Interdisciplinary Research

Expanding A Successful Interdisciplinary Model

The Robert H. Smith Institute for Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture has provided a successful prototype for dynamic research integration. The establishment of the Smith Institute brought together scientists with specialties in Agricultural Botany; Field Crops, Vegetables and Genetics; and Horticulture. This cross-fertilization of academic disciplines increased crop productivity and produced new technologies for developing hardier, qualitatively improved crops capable of withstanding environmental stresses. Today, the Institute can boast of an impressive array of plant science breakthroughs. Interdisciplinary research projects cover the study of resources, mechanisms of food production and the viability of food products. This vital work will, we hope, yield agricultural, ecological and health-oriented solutions essential to people worldwide.

The Institute of Biochemistry, Food Sciences and Nutrition investigates the effects of nutrients on human health at the molecular, cellular and physiological levels, studies the therapeutic properties of vegetables and fruits, and examines the impact of diet and nutrition on health and longevity. A key specialty is the development of functional foods with disease-fighting and health-enhancing properties.

We plan to expand this successful interdisciplinary model to:

Nutrigenomics and Functional Food

The Research Center for Nutrigenomics and Functional Food gains its strength from Hebrew University's interdisciplinary expertise in molecular plant and applied plant sciences. Researchers have studied human nutrition with special emphasis on children, the aging and those with special health requirements. Food chemistry and technology are among the Center's areas of concentration. Researchers will investigate the beneficial dietary factors of functional foods in order to reduce the rising worldwide occurrence of diet-related diseases and disorders. They seek to reformulate processed foods and develop new foods and ingredients with nutritional and health benefits.

Sustainable Animal Health and Husbandry

The modern livestock industry makes excessive use of drugs and pharmaceuticals to combat infectious diseases. Thus, reducing pharmaceutical usage is a major objective in sustainable agricultural practice and animal research. The Research Center Sustainable Animal Health and Husbandry will investigate ways to produce novel, safe and potent vaccines to prevent infectious diseases, boost natural immunity, and alleviate the need for excessive drug use in livestock rearing.

Animal welfare is becoming an increasingly important issue in the livestock industry. New avenues are being sought to reduce animal densities during the growth period to provide a more humane, but not less productive, environment. The new Research Center will take a novel approach to animal husbandry so that production is maintained while animals are allowed to live under non-stressful conditions.

Environmental Protection, Sustainability and Bio-energy

Israel, among other nations, is battling to protect its natural environment, arrest desertification and develop alternative energy resources. The Research Center for Environmental Protection will focus on such projects as reclaiming wastewater, developing new crops for alternative renewable bio-energy sources and warding off desertification. While Israel is unique in its success at reclaiming wastewater, thanks to the Smith Faculty of Agriculture, continued research will attempt to reduce the risk of bio-accumulation and (eco)-toxicological effects in recycled water, and to find ways to prevent the development of resistant microbial strains and groundwater contamination.

Another major concern is the production and utilization of renewable bio-resources, such as for renewable alternative energy. This universal need can be met through innovation and advancement of knowledge in the sustainable management, production and use of crops as energy sources. Faculty research will dissect the genetic basis of one or more specified traits required for selective improvement of plants useful as energy sources.

Basic Agricultural Sciences

In order to further develop agro-technology, researchers need to focus on advances in basic sciences. The Research Center for Basic Agricultural Sciences will explore fundamental questions, focusing on bacteria, fungi, harmful and beneficial insects, plants, and vertebrates at the molecular, organismic and community levels of biological organization.

Using the latest molecular technology, researchers will identify and manipulate genes and their products with the objective of increasing food production and protecting the environment. Scientists will draw upon their expertise in state-of-the-art disciplines, among these Genomics (the study of genes), Transcriptomics (studies of the expression level of genes) and Proteomics (the large-scale study of proteins).

The Basic Agricultural Sciences Research Center will seek to identify the means of improving food production based on a detailed and rigorously researched biological understanding of how systems work. Scientists' knowledge of molecular and organismic biology will be harnessed to stabilize deteriorating ecosystems. Important work concerns new ways in which societies can successfully manage populations of pests, pathogens and invasive species, at the same time protecting local biodiversity.