system was developed by students Rotem Samuel, Adva Bitan, and Elizabeth Langerman, and also supports tests such as the drivers’ breath and balance as well as their response in real-time.

Pacmino – live Pac-Man

Pacmino – live Pac-Man

Pacmino is an innovative game based on the popular 80’s arcade game, Pac-Man. Students Ameer Dar Aamar, Samir Massad, and Khaled Manaa built a physical model of the game in which the Pac-Man is remotely controlled. The player activates and moves the Pac-Man, via on an application which implements image processing technology.

“As children, we played a lot of Pac-Man on a computer with very basic graphics, and now we wanted to take the game a step further and provide the user with an enhanced game experience,” said Massad.”

SPIN-IT students Tal Helfand, Naomi Goroboy, and Aviv Cohen developed a racing game that encourages sports culture. A pair of cyclists compete on real bicycles secured to the floor in a virtual environment; receiving feedback on their distance, progress achieved over time, and performance improvement, to encourage sports and fitness.

Amigo team

Amigo team

Amigo is a smartphone application designed for the elderly. The app, developed by students Marah Ghoummaid, Moanes Mrowat, and Eman Ayoub, is designed to assist elderly people with their daily tasks and also serves as an emergency-call device. “Our application enables the user to navigate, write messages and surf the web, all in one application and does not require advanced technological know-how.”

Jesta is a social app which enables people to obtain assistance at a reasonable price. The application connects between people who need help and the relevant people who are able to help. “It is a win-win situation,” said Maxim, Chicherin, Dennis Vashenikov and Evgeni Leonti, the three team members who developed the app. The students recognize the commercial potential of this application and intend to continue its development.


Researchers at Technion have developed a platform able to accelerate the learning process of AI systems a 1000 fold

Prof. Shahar Kvatinsky and doctoral student Tzofnat Greenberg-Toledo

(L-R) Prof. Shahar Kvatinsky and doctoral student Tzofnat Greenberg-Toledo

Prof.  Shahar Kvatinsky and doctoral student Tzofnat Greenberg-Toledo, together with students Roee Mazor and Ameer Haj-Ali of Technion’s Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering recently published their research in the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems journal, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

In recent years, there has been major progress in the world of artificial intelligence, mainly due to models of deep neural networks (DNNs); sets of algorithms inspired by the human brain and designed to recognize patterns. Inspired by human learning methods, these DNNs have had unprecedented success in dealing with complex tasks such as autonomous driving, natural language processing, image recognition and the development of innovative medical treatments which is achieved through the machine’s self-learning from a vast pool of examples often represented by images. This technology is developing rapidly in academic research groups and leading companies such as Facebook and Google are utilizing it for their specific needs.  

Learning by example requires large scale computing power and is therefore carried out on computers that have graphic processing units (GPUs) suited for the task. Yet, these units consume considerable amounts of energy and their speed is slower than the required learning rate of the neural networks, thereby hindering the learning process. “In fact, we are dealing with hardware originally intended for mostly graphic purposes and it fails to keep up with the fast-paced activity of the neural networks,” explains Kvatinsky. “To solve this problem, we need to design hardware that will be compatible with deep neural networks.”

Prof. Shahar Kvatinsky and his research team

Prof. Shahar Kvatinsky and his research team

Prof. Kvatinsky and his research group have developed a hardware system specifically designed to work with these networks, enabling the neural network to perform the learning phase with greater speed and less energy consumption. “Compared to GPU’s, the new hardware’s calculation speed is 1,000 times faster and reduces power consumption by 80%.”  

This novel hardware represents a conceptual change; rather than focus on improving the existing processors, Kvatinsky and his team decided to develop the structure of a three-dimensional computing machine that integrates memory. “Rather than split between the units that perform  calculations and the memory responsible for storing information, we conduct both tasks within the memristor, a memory component with enhanced calculation capabilities assigned to work with deep neural networks.”

Although their research is still at its theoretical stage, they have already demonstrated the implementation via simulation. “Currently, our development is destined to work with the momentum learning algorithms, but our intention is to continue developing the hardware so that it will be compatible with other learning algorithms as well. We may be able to develop dynamic, multi-purpose hardware which will be able to adapt to various algorithms, instead of having a number of different hardware components,” Kvatinsky added.

This research is supported by the European Research Council under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.


