30 under 30: Exploring Nature with the Tools of Physics

Meet Eldad Kepten, 28, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
Israeli physicist Eldad Kepten

Courtesy Eldad Kepten

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the fourth in a series of 30.

Name: Eldad Kepten
Age: 28
Born: Israel
Nationality: Israeli

Current position: Ph.D. student, Bar Ilan University
Education: Bachelors degree, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

What is your field of research?
I am studying the stochastic dynamics of chromatin (DNA) in the cellular nucleus with advanced microscopy and single particle tracking. By building a physical framework for this motion, we can identify key factors in the nuclear structure and function as well as expand the field of stochastic polymer dynamics.

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
I have always been fascinated by the ability to identify and explain natural processes through the tools of physics and mathematics. The field of biophysics applies these powerful tools to fundamental questions about our own bodies and environment, with immediate implications on human health and well-being. The complex research area of nuclear architecture presents challenging demands on mathematical analysis and physical modeling, as theories are constantly confronted with new findings. Thus, I must continuously challenge my own knowledge and assumptions, a task I find delightful.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself leading a research group in the areas of biophysics or environmental physics. I believe that in our modern world, physicists should engage nontraditional questions in the fields of health and global welfare. These include questions from the bio-molecular scale, leading the way to efficient and low-cost medical treatments, and up to the global scale where we must deal with the issues of desertification, global warming and sustainable agriculture. Hopefully I can influence these fields and implement the innovative tradition of physics to unresolved questions.

Who are your scientific heroes?
In many ways, Richard Feynman is the scientific role model from which I learn and hope to follow. In his character and actions he illustrates how curiosity, ingenuity and a strong work ethic are at the basis of scientific work. He shows us how inspiration and progress can come from seemingly distant fields with the help of an open mind, that a good physical theory must be simple and clear and that wherever we look, we can find a beautiful phenomena waiting to be studied.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of research would you conduct?
My dream study would incorporate a lot of nature, complex systems and high relevance for our world. One such system is oceanic ecology. This highly complicated system incorporates a vast amount of spatiotemporal interactions that ultimately give rise to numerous natural wonders and one of humanity’s most important food sources. Currently, acquiring adequate data about our oceans is costly and time-consuming, greatly limiting our knowledge and research capabilities.

Sadly, while we are far from fully understating the workings of our oceanic ecological network, we are also exerting an immense and threatening pressure on it. It is my belief that novel insights regarding how such a network stabilizes, what is the magnitude and interaction of the different components and an ability to model such a system can help us sustain the oceanic wealth for the future generations. These types of questions are at the heart of physics research, and the tools developed from the study and analyses of past systems will certainly prove of great value.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
First of all, I wish to learn from the experience and thoughts of the most acclaimed scientists of our time. In addition I look forward to meeting other enthusiastic young researchers, sharing my ideas and perhaps establishing relationships for future collaborations. Finally, I see this as an opportunity to create personal friendships and connections with people from diverse backgrounds and to learn of their culture.

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3. Sabrina Pasterski
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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5. Ankan Bag

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