Prof. Itzhak Ohad / 1930-2016
Prof. Emeritus Martin Kessel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem :
“It is very difficult to write these words on the passing of Itzhak Ohad. Itzik, as he was affectionately known to all of us, was without a doubt one of the most influential scientists and teachers of his generation.
Itzik obtained his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the course of which he was one of the first graduate students to use the electron microscope in his research. He was mentored by Shlomo Hestrin of the Dept. of Biological Chemistry at the Hebrew University and David Danon from the Dept. Ultrastructure Research at the Weizmann Institute. Itzhak’s Ph.D. research focused on the characterization of fibrils of cellulose from the bacterium Acinobacter xylinum and was published in the Journal of Cell Biology .
For his post-doctoral training Itzik went to the laboratory of 1982 Nobel Laureate George Palade at Yale University where he continued to broaden his understanding of cell ultrastructure using the electron microscope. Upon his return to Israel, Itzik was tasked with setting up an electron microscope laboratory in the Dept. of Biological Chemistry then located in Mamila St. bordering the Old City of Jerusalem. By that time electron microscopy laboratories had been established at the Weizmann Institute of Science by David Danon and at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem by Olga Stein and Jack Gross, and at the Hebrew University Botany Dept. by Shimon Klein. All of these laboratories used the RCA electron microscope. After setting up the electron microscope unit in the Dept. of Biological Chemistry with the RCA electron microscope, Itzik quickly became convinced that in order to be abreast of the latest technology it would be necessary to upgrade to either the Philips microscope manufactured in Holland or the JEOL microscope from Japan. In 1968 after a meticulous evaluation which included visits to the electron microscope factories, Itzik concluded that the microscope for Biological Chemistry would be the Philips EM300. Both Olga Stein at the Medical School and Shimon Klein in the Dept. of Botany quickly followed suit with the Medical School purchasing two of these microscopes. Indeed electron microscopy at the Hebrew University and at the Weizmann Institute was at the forefront of biological ultrastructure research. By this time Itzik had begun his lifelong research on photosynthesis and associated with the alga Chlamydomonas rheinhardii which would be the focus of his research for many years.”
“Itzhak’s first graduate student was Avrumi Amsterdam who very effectively used the electron microscope in the study of the secretory process in the rat parotid gland .
After completing my Ph.D. in the Dept. of Microbiological Chemistry headed by Moshe Shilo, I was tasked with establishing an interdepartmental Electron Microscope facility at the Medical School. This brought me into very close working contact with Itzik who mentored every step in establishing this facility. No detail was too small for Itzik to be involved in setting up the lab. Our relationship was cemented and we maintained a close personal and professional contact for over 40 years.
When the Dept. of Biological Chemistry relocated to the Institute of Life Sciences at Givat Ram, Itzik was responsible for the construction of a major electron Microscope facility on the 5th floor of the Silberman building where his own laboratory was also situated. This EM facility, housing several microscopes, became the focus of all ultrastructural work done in Life Sciences at the University with Itzik as the undisputed leader in this major technological application. A major contribution to the set up and operation of this resource was made by Avraham Vilentz a very talented electron microscope technician.
Throughout his career and prolific research output alongside a deep understanding of biochemistry, ultrastructure was always a major component of Itzik’s research. He fathered several generations of young scientists educating them with a deep appreciation for structure and function.
Itzik was an active member of the Israel Society for Microscopy (formerly the Israel Society for Electron Microscopy) and served as one of its early Presidents. He was the Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of the 6th European Congress on Electron Microscopy which brought over 600 leading scientists in Materials and Biological Sciences to Jerusalem in September 1976. This congress was a significant achievement for our small Society and to this day scientists who attended that meeting at the beginnings of their career remember the impact so many years later.
Itzik was a perennial figure at the annual meetings of the Israel Society of Microscopy where he always appreciated the contributions of the younger generation of students and scientists who followed his example of relating structure to function in whatever biological systems they were studying.
An appreciation of Itzik’s contributions to research in photosynthesis recently appeared the journal Photosynthesis Research .”
1. Ohad, I, Danon, D & Hestrin, S. (1962) J. Cell Biol. 12, 31-. 46.
2. Amsterdam, A. & Ohad, I & Schramm, M (1969) J. Cell Biol. 41, 753-773
3. Noam Adir, Susanna Geifman-Shochat, Dan G. Ohad, Nir Ohad, Nir Keren (2017) Photosynthesis Research, 132(2):107-109.