Sunday, August 28, 2011

A catalyst beyond ~ The Nitrogen bond ~ pharmaceuticals, aviation, food.

EXCITING NEW CHEMICAL BOND MAY OPEN DOOR 

Researchers at the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry have discovered a “new kind” of chemical bond, thereby opening the door to the development of catalysts with special characteristics unknown until now. The Haifa scientists published their findings recently in the journals Nature Chemistry, Chemical and Engineering News and ChemNews Magazine.

“The field of catalysts is very broad,” said Dr. Mark Gandelman from the chemistry faculty.

“They are at the heart of the food, pharmaceutical, automotive and aviation industry. The world market for catalysts is estimated at $500 billion a year.” These substances influence our daily life in many aspects. With the help of catalysts, we prepare innovative materials with special characteristics, and we can’t manage without them. In fact, much of what serves us is done by catalysts.

They are made mostly from a core of metals, surrounded by organic material that holds it together. Between the two, there is a chemical bond, and the type of bond is very important, because it gives the metal special characteristics,” Gendelman continued.

The new bond is based on positively charged nitrogen. Until now, bonds were based on carbon and related substances.







Dr. Mark Gandelman


[Reproduced from the Jerusalem Post]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Technion Nobel Laureate discusses the yidisher kop


"As for the current generation, it is clearly a generation with different values, more oriented towards materialistic values. Many are superb, truly exceptional.… What I see among the students of the Technion is still the crème de la crème..."

.Tireless Advocate: Nobel Prize winner Aaron Ciechanover says the erosion of teachers’ status is partly to blame for problems in Israel’s education system.

By Michael J. Solender

Published August 19, 2011, issue of August 26, 2011.

When biochemist Aaron Ciechanover surveys the education landscape in his native Israel, he is invariably disappointed by the diminishing emphasis he sees being placed upon math and science curricula and by the limited access to higher learning granted to those who can’t afford it. Ciechanover shared with two colleagues the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their discovery of a process by which proteins are tagged for destruction within a cell.

Ciechanover, who is a professor in the unit of biochemistry at the Technion in Israel and former director of its Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences, traverses the globe, underscoring how education can be both the driving force behind economic growth and the solution to some of society’s most pressing problems.

In April, Ciechanover visited North Carolina at the invitation of the humanitarian organization the Echo Foundation as part of a program connecting global leaders with area high school students. While there, he spoke with Forward correspondent Michael J. Solender about his views on Israeli education.
Michael J. Solender: What changed for you upon winning the Nobel Prize?

Aaron Ciechanover: The discoveries that we made, for which we won the Nobel Prize, were made in 1978 to 1983. From the mid-1980s through 2004, I was, I believe, a successful scientist that was left alone to work in his laboratory, and nobody asked me about education, values, etc.… [Then] all of a sudden… I became a celebrity for something that nobody recognized before.… People ask: “What do you think of Beethoven? What do you think of the space shuttle of America? What do you think of painting? And of education?”

What led to the erosion of leadership that you have said is responsible for Israel’s lacking education system, and what will it take for a resurgence?

Well, the teachers’ status has deteriorated in Israel…. The salaries are very low. They are ranked low socially; they have to look for a second or third job to make a decent living.… [Yet] having a leading educational system is essential for our existence.

For me, it’s not only the damage made to the State of Israel, which was leading in the field of education at one time and had exceptional human resources, but also kind of a betrayal in the centuries-old Jewish tradition that valued scholarliness.

That’s very strong.

Jews have evolved scholarliness in the Diaspora as the only way to survive. This is the one thing that kept them alive for many years. Throughout history, they were forced to move from place to place, had no right to own property and they had nothing to take. They were allowed to own their head, so they perfected the art of improving it.

The yidisher kop (Jewish head)?

Exactement. The yiddisher kop. So here comes the Jewish state and erodes this value. There are several reasons for this. Some of them have to do with the fact that we feel safe: Once we have the land, the “Diaspora” values are less important. The leaders in Israel, especially those we have had in the recent two decades that grew up in Israel, appreciate education much less than the founding leadership that came from Europe. [But] the leadership is the mirror image, in many ways, of the people of Israel.…. The Israelis feel that they are walking on their own land, and are not persecuted. They have a strong army; they can beat their enemies. So the kop is needed for other things, maybe.… As for the current generation, it is clearly a generation with different values, more oriented towards materialistic values. Many are superb, truly exceptional.… What I see among the students of the Technion is still the crème de la crème.

But education is not for the crème de la crème…. We cannot afford [to educate only] the 5% of the students of the Technion or the students who are enjoying Hebrew University; we need to educate in the rest of the country. Unfortunately, in Israel we have a broad geographic and social periphery that does not enjoy, and cannot afford access to, sophisticated educational systems, and they remain far behind. These people, which are not a minority — on the contrary — must be educated, all of them.… This is our obligation to the growing part of the underprivileged in the Israeli society.

Why did you return to Israel after studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and having numerous offers in the United States to teach and to conduct your research?

