Efrat Pahima 2021-2022

Institution of PhD:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Academic Discipline of PhD:
PhD Advisor/s:
Prof. Igor Schapiro
Dissertation Topic:
Spectral Tuning of Retinal Proteins, Computational Photochemistry and Machine Learning
Present Institution:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Present Academic Position:
PhD student

Efrat was drawn to chemistry from an early age, which led her to pursue a BSc degree in chemistry at Bar-Ilan University. At that stage, she was awarded a scholarship from the Israeli Ministry of Science as part of a national project to encourage excellent students to engage in research fields of alternative energy. This research resulted in her first publication. She then continued towards the MSc degree at Bar-Ilan University under the supervision of Prof. Dan T. Major and became enthalled by the computational chemistry.


Computational chemistry utilizes programs based on quantum and classical mechanics to simulate chemical reactions and answer challenging questions that cannot be addressed exclusively by experiments. These simulations reveal the mechanism of how and why atoms connect to one another by following the fascinating rules of quantum chemistry (and a lot of math).

Efrat entered the PhD program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the supervision of Prof. Igor Schapiro. The main goal of her research is to predict the color of light-sensitive proteins, called rhodopsins, and rationally design new variants with desired properties. Rhodopsins are found in many organisms (including humans, where they enable vision in low-light conditions, They are used.In the biotechnology field of optogenetics to help understand how the brain works and to  cure diseases. This research utilizes computational photochemistry in combination with machine learning. This joint approach will allow a reduction of the high computing cost and provide a molecular level insight into how the protein environment controls the interaction with light.