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Valeria Ulisse

An Italian Student Says Her Unlikely Choice Turned Out to Be the Perfect One

When Valeria Ulisse came to her interview, she found heads of labs taking the time just to try to help her find the right lab for her interests

Valeria Ulisse

Valeria Ulisse in the Weizmann Institute of Science Biomolecular lab

“What drew you to study at the Weizmann Institute of Science?” It’s a natural question of a foreign student whose primary image of Israel entails a war torn, political mishmash.  For Valeria Ulisse, a second year PhD student from Italy, the answer was obvious. Coming from an economically strained country, an institute where resources are infinite is what every researcher hopes for.

“It is very hard to work with money issues,” says Ulisse.  “The first time I came here I was shocked because everything is so easy. The best thing about Weizmann, I think, is everything you want to do you can do inside Weizmann. If I want to use a technique I just go to another building and there is someone there to advise me on how to use this machine.”

Ulisse, a student in the lab of Prof. Avraham Yaron of the Biomolecular Sciences Department, is studying a molecular mechanism that is the basis for the development of the sensory nervous system. “I have always been interested in metabolism since I was young. I have always been interested in how we digest the food and what happens at the molecular level in the cells during this process.” Ulisse’s research is focused on the metabolism that the sensory neuron system uses during its development, specifically a mitochondrial protein found to be involved in the axons’ development.

The first time I came here I was shocked because everything is so easy

Another aspect of the Institute that impressed Ulisse was that when she came to interview, some of the principal investigators (PI’s) met with her just to advise her on which lab would be the best fit for her.  This is something she says she didn’t experience with other institutes she interviewed with.

Although Ulisse is very pleased at the Weizmann Institute’s Feinberg Graduate School, she admits when she discovered it was located in Israel she was hesitant. “I was a bit scared, actually. This is important you know. You are so scared when you are in Italy and you look at the TV.”  After arriving to Israel and seeing for herself, she came to the conclusion that “no one needs to be scared of anything.”

She doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that Israel is not perfect. “I thought that it was a problematic country before I came here. But this is what I still think. It’s just a matter of time and the problem will be solved.” At the heart of that solution, she believes, lies the work happening at the Weizmann Institute and the impact it can have inside and outside its borders.

There is no doubt it has influenced her. “I love it here. I don’t see a reason to leave, unless there will be a very, very, very big war. But it needs to be a big war”, she says.

“In Italy I was in a really good lab but it was missing the money and I was missing something internally. I wanted to improve my knowledge, to start a new project, to change my life and I found the place to do it.”


Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.