Research Activity in the Department of Natural Sciences
Faculty members in the department specialize in various areas: Chemistry, Physics, Life Sciences, Geology, and Atmospheric Sciences. Since the laboratories on the Open University campus serve for teaching only, most experimental studies are carried out in labs at other research institutions such as Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute, Ben-Gurion University and the Hebrew University, often in collaboration with researchers from other institutions. Research in the department is funded by grants from various bodies, including the Israel Science Foundation, the European Commission, and the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel. Some studies are funded by internal grants from the Open University Research Authority. A number of faculty members also perform research on learning technologies and distance learning. Among the wide range of topics studied are the following:
Life Sciences: Neurobiological aspects of behavior and learning in birds; Behavioral ecology; Immune system activity in the autoimmune disease Myasthenia Gravis, and developing immunotherapy for the disorder. Structure-function studies of the Erythropoietin receptor. Cell growth and cell cycle control under normal and stress conditions. The evolution of early nervous systems and the emergence of experiencing.
Physics: Theoretical physics and field theory; Regional climate; Climate changes over the Mediterranean basin ; Mediterranean atmospheric circulation; Synoptic meteorology; Air pollution meteorology; String theory; Black hole entropy.
Electronics: Thin films technologies; single crystal silicon photovoltaics (PV); Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) devices; Semiconductors and metal-oxides transducer compounds; Microelectronics fabrication; PTC self-regulated heaters and sensors; Silicon carbide (SiC) manufacturing techniques; Flat and flexible optical displays; Thermo electric cooling/heating devices.
Atmospheric Studies: Researching lightning storms in the earth’s atmosphere; Climate change impacts in the Mediterranean basin, Dynamics of weather systems over the Mediterranean.
Chemistry: Reactions between ions and molecules in the gas phase; Chemistry of the atmosphere; Molecular symmetry; Continuous symmetry measures; Molecular modeling; Nonadiabatic interactions; Cold atom collisions; Quantum mechanical scattering.
Science Education: Web-based learning; Computers in chemistry education; curriculum development.
Philosophy of Science: Foundations of statistical mechanics; The concept of ‘probability’ in science.
Geology: Mineralogy and synthesis of clay minerals, Iron oxides and carbonates in Israel and in the hydrothermal sediments of the Red Sea Deeps; Mineralogy, spectroscopy and thermal analysis of clay minerals as clayey raw materials, Oil shales, ceramics and ancient ceramics.