Photo credit: Technion Spokesperson’s Office

For more information: Doron Shaham, Technion Spokesperson, 050-310-9088


From the origin of species to the origin of sexual reproduction

Yael Iosilevskii and Benjamin Podbilewicz, Faculty of Biology, Technion

In 1831 Captain Robert FitzRoy commissioned His Majesty’s Ship ‘Beagle’ and set out on an expedition, accompanied by “Mr. Charles Darwin…a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed of all branches of natural history” [1]. This journey, would give rise to the most important book ever written in life sciences.

In his book, “On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life,” published in 1859, Darwin claimed that evolution by natural selection was one of the main forces influencing the variation in living organisms. For the first time in history, this book depicted evolution in the form of a (family) tree wherein various species which exist today are the result of the branching out of an extinct ancestor [2]. Such evolution is evident in language development [3], disease outbreaks [4], and in the formation of new plant and animal species [5].

How is a new species of a living organism created? First, we must define what is a species. Animals of different species cannot sexually reproduce (to bear fertile offspring). Changes in the genetic composition or the environment from one generation to the next may create a situation whereby two populations become distinct enough so as to not be able to reproduce between them – thus, a new species is created from an existing one. Over time, these differences become greater and the species become more divergent. Many mechanisms can contribute to this separation, but a significant factor is the requirement for a perfect match of the special cells responsible for reproduction, the gametes (e.g. sperm and egg) [6]. In general, only same-species gametes will fuse to form a zygote (or fertilized egg), from which an entire new organism would develop.

This seemingly trivial first step in sexual reproduction is in fact one of the greatest mysteries of all time: Two cells will not fuse spontaneously; special proteins called fusogens must mediate this, and the fusogens mediating sperm – egg fusion in vertebrates, including humans, are unknown.

We do know the identity of fusogens responsible for fusion of gametes in other sexually reproducing species: flowering plants and the malaria parasite use proteins called “HAP2” [7], and some viruses use “class II fusion proteins” to merge into the cell they infect. Additionally, in the worm C. elegans, one third of all cells fuse to sculpt organs using proteins called “EFF-1” [8]. Remarkably, these proteins, from plants, parasites, viruses, and worms, look almost identical, and can interact to cause different cells to fuse in a petri dish [7].

The similarity of structure between EFF-1, HAP2 and viral class II fusion proteins enables us to trace back and speculate that there was once a common ancestor to these fusion proteins, from which multiple families diverged [9]. Were sexual fusogens ‘stolen’ by viruses from the ancient hosts, or were they a viral mechanism adopted by ancient organisms to facilitate sexual reproduction? We are still not sure.

 Figure: Trees depicting evolution. The first known evolutionary tree drawn by Darwin in 1837 (left) 10 and a tree showing the structural relationships between fusogens of the family named fusexins (right). Viral class II proteins (red); somatic fusogens (green); sexual fusogens (blue)7.

Figure: Trees depicting evolution. The first known evolutionary tree drawn by Darwin in 1837 (left) [10]  and a tree showing the structural relationships between fusogens of the family named fusexins (right). Viral class II proteins (red); somatic fusogens (green); sexual fusogens (blue) [7].

As research develops, we will be able to identify and describe new fusogens and place them accordingly into an evolutionary tree. In Darwin’s words, “Of the many twigs which flourished when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great branches, yet survive and bear the other branches; so with the species which lived during long-past geological periods, very few have left living and modified descendants.” [2]  As such, Darwin’s original ideas have continued to evolve with us over the past 160 years, and will surely continue to do so.


