Biomineralization is the study of the manner in which organisms, from bacteria to vertebrates, produce and use mineralized hard tissues. Biomineralization research integrates concepts and methods from many other fields, including mineralogy, crystallography, cell biology, ion transport in biology and structural biology. The insights obtained from biomineralization research often have direct ramifications for fields as diverse as materials science, archaeology, chemical and biological oceanography, dentistry, paleontology and orthopaedics. This diversity and “cross-culture” nature of the field of biomineralization opens up fascinating research opportunities.

My research in the field of biomineralization is in close collaboration with Prof Lia Addadi. Our general approach is to exploit the diversity of natural biomineralization processes in order to address specific questions related to mechanisms of mineral formation. These observations are then often further tested and elaborated upon using in vitro experiments. We work on diverse organisms, that currently include mollusks (pteropods), echinoderms (sea urchin larvae), foraminifera, embryonic zebra fish and fish scales.

Lia Addadi and I are also interested in the manner in which diverse organisms use minerals to manipulate light. This began with the study of the multi-lens brittlestar star in the 1990’s together with our then PhD student Joanna Aizenberg, and has continued with a series of studies that are still ongoing on the different ways in which guanine crystals are used to produce structural colors in fish and various invertebrates.

Together with Prof Ron Shahar from the Hebrew University, I carry out structure-function studies on bones and teeth. The structural work includes the 3D structure of the collagenous matrix of bone lamellae and other bone types using the dual beam microscope. We also use the XRadia microCT and a mechanical loading device built in house to directly monitor the manner in which teeth respond to loads during mastication.