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Cambridge physicist Noga Sella described as brilliant scientist whose ‘warmth matched her intelligence’, following fatal collision





Warm tributes have been to Cambridge physicist Noga Sella and her father after they died when they were struck by a car in Kent.

Noga, 40, from Milton, was described as a “brilliant physicist” whose “warmth matched her intelligence” by her friends and colleagues.

Noga Sella, who died along with her father, when they were struck by a car in Kent. Picture: Cambridge Design Partnership
Noga Sella, who died along with her father, when they were struck by a car in Kent. Picture: Cambridge Design Partnership

She was killed along with her father, 78-year-old Yoram Hirshfeld, from Israel, when they were struck by an Alfa Romeo outside the multi-storey car park in Leopold Street, Ramsgate, at about 9.35pm on Wednesday, August 10.

Noga’s six-year-old daughter was badly injured and was taken to a London hospital, where she was reported to be in a serious but stable condition. Her husband, in his 40s, and son, of primary school age, sustained minor injuries.

Nitesh Bissendary, 30, of Highlands Glade, Manston, Kent, has been charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He has also been charged with failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic collision, drug driving and failing to provide a sample for analysis, and appeared at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court last Saturday.

Officers investigating the incident also arrested a 58-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman on suspicion of assisting an offender and possession with intent to supply class A drugs, and both were released on bail until September 8.

The deaths have left friends and colleagues shocked and devastated.

Noga, a Girguiding leader, came to Cambridge from Israel in 2018 and worked at Cambridge Consultants as a senior engineer/physicist for two years and eight months, before moving to Cambridge Design Partnership in June 2021.

She had a BSc in physics from Tel Aviv University and an MSc in high energy astrophysics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Speaking on behalf of Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP), Matt Schumann, founder and managing director, said: “Noga was a brilliant physicist who had an enormous impact on those who worked alongside her.

Noga Sella was described as genuine, funny and kind by colleagues at Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: CDP
Noga Sella was described as genuine, funny and kind by colleagues at Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: CDP

“People who can connect deep scientific knowledge with real-world context are rare, but Noga did this every day, looking at complex technical challenges logically and end-to-end. Her mathematical modelling and simulations were masterly - she could make or break an idea with her genius simulations. The maths didn’t lie.

“Her warmth matched her intelligence. She built people up, helping them feel confident and smart, and ardently championed professional development, particularly for her fellow women in STEM. We'll miss Noga deeply, and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad and difficult time. We'll be sharing a fuller tribute to her soon.”

Sukie Whitehall, a consultant mechanical engineer, was a colleague of Noga Sella and often drove her to work at CDP.

She said: “Noga and I started at Cambridge Design Partnership at similar times. We were both female physicists with vibrant opinions and lived a few minutes’ walk from one another. Noga gave me so much, and we formed a firm friendship. Seeing other women in STEM thriving and surviving is always valuable to me, but Noga did more than that: she advocated and supported too.

Flowers on Leopold Street, Ramsgate
Flowers on Leopold Street, Ramsgate

“She was so generous with her love and time and spent so much of it sitting beside my desk downloading her week, letting me download mine, and reframing it for me, often when I was being less than kind to myself. She advocated fiercely for women and diversity and for this I loved her. In fact, I probably needed her. I’d often drive her to and from work. Sometimes I'd sigh before agreeing because, as usual, she was being organised and sensible and by doing so was holding me to her much better standards.

“I'd get fabulous updates on her gorgeous children and their antics, stories about her family in Israel, and updates on her personal ventures, like learning new languages. I’ll miss waiting for her in my car, approaching in her cute sandals, and 'way-too-big' backpack. These things combined to mean I was always happy to see her.”

Deborah Norris, senior consultant, medical devices, at CDP, mentored Noga recently.

“Noga was genuine, funny and kind, and I’ve struggled to find the words to express the deep sadness I feel on losing her, and the devastation to her family.

“I first met Noga at CDP’s 25th birthday bash, where we chatted for ages, and I remember being so impressed by her enthusiasm for the work we do, and her passion for our work: harnessing technology to improve people’s lives. A little later she approached me to ask for some mentoring sessions with me, to give her new perspectives on a medical device development project she was soon to lead.

“She wanted a sounding board before taking that step.

Noga Sella at Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: CDP
Noga Sella at Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: CDP

“I love being connecting with my colleagues on a one-to-one basis, especially where they’re looking to develop into the world of medical product design.

“I’m so glad I got the opportunity to spend time getting to know Noga through these mentoring sessions, where her deep technical knowledge shone through. My professional world is rooted in mechanical, ‘real’ objects, where Noga was a physicist.