  1. FitzRoy, R., (1839). The narrative of the voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle. London: Colburn [1st ed.] Proceedings of the second expedition, 1831-36. pp. 18-19. http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F10.2&viewtype=text
  2. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: Murray. [1st ed.] pp.3-6 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
  3. Corballis, M. C. (2017). Language evolution: a changing perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21(4), 229-236. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661317300190?via%3Dihub
  4. Su, S., Bi, Y., Wong, G., Gray, G. C., Gao, G. F., & Li, S. (2015). Epidemiology, Evolution, and Recent Outbreaks of Avian Influenza Virus in China. Journal of virology, 89(17), 8671-6. https://jvi.asm.org/content/89/17/8671
  5. Shapiro, B. J., Leducq, J. B., & Mallet, J. (2016). What Is Speciation?. PLoS genetics, 12(3), e1005860. https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1005860
  6. Springate, L., & Frasier, T. R. (2017). Gamete compatibility genes in mammals: candidates, applications and a potential path forward. Royal Society open science, 4(8), 170577. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.170577
  7. Valansi, C., Moi, D., Leikina, E., Matveev, E., Graña, M., Chernomordik, L. V., Romero, H., Aguilar, P. S., & Podbilewicz, B. (2017). Arabidopsis HAP2/GCS1 is a gamete fusion protein homologous to somatic and viral fusogens. J Cell Biol, 216(3), 571-581. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350521/
  8. Mohler, W. A., Shemer, G., del Campo, J. J., Valansi, C., Opoku-Serebuoh, E., Scranton, V., Assaf, N., White, J.G., & Podbilewicz, B. (2002). The type I membrane protein EFF-1 is essential for developmental cell fusion. Developmental cell, 2(3), 355-362. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1534580702001296?via%3Dihub
  9. Hernández, J. M., & Podbilewicz, B. (2017). The hallmarks of cell-cell fusion. Development, 144(24), 4481-4495. http://dev.biologists.org/content/144/24/4481
  10. Darwin, C. Notebook B: [Transmutation of species (1837-1838)]. ‘commenced. . . July 1837’. pp.36. http://darwin-online.org.uk/manuscripts.html(DAR121)

Prof. Uri Sivan elected new President of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Prof. Uri Sivan

The Technion Council headed by Mr. Gideon Frank, has elected Prof. Uri Sivan, of the Faculty of Physics as the next president of Technion. The Council’s decision was based on the recommendation of the Search Committee for the Technion President and received sweeping support from the Academic Assembly. The appointment is subject to the final approval of the International Board of Governors which is set to convene in June.

Prof. Sivan will commence his term as President of Technion on October 1, 2019, and will replace the outgoing President Prof. Peretz Lavie, who will complete his term after a decade in office.

Prof. Sivan, 64, a resident of Haifa, is married and the father of three. He served as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He has a BSc in Physics and Mathematics, an MSc and Ph.D. in Physics, all with honors from Tel Aviv University.

In 1991, after three years at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center in New York, Prof. Sivan joined the Faculty of Physics at Technion. His research has covered a wide range of fields including quantum mesoscopic physics and the harnessing of molecular and cellular biology for the self-assembly of miniature electronic devices. In recent years, his research has focused on the way water orders next to molecules and the effect of this ordering on inter-molecular interactions in biologically relevant solutions. Within this framework, Prof. Sivan’s group designs and builds unique, ultra-high-resolution atomic force microscopes.

Prof. Sivan, the Bertoldo Badler Chair, is credited with important scientific achievements. Prof. Sivan, along with colleagues Profs. Erez Braun and Yoav Eichen, demonstrated for the first time how to harness molecular recognition by DNA molecules for wiring an electric circuit. This study gained considerable resonance and helped pave the way for a new field in nanotechnology using the self-assembly properties of biological molecules to construct miniature engineering systems.

Prof. Sivan is a renowned lecturer in Israel and abroad. He was awarded numerous prizes including the Mifal Hapais Landau Prize for the Sciences and Research, the Rothschild Foundation Bruno Prize, the US-Israel BSF Bergmann Award, the Technion’s Hershel Rich Innovation Award, and the Taub Award for Excellence in Research.

His research has led to patents and industrial applications. Recently, an Israeli start-up company was established in the field of single cell analysis for cancer diagnostics, based on the technology developed in Prof. Sivan’s lab.

Prof. Sivan is the founding director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Research Institute (RBNI), which he headed between 2005 and 2010.  RBNI has led the scientific revolution in nanotechnology at Technion and has placed the university at the forefront of global research in the field. RBNI made headlines when Prof. Sivan and Dr. Ohad Zohar engraved the entire Hebrew Bible onto a tiny silicon chip. The Nano Bible was written as part of an educational program developed by the Institute to increase young people’s interest in science and especially in nanotechnology. In 2009, President Shimon Peres presented the Nano Bible to Pope Benedict XVI during his official visit to Israel. Today, there are three copies of the chip worldwide: at the Vatican Library, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The establishment of RBNI spearheaded the development of Israel’s national nanotechnology program, and together with centers established in other Israeli universities, has positioned the country as a world leader in nanotechnology.

