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Sep. 06, 2023

​​​Two researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have received prestigious European Research Council Starting Grants. The grants provide up to 1.5 million euros and additional funding of up to 1 million for equipment over five years.

Dr. Dan Bar Yaacov is an expert in the field of mRNA editing in bacteria. In his research, Dr. Bar Yaacov delves into situations where genetic information in RNA changes before performing vital cellular functions. He theorizes that RNA editing increases genetic diversity in bacteria, allowing them to adapt more efficiently to diverse environments.

"Our work could shed light on a new mechanism bacteria employ to grow and survive in different environments. Furthermore, bacterial mRNA editing—invisible to DNA sequencing—may account for unsolved problems or phenomena that current genetic and proteomic data cannot explain, affecting bacterial biology and human health," says Dr. Bar Yaacov.

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"I did all my degrees at Ben-Gurion: bachelor's, master's and doctorate. Therefore, I am excited to have received the grant as a researcher at Ben-Gurion University, which was and is my academic home. By the way, my mother did her bachelor's degree at Ben-Gurion in the Department of Life Sciences like me and her master's degree here at the Faculty of Health Sciences where I am now a researcher. For me, it is a kind of closure, and my mother always says that she deserves at least some credit for the discoveries I am making today," he adds.

Dr. Shira Chapman of the Department of Physics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev works in the field of theoretical physics and is looking for an answer to the question of how gravity behaves at tiny distances. This research has critical implications for solving the mysteries hidden inside black holes and unraveling events immediately after the Big Bang.

She currently leads a dynamic research group and will receive the ERC grant for her proposal to study the relations between gravity and quantum mechanics in the expanding universe.

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"Receiving the ERC grant is a golden opportunity for me to dive into the fundamental questions of physics and the evolution of the universe with the help of a team of brilliant researchers here at our beautiful Ben-Gurion University of the Negev," says Dr. Chapman.

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organization for excellent frontier research. It funds outstanding researchers to run groundbreaking projects. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialization.​