In one of his final acts before leaving office, Israeli President Shimon Peres awarded scholarships totaling NIS 1.6 million to eight PhD students working to advance science for the betterment of humanity. The ceremony took place on July 13 at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Five of the eight scholarship recipients are PhD students at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and four of them study at the university’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment — the only agricultural faculty in Israel.
The PhD students are conducting research in the fields of agriculture, environmental quality and water purification and management. Each will receive NIS 200,000 to cover three years of university studies and research, with the goal of advancing health and quality of life in Israel and around the world.
The five Hebrew University doctoral students are:
—Daria Feldman: At 28, this biochemist and food scientist completed her undergraduate studies at the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, with a specialization in Biotechnology, at The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Her doctoral work at the Faculty, under the guidance of Professor Oded Yarden and Professor Yitzhak Hadar, is intended to improve the production of biofuels.
—Adi Kliot: At 31, this plant scientist has completed her undergraduate studies in plant protection, and a master’s degree in plant science, at The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Her doctoral work at the Faculty, under the guidance of Professor Henryk Czosnek and the Volcani Center’s Professor Murad Ghanim, is intended to find a solution for a viral disease that affects tomato plants.
—Itai Ofner: At 33, this plant scientist completed (with top honors) his bachelor’s degree at The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. His doctoral research at the Faculty, under the guidance of Professor Dani Zamir, is intended to help perfect the system of cultivating agricultural crops.
—Lidor Shaar: At 32, this molecular biologist and ecologist completed (with honors) her undergraduate degree in molecular biology and ecology of plants at Tel Aviv University. Her doctoral work at The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, under the guidance of Dr. Zvi Peleg, is intended to characterize and identify mechanisms involved in the response of crops to environmental stresses, in order to help improve crops.
—David Shohami: At 33, this ecologist completed with honors his graduate degree at The Hebrew University’s Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology. His doctoral work at the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, under the guidance of Professor Ran Nathan, is intended the movement patterns and behavior of fruit bats during their search for food.
The other scholarship recipients are studying at Ben-Gurion University, the Technion, and Tel Aviv University. Of the eight scholarship recipients, five are women.
Speaking on behalf of his jury colleagues from six of Israel’s institutes of higher learning, Professor Shmuel Wolf, dean of The Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, predicted that as the best and brightest in their fields, the scholarship winners would bring about revolutions in their respective fields. Wolf quoted the late Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who declared: “If the state does not conquer the desert, the desert will conquer the state.”
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the only institute of higher education in Israel offering university degrees in agriculture, and is also home to the only Schools of Nutritional Sciences and of Veterinary Medicine. Established in 1942 as the Institute for Agricultural Sciences with 21 masters students, the Faculty today has a student body of 2,300 students. Research at the Faculty has improved and increased yields of fruits, vegetables, grain crops, flowers and cotton; helped overcome problems of pest damage and soil contamination; led to the most efficient use of water for agriculture; produced ground-breaking innovations in irrigation techniques; helped develop Israel’s annual flower export from almost nil in the 1960’s, to its current status as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world, and much more.