Recently, Prof. Sivan was appointed the head of the National Advisory Committee for Quantum Science and Technology set up by the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC). The committee outlined the national quantum academic program, which was adopted and launched last year.

Prof. Sivan has served as a member of the Israeli National Committee for Research and Development (MOLMOP) and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Batsheva de Rothschild Foundation. He currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Maof Fellowships Committee for advancing Arab faculty and is a member of the Wolfson Foundation Advisory Committee in Israel.

Prof. Sivan deeply values and promotes education. He headed a Ministry of Education committee to develop and mentor “Science and Technology for All,” a national curriculum for non-science high-school majors.

Photo credit: Nitzan Zohar, Technion Spokesperson’s Office



Vascularizing Engineered Tissues in Lab Could Make for More Successful Organ Transplants

(L-R) Prof. Shulamit Levenberg and Shahar Ben-Shaul

HAIFA, ISRAEL (February 5, 2019) – When human tissue is damaged by trauma or disease, replacement tissue is needed by surgeons to repair it. The tissue is usually transplanted from one part of the patient’s body to another (autograft) or from one person to another (allograft).

Autografts can save lives, but they are complicated: Harvesting autografts is painful and costly, and infections and hematoma (solid swelling of clotted blood) within the tissues can result. Transplanted tissue via allograft is also complex because the recipient’s immune system can reject the tissue, and the graft can transport infection or disease to the recipient.

The field of tissue engineering aims to regenerate or replace damaged tissues using tissues made in the lab. Cells taken from the body are incorporated with very porous scaffold biomaterials, which act as 3D templates that guide the growth of new tissue.

A doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and her colleagues have brought successful tissue engineering a step closer. Shahar Ben-Shaul – working with Shira Landau and Uri Merdler under the supervision of Prof.  Shulamit Levenberg – have just published their findings in an article called “Mature vessel networks within engineered tissue promote graft-host anastomosis and prevent graft thrombosis” in the latest issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Blood perfusion (red) of the implanted engineered- vessels (green) connected to the host blood vessels (blue).

The scaffolds are seeded with cells grown in vitro to create tissues for implantation or are introduced directly into the exact site where the patient’s body has been damaged or diseased. The tissues are then coaxed into regeneration.

Graft vascularization – creating blood vessels to bring oxygen and nutrients to the regenerated tissue, is one of the most difficult tasks before this process can succeed in creating thick, transplantable tissues and organs. In-vitro ‘pre-vascularization’ of engineered-tissues has been suggested to promote rapid “anastomosis” (connection of blood vessels) between the graft and the recipient’s tissues. But thrombosis (clotting or coagulation) in the grafts can result.

Ben-Shaul and her team aimed at finding out whether transplanting more mature engineered vessels to integrate with the patient’s tissues could speed up this process without causing thrombosis in the grafts.

They cultured endothelial cells and fibroblasts on 3-dimensional scaffolds for 1, 7 or 14 days, to form vessels of different ages.

The result was that the most mature grafts with complex vessel networks that have grown longer in the lab increased graft-host vessel anastomosis and improved penetration of the vessels in the recipient.

The less-mature vessels were less successful in combining with the host tissue and caused more clots to be formed. These findings, they wrote, “demonstrate the importance of establishing mature and complex vessel networks in engineered-tissues before implantation” in promoting anastomosis with the host and speeding up the perfusion of blood into the tissues.

After the current study in the mice, Ben-Shaul hopes to conduct additional preclinical studies that could lead to the implementation of the study’s conclusions in humans.

Click here for the paper in PNAS

Photo credits: Technion Spokesperson’s Office



NEW YORK (February 4, 2019) – Would people believe a news story is accurate if it is published by a source that shares their worldview? Or would they believe claims that agree with their views, regardless of where they are published?

Associate Prof. Mor Naaman, of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech

A new report by Associate Professor Mor Naaman and colleagues at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech shows that Americans are more likely to believe that a news story is accurate if the headline aligns with their political views and that it does not matter whether the headline comes from a source that aligns with the reader’s views.

For instance, a left-leaning reader who sees the headline “Trump lashes out at Vanity Fair, one day after it lambastes his restaurant,” is more likely than a right-leaning person to rate the headline true. For both these readers, it doesn’t matter whether the headline appears on Fox News or The New York Times, the researchers discovered.

