Noam Shental’s research group is at the junction between computer science and biology, attempting to solve problems in biology using computational tools, such as computational learning and optimization methods. There are two main research directions in the group: one is developing group testing methods to solve problems in biology and medicine, and the other is developing computational methods to research microbes. All the projects take place in close partnership with experimental biologists, which enables precise definition of the computational tools that contribute to biological research.
In 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic Prof. Shental initiated research that implements group testing methods for the purpose of increasing the number of tests for discovering the virus. This method, which was developed in partnership with Prof. Tomer Hertz and Prof. Angel Porgador of Ben Gurion University, was adopted by the Ministry of Health and is used for clinical tests in Israel.
An additional example of research that combines biology and computer science is a partnership with Prof. Ravid Straussman of the Weizmann Institute on the subject of germs in cancerous tumors. In wide-ranging work, we show for the first time that there are germs in a variety of cancerous tumors and provide initial understanding of their activity. For example, we find that germs in tumors in smokers’ lungs tend to break down cigarette products, compared to germs in similar tumors in non-smokers. This study necessitated, as a prerequisite, development of computational methods that overcome a number of technological and biological difficulties without which such research would be impossible.
Prof. Noam Shental is hosted in the laboratory of Prof. Eytan Domany of the Department of Physics of Complex Systems, Weizmann Institute of Science