Dr Yang Zhao

The perfect fit

The University of Haifa has proved to be the ideal environment for three alumni to further their career dreams in a variety of different research areas

Students can become the Next Big Thing in their chosen field after studying at the University of Haifa. Take Dr Yang Zhao, whose research on the relationship between aging and cancer is making headlines in the medical world. It’s thought his breakthrough will help future treatment and provide new insights into the complex disease. Currently a postdoctoral research associate at

the University of Rochester in the U.S., it was Dr Zhao’s postdoctoral fellowship position at the University of Haifa’s Institute of Evolution — funded by the PBC Fellowship Program for Outstanding Post-Doctoral Researchers from China and India, through the Israeli Council for Higher Education — that led him down the research path he’s on. Working with Prof Eviatar (Eibi) Nevo, a world-leading evolutionary biologist, he conducted research on naturally cancer-resistant species, such as the naked mole rat and the blind mole rat, the results of which helped to provide a greater insight into the evolution of cancer. “Professor Nevo really is a role model for young

scientists,” says Dr Zhao. “Inspired by his enthusiasm in science, I myself became more interested in scientific research. It has opened my eyes and broadened my interest in

26 Israeli Academia | 2021

evolutionary and cancer biology.” Following on from his breakthrough research,

Dr Zhao wants to establish his own laboratory focusing on aging and cancer research. Elsewhere, Pimprenelle Rivka Atlan joined the

University of Haifa to do a second MA degree in Maritime Civilizations, following her passion for underwater archaeology and the Bronze Age — something that’s taken her all over the world, including excavations in France, Italy and Israel. “Through the MA program, I had the

opportunity to work at my favorite Israeli archaeological sites, including Tel Dor and Achziv,” she says. “Moreover, this program enabled me to fulfill my passion to explore the ties between land and sea, with particular emphasis on the Middle Bronze Age in Mesopotamia and along the Mediterranean coast. The underwater ‘classroom’ was a unique setting in which to consider the Maritime Civilizations of Israel and their relationship with the sea and sea trade.” Taking things further, Pimprenelle is currently

in the midst of a joint research project in Archaeology and Maritime Civilizations, a collaboration between the University of Haifa and the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. Shared research is of great importance at the

University of Haifa, which has signed over 500 agreements with universities worldwide, allowing exchange programs, accelerating research, launching new programs and much more. Another example of collaboration is the joint

MA degree in International Relations with specialization in Diplomacy Studies. Through this research program, students spend one year studying at the University of Haifa and the second year in Warsaw, Poland. Upon completion, they receive two MA degrees in International Relations, one from each institution. Heather Hughes, from the U.S., completed her

MA in International Relations, Dual Degree Program with the University of Warsaw in Poland, in 2018. Prior to her graduate studies at the University of Haifa, she spent five years working for the United States Senate, where she served as an aide for Senator Orrin G Hatch, enacted foreign relations policy and was involved in the nomination of two Supreme Court Justices. “While I’d played a role in shifting policy, I felt I

needed to understand the world I was changing,” she explains. The MA in International Relations Dual Degree Program was, she says, “the perfect link between my past experience and future goals in enacting positive international diplomacy.”


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