Interview with Dr. Oded Rechavi
Full Professor in the Life Sciences Faculty at Tel Aviv University
Contributing to the topic: Interdisciplinarity, tradeoffs between specialization and exploring of new fields through collaboration with experts in other fields.
Juan Gefaell Borrás, has prepare a series of short interviews with some of our invited speakers, to know more about them and their expectations for the #EvoKEBCN21 Meeting.
On our first release, Oded Rechavi shares some thoughts and impressions about the relevance of the correct understanding of evolution in our daily lives.
Dear Dr. Oded Rechavi,
Question. How the theory of evolution has impacted your everyday life as a citizen?
The theory of evolution has incredible explanatory power. Not only does it clarify how different organisms came to be, its general principles (and natural selection in particular) explain how many processes develop. As a citizen I am concerned of simplification and distortion of the theory of evolution, for political gain. For example, the Nazis claimed that Darwinian selection justifies their ideology and in the Soviet Union Lysenko’s adherence to grotesque Lamarckian ideas ruined agriculture and resulted in mass starvation. Misunderstanding of evolution still impacts us today, for instance when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Q. By participating in EvoKE BCN 21, What do you consider would be your main contribution to increase science literacy in evolution in society?
A. My work elucidates a controversial aspect of evolution. We study how environmental responses can impact inheritance, whether “memories” can transmit between generations, and how. These ideas, which have been discussed for centuries, are of interest to the general public as well, and therefore it is my responsibility to communicate them properly and to make sure that the entire context is known to the (broad) audience.
Q. You will contribute to the topic of “Interdisciplinarity”. Which strategy would you consider the most effective for promoting interdisciplinarity among evolutionary scientists to increase science literacy in evolution in society, as well as with members of other areas of the academic community (literature, history, humanities, etc.)?
A. I wouldn’t say I am strategic about it, but I do think that Interdisciplinarity makes life interesting and that it is invaluable for coming up with completely new ideas.
About Dr. Oded Rechavi
His mission is “to challenge fundamental long-held scientific dogmas”. Using C. elegans nematodes he provided direct evidence that an acquired trait can be inherited, worked to elucidate the mechanism and rules of small RNA-mediated transgenerational inheritance, discovered that the nematodes’ brains can control the behavior of their progeny, and identified a simple neuronal circuit-level mechanism that explains economic irrationality. Aside from his work on nematodes, Oded utilized genome sequencing of ancient DNA to “piece together” fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and demonstrated that Toxoplasma parasites can be genetically engineered to deliver drugs to the nervous system. He is an ERC Fellow, and was awarded many prestigious prizes, including the Polymath prize (Schmidt Futures), the Kadar award, the Blavatnik award, the Krill Wolf award, the Alon, and F.I.R.S.T (Bikura) Prizes, and the Gross Lipper Fellowship. Prof. Rechavi was selected as one of the “10 Most Creative People in Israel Under 40”, and one of the “40 Most Promising People in Israel Under 40”.