“I have always been intrigued by the harmonious nature of life; how every element in the universe resonates in perfect unison to construct the elusive life we all share,” says Dr. Gidi Shani, who recently acquired a passion for Zen meditation. Yet Shani’s intrigue was inspired well before this newfound fervor, going back to his high school biology lessons during which he became fascinated by the way evolution orchestrates its own life purpose – and so it would seem, Shani’s too.
Upon leaving high school, completing his army service and returning from an 18-month trip around the world, Shani continued his scientific journey, receiving a B.Sc. in biology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He veered off to do an MBA in finance and marketing. “I remember sitting contemplating a career in business versus science, but science is just so much more fascinating – always evolving and alive.”
Shani went on to pursue Ph.D. studies in molecular genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science; his research focused on the identification and characterization of a novel family of protein kinases that is involved in a cell suicide mechanism called apoptosis.
“All the science I know, I learned at the Weizmann Institute. Over and above this, I learned how to think. My supervisor, Prof. Adi Kimchi, was my greatest inspiration. I sometimes find myself in situations where I catch myself thinking, ‘how would Adi approach this problem using imagination and inspiration as driving forces, but relying solely on facts and observations.’”
Shani graduated in 2005 and is now at the Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California, USA, conducting his second postdoc, which focuses on identifying the molecular events that lead to tumor metastasis – the main cause of cancer death – in which cancer cells dissociate from the original tumor and migrate via the blood stream to colonize distant organs.
Born in Israel in 1967, Shani grew up in Kibbutz Gesher Haziv in the Northern Galilee and is father to 10-year-old twin daughters, Chen and Ziv. When not meditating, Shani pursues hobbies at the opposite extreme, including surfing, motorcycling, hang gliding, kayaking, rock climbing and, more recently, free dance.