Bar-Ilan University | President’s Report 2022

57 Cohenwas co-author of a seminal study published in The Lancet inOctober that found that the third, “booster” shotwas farmore effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19 than the first two doses alone. Cohen also emphasized, however, that assessing vulnerability to serious disease is always a complex issue. He would know best: As head of Bar-Ilan’s Laboratory for Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy, Cohen studies the human immune system’s ability to generate long lasting, highly functional T-cells, a key to gene transfer approaches to cancer treatment. For his pioneering work in the field, Cohen was elected president of the Israel Society for Cancer Research in July. 2nd PLACE Profs. Uri Polat and Yossi Mandel, the School of Optometry and Vision Science and the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, for making future spacemissions safe for astronauts’ functional vision The goal of every Bar-Ilan researcher is impact far beyond the boundaries of campus. Few of them, however, imagine their technologies going quite as far as outer space. This past March, Head of the Bar-Ilan School of Optometry and Vision Science Prof. Uri Polat and Head of the University’s Ophthalmic Science and Engineering Laboratory Prof. Yossi Mandel’s digital vision-examination technology joined 34 other Israeli experiments that went the distance—literally— in the Rakia (“Heavens”) Mission, part of the Axiom Space Ax-1 Mission to the International Space Station. Their set of technology experiments, which were designed together with Dr. Eran Schenker, the chief medical innovation officer at the Israel AerospaceMedicine Institute, facilitates the detection of even slight changes in functional vision capabilities. Based on an application that can be downloaded to any tablet, the modified technology will allow for the remote examination of Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe’s vision while in space and the identification of the exact points at which changes occurred. They hope the resulting datawill allow them to draw conclusions about neuro-visual damage in space, and more important, to devise treatments for protecting vision— even for journeys as long as those to Mars. 3rd PLACE Prof. BeenaKalisky, theDepartment of Physics and the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, for a groundbreaking discovery about material conductivity If there’s one thing physicist Beena Kalisky knew for sure, it was the way a material behaves when it approaches a phase transition. That is, until her teamobserved amaterial changing phases through her SQUID imaging device. The lab of Prof. Beena Kalisky in Bar-Ilan’s Department of Physics and Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA) is home to a Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID), one of just a handful in the entire world. Powerful enough to detect even the weakest magnetic fields, the SQUID system operates at the extremely low temperatures in which quantum behavior occurs. It’s also sensitive enough to detect, in a non-invasive way, the physical phases that emerge from the quantum behavior and the transitions between all the possible phases. The resulting images, in particular of two-dimensional systems, reveal information crucial for developing future (quantumand classical) nanotechnologies. This year, her team achieved a whole new understanding when they observed a material changing from a conducting behavior to a non-conducting one. In a study published in nature communications, Kalisky demonstrated that while the percolation of current flow at phase transitions is held to be universal, structural defects in the material interact with the moving electrons, resulting in a different, one-dimensional current flow. Her findings foremost hold implications for the design of more efficient electronic devices that rely on ceramic-based materials. But perhaps more important, her discovery shows the value of taking another, open-minded look at things we’ve taken for granted—and only think we understand. Prof. Sarit Kraus, the Department of Computer Science, for her election to the National Academy of Sciences Most people are comfortable with computers automating the complex activity that takes place at traffic lights. It turns out, though, that the same artificial intelligence could probably negotiateglobal treaties forushumans—anddoamuchbetter job. Prof. Sarit Kraus of Bar-Ilan’s Department of Computer Science is one of the world’s leading researchers of multi-agent systems, a branch of artificial intelligence in which a group of agents— whether computers, robots, or human beings—works to solve problems collaboratively. Shedeveloped, togetherwithcomputer scientists fromUSC, the Assistant for Randomized Monitoring of Routes, orARMOR,whichallowsairport security torandomizethe placement of security checkpoints, shroudinganti-terror activities in a digital cloak of invisibility. In use at LAX since 2007, ARMOR evengarneredacommendation forKrausandher colleagues from theMayor of Los Angeles. For her expertise in the field of artificial intelligence, her significant contributiontothefieldof autonomous agents, andher studies in thefieldofmultiagent systems, shewas awarded the 2010EMET Prize; shewas also selected as the 20202021 ACM Athena Lecturer for her foundational contributions to artificial intelligence, includingareas suchas security, autonomous vehicles, and even speech therapy. All this, however, was arguably prelude to thehighest honor of all: her election this past November to Israel’s National Academy of Sciences, themost senior scientificbody inthecountry.Comprising just 136members, theAcademy includes 19women—ofwhichProf. Kraus is the first fromBar-Ilan.