What is the current focus of your research?
My lab is studying chromatin and epigenetic regulation in pluripotent stem cells, stem cell differentiation and somatic cell reprogramming. We are combining single cell live imaging studies, allowing us to follow chromatin changes as they occur in living cells, with high-throughput genomic technologies and computation analyses, to depict a system-level understanding of the mechanisms that operate to control pluripotency and unravel the chromatin-related regulation of the stem cell state. In addition, we are using pluripotent cells to model polyglutamine (PolyQ) tract diseases and study chromatin-related defects in the hopes of developing better treatments.
What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?
I took biology because I felt it was the most interesting subject to study, but my real passion to science came only during graduate studies several years later, when I did my PhD at the laboratory of Hermona Soreq at the Hebrew University. After I completed my PhD in molecular neuroscience, I was very much attracted to the chromatin field, epigenetic regulation and stem cells. So I decided to switch gears and try and combine chromatin and stem cells in my post-doctoral studies. I really chose stem cells as a model to study chromatin, because I was looking for a system where I could find very conspicuous differences in chromatin between differentiated and undifferentiated cells. I thus joined the lab of Tom Misteli at NIH.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy mountain biking, cooking (risotto, paella and other rice dishes, fish and I make a good Israeli salad), playing guitar and basketball. I have three children – two sons and a daughter – who keep me very busy.
What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
I grew up in a household that included both science and art, and I became involved in the music industry when I was young. After I finished my PhD, I accepted a position as the producer of the Jerusalem Music Centre and organized many workshops and courses with members of the Emerson String Quartet, Juilliard String Quartet and prominent musicians, including violinist Isaac Stern’s final chamber music course in Jerusalem, just months before he died. I considered making a career of music, but I missed science and returned to it after a year.
What do you like most about living and working in Jerusalem?
We have the best students in the country. They are our biggest asset and I enjoy teaching them, learning from them and working with them. When I entered the field, it was still emerging, and it is rewarding to try to get the next generation of students excited about the work we are doing. Also, I have great colleagues that make life enjoyable.
What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?
I enjoy reading the latest news and being part of this important network. I also enjoy contributing to the ISSCR annual meetings. I was sad to miss the recent meeting in Vancouver, but several of my students presented posters.