The results provide insight and nuance to the important question of trust in news, the researchers suggest. “On the bright side,” Naaman said, “the source of news might be less polarizing than previously thought. On the negative side, though, the experiment shows that people are likely to reject disagreeable information, even if they trust its source.”

Naaman and his colleague Maurice Jakesch of Cornell Tech, Moran Koren of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Anna Evtushenko of Cornell University are presenting their findings at the 2019 Computation + Journalism Symposium, held February 1-2 in Miami, Florida.

After an online experiment conducted with 400 Americans, the researchers concluded that “participants overwhelmingly report believing headlines that align with their political views, regardless of the source of the report.”

They also found strong evidence that those participating in the experiment were not always truthful about how they evaluated the headlines. “For example, right-leaning readers would often say a left-leaning headline is false, even when they believe it is true,” they note.

When some of the participants were offered a small payment for “correctly” answering whether the headlines were true or false, they were less likely to respond in ways that aligned with their political leanings. The researchers found that right-leaning participants, in particular, rated more of the left-leaning headlines as true when they were offered the payment option.

Maurice Jakesch, the lead author on the study and a Ph.D. student at Cornell Tech, said: “While we do not expect Facebook to start handing out money for people’s evaluation of headlines, these results suggest the potential for incentives that may change people’s behavior regarding evaluating and maybe even sharing of misinformation and fake news.”

A 2018 survey by the Gallup and Knight Foundation concluded that Americans perceive news articles as biased (62 percent of news stories) or inaccurate (44 percent of stories) depending on whether they believe the news outlet shares their political affiliation.

But Naaman and colleagues suggest that this survey and other recent studies on the phenomenon did not dig deep enough, to find out whether individuals might be influenced by the political nature of the claims published in the news stories themselves.

To remedy this, the researchers recruited 400 people through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing platform for surveys and other tasks. The participants were shown a set of left-leaning, right-leaning and non-political headlines assigned randomly to either Fox News or The New York Times, and asked to evaluate whether the headlines were true or false. The researchers then asked the participants a series of questions to determine their political affiliation.

The researchers say the results of their experiment are preliminary, and should be expanded in the future with more headlines, more news sources and a larger and more diverse group of participants.

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute is a uniquely experimental, transdisciplinary graduate institute housed at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City. A partnership between Cornell University and the Technion, the Jacobs Institute represents a next-generation model for STEM education, designed around industry-focused “hubs” that address specific areas of social and economic need. As the embodiment of the Technion and Cornell’s winning submission in the City of New York’s competition to create a new applied sciences grad school, the Jacobs Institute is growing the City’s tech sector and fostering technologies and companies that will have a global impact.

Three exceptional researchers granted 2019 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel

The three researchers, from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the TechnionIsrael Institute of Technology, will be awarded US$100,000 each – one of the largest unrestricted prizes ever created for early-career researchers in Israel

Jerusalem, February 4, 2019 – The Blavatnik Family Foundation, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (IASH) announced today the 2019 Laureates of the second annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel.

The Blavatnik Awards recognize outstanding, innovative early-career scientists and engineers for both their extraordinary achievements and promise for future discoveries.

The prizes are awarded to promising scientists and engineers aged 42 and younger for their breakthrough research in the disciplines of Life Sciences, Chemistry, and Physical Sciences and Engineering.

In 2019, 33 nominations were received from seven universities across the country. Members of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, which includes IASH President, Professor Nili Cohen and is co-chaired by Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover and President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Academy of Sciences, Mr. Ellis Rubinstein were also invited to submit nominations. A distinguished jury of leading senior scientists and engineers from throughout Israel selected the Laureates.

The 2019 Blavatnik Awards in Israel Laureates are:


Dr. Michal Rivlin (40), Senior Scientist, Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science

Dr. Rivlin’s groundbreaking work has transformed our understanding of how we see. Her research has led to a paradigm shift in our understanding of the retina, a part of the eye where all visual processes begin. Dr. Rivlin’s work has revealed that cells in the retina can dynamically change their response properties to stimuli such as motion and light. Her findings challenge the dogma that responses of retinal cells are fixed and hardwired. Her discoveries raise fundamental questions about how we see and have implications for our understanding of the mechanisms underlying computations in neuronal circuits, the treatment of retinal diseases and blindness, and the development of computer vision technologies.


