Tel Aviv University professor named winner of the first Schmidt Science Polymath Award

Professor Oded Rechavi to receive $2.5 million for unrestricted research as part of prestigious prize


Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU)

Professor Oded Rechavi of the Neurobiology Department at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University has been awarded one of the first two Schmidt Futures Polymath Awards, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt for researchers exhibiting rare interdisciplinarity.

Professor Rechavi will receive an annual unrestricted grant of $500,000 for five years, to pursue any direction of research.

“I am proud to have been chosen and excited about the opportunity to open new fields of research,” Professor Rechavi says. “Typically, scientists receive funds for research projects that are already underway. The Polymath Award is different. They tell you: ‘Here are the resources. Do something completely new, take risks. Investigate wild ideas you never would have dreamed of proposing to other research foundations.'”

Professor Jeff Gore of MIT was the recipient of the second of this year’s Polymath Awards.

The Schmidt Science Polymath Program is an initiative created by Schmidt Futures, which identifies exceptional people and helps them achieve more for others by applying advanced science and technology thoughtfully and by working together across fields. The program aims to provide outstandingly interdisciplinary researchers with the means to expand their research even further. In the future, a prestigious network of the award’s laureates will be established. Schmidt Futures describes the program as “an experiment in extreme curiosity-driven innovation. Instead of focusing on specific research ideas, the goal for the program is to bet on people, their special talents, and their teams.”

Professor Rechavi has studied a vast range of topics, achieving interdisciplinary scientific breakthroughs in the fields of genetics, neurobiology, and even biblical history. He discovered a mechanism enabling transgenerational inheritance of parental responses, showing for the first time that small RNAs are inherited alongside DNA; assisted in decoding the Dead Sea Scrolls through the DNA of the parchments on which they were written; and explored the neuronal basis of irrationality, finding a simple law for altering the nervous system of worms.



Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt that finds exceptional people and helps them do more for others together. It knits talent into networks, bets on the most promising ideas through diverse forms of competition and support, and equips people to scale through partners and modern tools. To realize this vision, Schmidt Futures uses a broad set of tools — including gifts, grants, investments, and startup activity — for charitable, educational, and commercial efforts with a public purpose. Its initiative brings together the efforts of various charitable and non-charitable entities to improve its potential impact by making diverse types of capital available to the efforts it supports. Under its Venture Facility for Public Benefit methodology, Schmidt Futures invests in and makes grants to for-profit and nonprofit organizations in order to support the most talented people and most promising ideas in technology, scientific breakthroughs, and paths to shared prosperity in society, and raises awareness about such issues.

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