Dr Ines ZUCKER (Israel)

Ines’ research is focused on the design, preparation, characterisation, and testing of materials and processes for environmental applications. She also works on quantifying the risk of nanomaterials on the environment and on developing a nanotoxicity screening tool.

PhD in Engineering

Current position: Senior Lecturer, School of Mechanical Engineering and Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Research focus: materials and processes for environmental applications

Provision of safe, clean water is a global health concern, as evidenced by the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: to ensure universal access to water and basic sanitation for all by 2030. The goal of Ines’ research programme is to tackle this global issue and strategically leveraging her diverse, multifaceted background in mechanical, environmental, and material engineering. The young Zucker lab at Tel Aviv University (Israel) provides tangible, real-world solutions to a worldwide pressing water issue.

Ines is addressing this overarching goal through three research objectives. Her first research objective is developing advanced materials and novel approaches for environmental applications. This will include the advance of selective, efficient, and applicable materials and processes that can enhance or replace traditional technologies for water decontamination. She works at demonstrating the nanocomposites’ ability to operate (and be reused) in real-world water matrices for water decontamination, while minimising nanomaterial release to the environment.

Ines’ second objective is quantifying the risk of nanomaterials (both engineered and incidental) on the environment through the development of a nanotoxicity screening tool for aquatic environments. She aims for a fundamental understanding of nanomaterial interaction with cell membranes.

As a model for cell membranes, Ines uses engineered dye-filled vesicles encapsulated by an outer lipid bilayer. Upon loss of membrane integrity, dye is released to the solution. Using this dye-leakage assay and other advanced tools, Ines learns on the nature and extent of potential nanotoxicity.

The third objective is assessing environmental processes that occur in a life cycle of common plastic products, including weathering, interactions with aquatic constituents, and toxicity toward living cells. Ines uses a holistic approach of tracking the life cycle of plastic in the aquatic environment, assessing its potential to adsorb waterborne organic and inorganic pollutants, and detecting corresponding toxicity toward a set of human cells.

The jury especially valued that Ines is combining doing fundamental research and taking practical steps to real word solutions in the innovative field of using nanomaterials.