I was raised in a Kibbutz in southern Israel, where an early exposure to farming and nature shaped my curiosity of biological systems. My PhD studies, in Jay Gralla’s lab (UCLA), explored the mechanisms by which bacteria adapt to stresses in the mammalian digestive tract. After graduating, motivated to understand microbial cell-cell interactions in complex settings, I studied the mutually beneficial symbiosis between termites and their hindgut bacteria, and the inner-workings of microbial communities in Jared Leadbetter’s and Michael Elowitz's labs in Caltech. I have since been applying the tools and approaches I learned in my PhD and Postdocs to industrial setting, first as a group leader at Calico (Google's startup focused on aging) and currently as a Team Leader at DuPont. When I am out of the lab I enjoy traveling, hiking, and fishing, with my wife Alex and our two sons Jonah and Elan.
Uncovering Metabolic Incompatibilities and How They Shape Microbial Communities
Natural and engineered processes are constrained by conditions that are physically or chemically incompatible with each other. As a simple illustration of incompatible constraints, one of the first things we warn our children is that water is incompatible with electronic circuits. In biological context, incompatibilities regulate a cell’s ability to perform a given enzymatic reaction at a given place and time. For instance, photosynthesis cannot be carried out in the night’s dark, and certain enzymes are inactivated in the presence of antagonistic compounds. In the case of N-fixing bacteria, for example, the nitrogenase enzyme is not compatible with oxygen, so this reaction is constrained to either an anaerobic location, or to cells that turn off oxygen-related processes in different times of the day. While the incompatible reactions outlined above are well understood, the overall presence and universality of incompatible reactions has not been systematically explored, especially in the case of subtler incompatibilities and inefficiencies. I am working to understand these interactions, and to use this knowledge to engineer better industrial processes and to find new ways to prevent and combat infectious disease.
SINGLE-CELL BIOLOGY TOOL DEVELOPMENT
In order to identify community interactions, I have been developing microfluidic, molecular, and microscopy tools to identify and interrogate the spatial and dynamic behavior of single bacterial cells within complex microbial environments
SYSTEMS BIOLOGY OF MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES
I am using a systems biology approach to understand the interactions of community members within clonal and multi-species bacterial communiities
Microbial communities are important for our understanding of environmental processes, and in the context of infectious disease. We can leverage our understanding of community structure to engineer more productive and robust industrial plants (fermenters) as well as to respond to pesky pathogens.
My hobbies are all about having fun with Alex and the kids. Jonah is a fisherman, and Elan loves to build.