Dr Or Ben Zvi
What is your field of expertise?
I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Jaffe and Smith labs, working in the range of engineering and marine biology. After getting my PhD on coral fluorescence and ecophysiology at Tel-Aviv University, I am now working on an underwater chlorophyll-a fluorescence imaging system. This new tool allows us to explore micro-scale photosynthesis, in-situ and in real-time, and further explore the relationship between corals and their symbiotic microalgae.
Tell us briefly on your academic path?
I start my academic journey with getting a BSc in biology at Tel Aviv University. On our senior year I took two courses in marine biology and fell in love. I was already a certified diver by then and felt that I could combine my two passions, biology and the ocean. I was fortunate enough to join the Loya coral lab in Tel-Aviv University and be supervised by Prof. Yossi Loya. I got my MSc as well as PhD studying different aspects of corals such as their reproduction, fluorescence, and photosynthesis. After graduating I completed a year-long postdoc at the Steinhardt Museum for Natural History studying the taxonomy and distribution of sea anemones and corallimorpharians in the Red Sea. In the begging of 2022, I was recruited by my current supervisors Prof. Jules Jaffe and Prof. Jen Smith to work on a newly developed underwater microscope at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California.
What type of research do you do (what excites you mostly)?
I consider myself as an experimental marine biologist. I examine how an organism’s physiology affects its ecology. I love combining field work with lab-based experimental designs as I feel it gives me a broader idea of what is really going on and it keeps the research interesting and diverse. During my current postdoc I was also introduced to the world of instrumentation development. This gives me the knowledge and desire to understand how instruments that I previously took for granted, works. Understanding how scientific instruments work “behind the scenes”, allows me to use them more accurately and perhaps in ways that I haven’t consider before.
I think that my strongest motivation in research is cracking the mystery, solving a problem, and “connecting the dots” when trying to answer a question. If there is an applied aspect that can help in environmental management, that is also a big motivation. I believe that (my) science should serve others and promote actions for marine environmental protection.
What are your professional plans/ aspirations?
I am, with no doubt, obsessed with research and hope to be able to continue doing that. Building a lab will be the best expression of two of my passions which are science and teaching. My dream lab will have an emphasis on the connection between the lab and “the real world”. I aim in mentoring students in all aspects of science and research such as critical thinking and proper planning as well as ethical aspects that seems to be somewhat neglected in our “academic education”. I feel that I was blessed with incredible supervisors and colleagues that have mentored me well and hope to pass the knowledge to the next generation of scientists.
How was your experience as a postdoc so far?
As someone who spent approximately ten years in the same lab and scientific environment, relocating to a new country as well as leaving my personal and scientific comfort zone was a very intense, sometimes difficult but at the same time very empowering, experience. Learning how academia and science work in another country is an important and educating experience. Overall, I am very pleased with my choice of pursuing this postdoc and I am trying to learn and gain as much as I can from this short journey.
Can you give an advice to your younger self or a new postdoc?
Don’t be afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool but do your homework first.