Growing up north of Tel Aviv, Sagi Ben-Ami spent as much time as possible in the fields and hills outside town bringing a pair of binoculars and a notebook and scanning the sky for birds. He meticulously documented all the eagles, storks and vultures he saw — Israel is a stopping point on an important migratory flyway — and read all the birding and popular science books he could get his hands on. Today, Ben-Ami is still looking for life in the skies, only now as an astrophysicist who helps satellites and some of the world’s most powerful telescopes search for clues about the origins of the universe and exoplanets with atmospheres that contain oxygen.
Ben-Ami, an Azrieli Early Career Faculty Fellow, is the head of the instrumentation group in the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He moved back to Israel in spring 2020 after six years at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, where he did a postdoctoral fellowship and then worked as an instrument scientist for five years. During his time in the United States, Ben-Ami continued to develop the type of technology that he began tinkering with when he was a PhD student at Weizmann.