When I first came to Israel with the intention of doing an internship, I was just excited to finally have something in person after over a year of working online due to corona. What I didn’t realize, is that I would be meeting people and touring facilities and labs that would be changing the world.
Last Thursday I was given the privilege of visiting the world’s first curated meat facility, Future Meat, in Rehovot through my internship at Yissum, Hebrew University’s Tech Transfer. Future Meat’s technology allows animal cells to grow (without any genetic modifications may I add) into the meat we normally eat. Their technology also helps with the ever growing environmental dilemma of farm-grown meat that takes up much of the world’s habitable land as well as 30% of our freshwater supply. Being able to sit in on the executive meeting and tour the facility was a huge learning experience for me as an intern. I got to see, first hand, how these executive meetings and tours work out in the field, not just sitting in an office.
I learnt about the cultured meat market, saw the labs where the meat-curating process starts, and finished with the kitchen where they cook the actual products. Being a part of the Yissum team, I got to experience the whole story: a researcher that had an idea, patented the intellectual property, and now established a company about to change the food world as we know it. You could tell that all the staff and the CSO, Hebrew University’s own Prof. Yaakov Nachamias especially, had a passion for their innovative product, and I was proud to just be in the mix of it.
But my journey in Rehovot wasn’t done yet. After the tour of the Future Meat facility, my boss and I traveled to Hebrew University’s Rehovot Campus to interview two professors working on ground-breaking research of their own.
The first researcher, Dr. Sharon Elizur-Schlesinger, focuses her research on the study of stem-cells and epigenetic programming following fertilization. She wants to see what gives stem-cells their identity, what changes their identity, or what prevents it from changing (for those who don’t know, stem-cells are cells that didn’t decide on their ‘fate’ yet and in early development, all cells are stem cells) and how that relates to making cultured meat. Now coming from someone who is not in the STEM related fields, I found it super interesting to learn about something I barely knew any information about before. The way that she explained it in the podcast interview (by the way, was very interesting to watch the process of interviewing and recording it), really helped me understand what they were researching and the impact of their findings.
And listening to her talk about what she was doing…you could just see and hear the passion on her face and in her voice. I remember she said something during the interview that really stuck with me; it really showed how deeply she was interested in what she was doing. She said “my work is to keep learning.” While this may seem like a miniscule passing comment, when she said it, you just saw that it wasn’t really work to her. It was the exact definition of what people mean when they say that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you never work a day in your life. She ended with some advice: stay curious and learn how to fail. Without learning how to fail, you can never progress in your work, no matter how passionate you are.
The second researcher, Dr. Yonatan Bohbot, was a character. He is the definition of not taking life too seriously while still being productive and getting his work done. He studies the neurobiology of insect olfaction (smell) through mosquitoes. Weird, I know. Why would anyone want to study what is, in my opinion, one of the most annoying, though I know helpful, bugs? Well, as he likes to put it in his website, “they are universally despised and their use for scientific purpose(s) does not raise ethical concerns.” He then gave us a run-down of his day-to-day as a researcher which again, coming from a not too STEM-y background, I found interesting. He also ended his interview with some advice. He stated that one should always be prepared as it’s a competitive world. If it’s a passion of yours and you’re good at it, it can help you in the future finding your dream position.
Leaving Rehovot with their advice, along with my Future Meat experience, really got me thinking. Both the researchers and the CSO of Future Meat are all very successful in their own respective fields and they all mentioned the same thing: passion. Without passion, what you’re doing can essentially be meaningless. Yes, it can have meaning to other people and help them, which in its own right is meaningful, but it’s not meaningful to you.
You should want to wake up and be excited to go to work everyday, not dread it. That is something I am definitely going to take and apply to my life. Going to work here, I’m always excited to take the bus (the 7 bus to Givat Ram! woo!) and see what new meetings and assignments my day entails. While it may not be sports, it’s still marketing and PR/communications, and the experience and knowledge I’m gaining here is invaluable.