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Dr. Aseel Shomar - 2023 Ruth Arnon Fellow

Aseel Shomar was born and raised in Nazareth. Her belief that integrating purportedly alien fields could produce innovative applications led her to study biochemical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, with the goal of unravelling some of the mysteries of cancer. Her first efforts to tackle cancer using collaborative approaches culminated in her senior thesis, which aimed to develop nano-sized factories to manufacture cancer drugs at tumor sites.

As Aseel began her MSc studies in the prestigious interdisciplinary Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Program at the Technion, she became interested in neuroscience, based as it is on the recruitment of such varied fields as biology, physics, mathematics and computer science. This led her to join the ongoing fruitful collaboration between Prof. Naama Brenner and Prof. Noam Ziv. Her MSc project, on which she has published a paper, described a mesoscopic level model that provides an effective description of spontaneous synaptic-size dynamics.

Having equipped herself with vital skills from wide-ranging fields, she aimed to introduce concepts long studied in neuroscience to the study of biological contexts outside the brain, such as cancer and stem cells. In her PhD research, supervised by Professors Brenner and Barak, she studied different aspects of learning and control in biological systems, and she developed an algorithm for control identification, elucidating mechanisms for phenotypic transitions, and understanding the implications of learning new phenotypes in cancer progression.

Aseel received both her BSc and MSc degrees summa cum laude, ranking first in her class. She has received several prizes and fellowships in recognition of her distinguished academic achievements, including the Adams Fellowship, the Noam Fellowship, the Technion Alumni Prize, the Goldstein Prize, the Avrahami Prize and the Sherman Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship. In addition to research, Aseel served, during her PhD, as a project instructor in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Medicine. She received the permanent excellent teaching assistant prize. In her postdoctoral training in the United States, Aseel aims to investigate the ability of regulatory networks within a single cell to learn new associations.