Welcome again. Breath in and breath out; two of my main interests in life, science and mindful living, are directly involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between living organisms and the atmosphere. My goal in life is to achieve a meaningful and balanced lifestyle by combining cutting-edge research, academic excellence, personal growth, and service for the community. Orly-WEB-1

I study microscopic organisms that perform oxygenic photosynthesis. This process is also sometimes referred to as “primary production”, and those microorganisms are called phytoplankton. Many millions of years ago, in an ancient ocean, these microorganisms started reducing carbon dioxide to carbohydrates. The byproduct of this process was oxygen, that started to build up in the atmosphere.  This build of phytoplankton biomass allowed the microorganisms to serve as little agents that cycle nutrients and metals through the biogeochemical cycles of our planet. Nowadays, this biomass (with emphasis on marine phytoplankton) is crucial to our planet in various ways: it continuously produces oxygen that enables us to breath, serves as the basis of all aquatic food webs, and has a major influence on our climate.

I find the connection between phytoplankton physiology and the biogeochemistry of our planet fascinating, and thus my past and current biological questions are all related to how phytoplankton sense and response to their environment. I am driven by a number of questions. How do these organisms sense their environment? How is this signal being transferred? How did the different organisms that preform oxygenic photosynthesis evolve? How do they survive practically anywhere in this world? And, what is it that coordinates biochemical processes in complexed, eukaryotic, cells?

Starting at the end of 2015, while finishing my post-doc, I have been working on two major projects: 1. Understanding how light is captured and transferred through the photosynthetic membranes (thylakoids) of diatoms by looking at the unique structure and function of those membranes; and 2. Reveal the signal transduction pathways and major proteins that control the physiology of eukaryotic phytoplankton. My vision is to use my findings of the structure and function of photosynthetic membranes and cell signaling in phytoplankton to discover yet unknown aspects of the “tree of life” and deepen the understanding of the relationship between phytoplankton physiology and the biogeochemistry of Earth.

The life of a scientist can be challenging, yet very rewarding. We are allowed, and actually required, to come to work to imagine, create, write, and teach. This is a great responsibility and I regard it very seriously. To enable myself to be the best scientist I can be, I work towards living each day to its maximum with joy. I mindfully breath this wonderful oxygen made by photosynthesis when I wake up in the morning, I remember to breath when things are challenging, and meditate to keep my mind aligned and clear. I work to keep my body healthy and balanced with mindful eating and by practicing yoga routinely for over a decade. I always like to learn new things, and foster creatively in my personal life to keep my inner-child happy and always up for new adventures.

I feel that my scientific career did not start in 2001 when I began my academic trainings. It actually started many years ago, when I would come home from elementary school and read books about the human anatomy and my Illustrated Encyclopedia Britannica. Since then, my passion for science has been ever growing and I hope to always have the chance to share it with the world.