“She could explain her domain in such a tangible way that, for a short time at least, I felt I understood her world. As always with mentoring we both gained from the experience. She gave me a glimpse into her own professional hopes and goals, and I never took this lightly. It makes me so very sad to know that those future dreams have been cut short.

“But I’m glad for the opportunity to get to know Noga as I did, because she was one of those people that made the world a little better simply by being in it.”

Josh Gibson manages the team that Noga used to work for at Cambridge Consultants.

He said: “Noga was a strong advocate for peer support, peer mentoring and finding friends in the workplace. After leaving Cambridge Consultants, she took the initiative to create a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with me and other colleagues and (more regularly than the rest of us) shared funny physics jokes and her celebrations of important Jewish holidays.

Leopold Street in Ramsgate following the fatal collision. Picture: Sam Lennon, KM
Leopold Street in Ramsgate following the fatal collision. Picture: Sam Lennon, KM

“She loved working in teams, enjoying sharing ideas and learning from others’ experiences. Especially memorable is Noga’s desire to support women in STEM; she developed close peer-mentoring and support relationships with other female colleagues to ensure everybody felt included.

“Noga also brought her motherhood to work; I loved meeting her daughter, as Noga brought her to a few group meetings after collecting her from nursery.

“One of Noga’s passions was bringing together her technical expertise as a professional physicist, her female perspective and her experience of motherhood to make a meaningful impact on the world.

“A project with special meaning to Noga was one she led to prototype a low-cost baby monitor to tackle child mortality in emerging countries. She came up with the vision for the project and pushed to develop it further within Cambridge Consultants, an overview of her vision can be found at bit.ly/3w8oxIZ.”

People attended a vigil and held a moment's silence at the scene. Picture: Sam Lennon, KM
People attended a vigil and held a moment's silence at the scene. Picture: Sam Lennon, KM

Virginia Gambetta, who worked with Noga at Cambridge Consultants, said: “Noga was assigned as my ‘buddy’ at Cambridge Consultants when I started working there straight out of university. This means she was responsible to introduce me to colleagues, procedures and generally how to move around there. She did much more.

“She was helpful, supportive and available on so many levels: I have learnt a lot from her as a physicist, as a woman, as a mother.

“I will always treasure our conversations. She managed to make you look at everything through a new, enrichened perspective.

“Noga was a bright and kind presence and also a person not reluctant to tackle less pleasant subjects and tasks whenever there was a problem. She did not sugarcoat things, at the same time she worked hard to provide solutions.

“I could not have asked for a better ‘buddy’.”

Cambridgeshire East Guides have paid tribute to Noga Sella, who was a Guide and Ranger leader
Cambridgeshire East Guides have paid tribute to Noga Sella, who was a Guide and Ranger leader

Noga was leader of 2nd Milton Guides and Milton Rangers

Girlguiding Cambridgeshire East’s County Commissioner, Claire Course, was informed of Noga’s passing whilst at a Girlguiding Camp in Norfolk.

She said: “I was completely shocked to hear this devastating news. Noga was respected and cherished by the girls in her unit, as well as her fellow Girlguiding peers. We will be working our hardest to support the girls affected by this news. Our deepest thoughts go out to Noga’s family and friends at this very sad time, Noga will be missed by many.”

Noga had volunteered for Girlguiding since 2021, empowering girls and giving them new experiences. She shared her professional experiences with them - star-gazing with them – and personal experiences - telling the Guides and Rangers unit more about the festival of Hanukkah.

“Everything Noga did, she did, she did with joy and enthusiasm, and the Guides really responded to her. Noga’s support and encouragement was invaluable to her fellow leaders, who will miss her enormously and are hugely saddened by her tragic death,” said Claire.

Friends of Mr Hirshfeld, a former mathematics professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel, have spoken of his kindness.

Yoram Hirshfeld ‘radiated so much kindness’, according to former student Amnon Eden, whose son Saul is pictured here with Mr Hirshfield in 2007. Picture: Amnon Eden
Yoram Hirshfeld ‘radiated so much kindness’, according to former student Amnon Eden, whose son Saul is pictured here with Mr Hirshfield in 2007. Picture: Amnon Eden

Former student Amnon Eden, 54, who lives in Essex, said: “His teaching was legendary. He knew how to explain complex math at the highest order in a way that even I, not a mathematician, and dyslexic to boot, could understand.”

The mayor of Ramsgate, Cllr Raushan Ara said her heart goes out to the family.

“It’s so sad,” she said. Cllr Ara held a vigil at the scene of the crash at 7pm last Thursday evening. Well-wishers left floral tributes at the scene.



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