Dr. Moran Bercovici

Dr. Moran Bercovici (36), Associate Professor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Dr. Bercovici is being recognized for his innovative research in microfluidics, contributing to fundamental understanding of the chemical and physical behavior of fluids at extremely small scales, as well as to the invention of cutting-edge technologies in this field.   His highly multidisciplinary research which couples fluid mechanics, electric fields, heat transfer, chemical reactions, and biology has the potential to not only miniaturize existing large-scale processes but also to create new capabilities that are not possible at large scale. For example, Dr. Bercovici and his team at Technion have developed a series of Lab-on-a-Chip technologies which significantly shorten the time and improve the sensitivity of traditional molecular analysis techniques, enabling rapid and early disease diagnostics as well as offering new research tools to scientists.   Innovations coming from his lab also have potential use in many other fields including soft actuators, adaptive optics, single cell analysis, and microscale 3D printing.


Dr. Erez Berg (41), Associate Professor, Department of Condensed Matter Physics, Weizmann Institute of Science

Dr. Berg has conducted creative and influential theoretical studies to gain valuable insights into quantum materials — materials whose electronic properties cannot be understood with concepts from contemporary physics textbooks. Dr. Berg developed a landmark computational method to study an important phenomenon, called metallic quantum criticality, which is commonly seen in many quantum materials. Recently, he predicted a new method to reversibly switch superconducting devices between topological and non-topological states, which is very promising for storing and manipulating quantum information. His research has provided important insights into the physics principles behind a wide variety of exotic phenomena in quantum materials, which will help to speed up the implementation of these materials in next-generation electronics, including quantum computing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and superconducting power lines.

“For over 70 years, Israeli innovation has led to groundbreaking discoveries in science and technology,” said Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries and Head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “These exceptional researchers demonstrate the immense potential of the new generation of scientists in shaping the future. It is imperative to recognize and support leading innovators early in their careers to maximize impactful scientific breakthroughs.”

Ellis Rubinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer at the New York Academy of Sciences, noted that: “The sensational, cutting-edge innovations by these dynamic young researchers who are being honored, are truly inspirational. These future leaders join the growing global alumni of extraordinary talent and dedication who are at the core of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists program.  We look forward to celebrating their future game-changing discoveries.”

Professor Nili Cohen, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, said, “Together with the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences, we are proud to recognize and support these exceptional young scientists with this prestigious award. Each of them demonstrates their outstanding merit, their passion for pushing the frontiers of scientific discovery, and their bright future as part of a new generation of pioneering Israeli scientists.”

The 2019 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel will be conferred at a formal ceremony in Jerusalem on April 7, 2019. The Laureates will join over 250 of their peers as fellow members of the Blavatnik Science Scholars community. They will also be invited to attend the annual Blavatnik Science Symposium each summer in New York City, where members come together to collaborate on cross-disciplinary research and share new ideas.

About the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honor exceptional young scientists and engineers by celebrating their extraordinary achievements, recognizing outstanding promise, and accelerating innovation through unrestricted funding. The Awards were established in New York and began as regional awards for young scientists and engineers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists were established in 2014 and are awarded to faculty-rank scientists annually across the United States. With the 2017 launch of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel ― in collaboration with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities ― and in the United Kingdom, there are now more than 250 recipients of regional, national, and international Blavatnik young scientist honors.

About the Blavatnik Family Foundation

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr. Blavatnik is the Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, venture capital, and real estate. Among other assets, Access Industries owns the Israeli Clal Industries group.  For more detailed information, please visit www.accessindustries.com or   www.blavatnikfoundation.org.

 About The New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide.  With more than 20,000 Members in 100 countries around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy’s core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org and follow us on Twitter at @NYASciences.

About the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is the preeminent scientific institution in Israel. It was established by law in 1961, and acts as a national focal point for Israeli scholarship in all branches of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The Academy comprises 128 of Israel’s most distinguished scientists and scholars who operate in two sections – the sciences section and the humanities section.

It is tasked with promoting Israeli scientific excellence; advising the government on scientific matters of national interest; publishing scholarly research of lasting merit, and maintaining active contact with the broader international scientific and scholarly community. For more information about the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, please visit www.academy.ac.il.

To learn more about this year’s Laureates, go to:


To follow the progress of the Blavatnik Awards, please visit www.blavatnikawards.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards).