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Fourteenth Annual Gruber Award for Scientific Excellence

Date: Sunday, June 7, 2020
Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami: looking toward the stars

Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami: looking toward the stars

On April 6, President’s Circle member Patricia Gruber presented the 14th annual Gruber Award for Scientific Excellence to Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami, a new member of the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics.


Established by Patricia and her late husband, Peter, through their Gruber Foundation, the award recognizes brilliant early-career Weizmann scientists. The ceremony was originally planned as an in-person event at the American Committee’s National Office—with Dr. Ben-Ami joining via videoconference—but the coronavirus outbreak required a change of plans. Instead, guests, including American Committee and Gruber Foundation leadership, gathered via Zoom. Following remarks by Immediate Past National Chair Ellen Merlo, Patricia Gruber, and CEO Dave Doneson, Prof. Roee Ozeri, the Weizmann Institute’s Vice President for Resource Development, introduced Dr. Ben-Ami.


Dr. Ben-Ami, who recently completed his postdoctoral research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, provided an overview of his cutting-edge investigations. An experimental astrophysicist, he is developing advanced instruments and methods that will help detect “bio-signatures”—substances that provide scientific evidence of past or present life—on planets outside of our solar system. Dr. Ben-Ami will also be part of the Israel-U.S. space-borne ULTRASAT mission, which will revolutionize scientists’ understanding explosive transient events, like explosions of stars and the disruption of stars by massive black holes.


Mrs. Gruber noted that her late husband, Peter, shared Dr. Ben-Ami’s interest in the cosmos. As a child, when Peter’s family escaped to India before the outbreak of World War II, he was sent to a boarding school in the Himalayas. At night, he would often look through a telescope at the stars and planets, sparking his lifelong quest for knowledge. Thanks to Patricia and Peter’s remarkable generosity, Dr. Ben-Ami will continue his own pursuit of scientific knowledge by uncovering the mysteries of the universe.