The American university system is flooded with people like me. In Israel, we are a small country. I can have greater influence in the area of education, and as we mentioned… people are listening to me.
You’ve written that your parents raised you to be a citizen of the world. For today’s young people, what is required of that citizenry?

As for global citizenship, we are living in a competitive world. Our education systems need to prepare students for this new and increasingly interdisciplinary world. Students need to learn beyond chemistry, beyond physics and biology.… It is not sufficient to develop technical expertise in singular fields. We need to command one field, but also a bridge to fields that will connect us to the rest of the world, like business administration.…

We need to approach education in the way that real problems in the world get solved these days: though an interdisciplinary and team approach.

Have you ever experienced a crisis of faith stemming from your work as a scientist?

Accepting scientific proofs does not mean that one cannot have some kind of a belief.… For myself, I was born Jewish.… For me, my religiousness is Jewish culture…. Philosophically, God cannot be defined in any human terms, as whatever he is, he is beyond us, and each of us has his own God in his or her heart.

"Science is the peace that should be common and accessible to all of us…. [But] when scientists try to satisfy a totalitarian regime like that of Hitler or Stalin, it betrays its very basic principles of pursuing the truth — and it is not science anymore."

Can science, religion and morality complement one another?

Science is the peace that should be common and accessible to all of us…. [But] when scientists try to satisfy a totalitarian regime like that of Hitler or Stalin, it betrays its very basic principles of pursuing the truth — and it is not science anymore.

Unfortunately, a large part of the world is nondemocratic, so science cannot flourish there, and it can serve an evil regime.… A killing bullet costs only 10 cents or less, where the treatment for someone like your Congresswoman Giffords will cost millions of dollars to only partially restore her to the way she was before that tragic shooting. This internal paradox within one society of developing the best in medical treatment on one hand, but have no value to human life on the other, is something I find hard to grasp.

You chose to put your career as a physician on hold to go back to school to become a research scientist.

What lessons are in your story for young people?

So the lesson is to never get stuck doing something you don’t like. Don’t follow the wishes of your mother, unless this is really a pursuit you want to make.

Michael J. Solender, a writer based in North Carolina, is the city life editor for Charlotte Viewpoint, a not-for-profit online arts, civic and culture magazine. He can be reached at michaeljsolender@gmail.com



Oligarchy 101 - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The following article from today's Haaretz, show the role academic institutions can play as an arena for debate in deciding national direction, economics and the collective move into the future. The "blockbuster" video (in Hebrew) - not featured online at Ha'aretz can be viewed below here at TechnionLIVE.




Four years ago, then-Accountant General Yaron Zelekha was the government's punching bag, and accused of paranoia; today, Prof. Zelekha's theories on corruption and economic mismanagement are sweeping the protest movement.
By Sharon Shpurer
 
A video on economics has recently become an online blockbuster: a 2009 lecture by former Finance Ministry Accountant General Yaron Zelekha at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. It has been making the rounds on the social networks, and more than 58,000 people have viewed this one-hour-and-41-minute video on YouTube so far.
In the lecture, Zelekha says that "Israel is the poorest state in the West," that its "economic policy is distorted and should be systematically overturned," and that "Israel's government has created an oligarchy."
The number of people who have viewed this relatively long online video appears to reflect one of the main characteristics of the social protests: People want more than superficial slogans about economic policy. Articles in business sections about economic concentration and the cost of living, pasted up on posters at the tent camps, reinforce this trend.
"Had I known so many people would see the lecture, I would have made sure that all my lectures from that course were online," he told Haaretz. "This is only the first, introductory lecture in the course, which is on the Israeli economy's shift from labor to capital, and about ways of reversing this trend and making the economy just again, with fair and efficient resource distribution. Without a just distribution of resources, there's no efficiency or growth."
Many consider Zelekha to be Benjamin Netanyahu's protege. The two men have known one another since the 1990s, when Zelekha was head of economic affairs in the Prime Minister's Office. One Saturday in March 2003, Zelekha received a phone call from Netanyahu, a few hours after the latter had been appointed finance minister, in Ariel Sharon's government.
"I gave you a six-year vacation, but the holiday is over. I want you to come work for me," Netanyahu reportedly told Zelekha. Zelekha, then 33, had finished his doctorate and was not thrilled about returning to the public sector. Under heavy pressure from Netanyahu, though, he became accountant general in October 2003.
During his term, Zelekha received Netanyahu's full support, even when he took on the country's biggest businessmen, including the Ofer family and Eliezer Fishman. But then Netanyahu relinquished the portfolio and Ehud Olmert became finance minister. Zelekha had a new boss.
In 2006, Olmert became prime minister and Abraham Hirchson became finance minister. Neither supported Zelekha. In early 2007, Zelekha testified to the police's national fraud division about Olmert's efforts to help Australian shopping-mall magnate Frank Lowy win a tender for control of Bank Leumi. Olmert adjusted the tender's terms to help the Lowy group, which would cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels, Zelekha alleged. The police launched an investigation, and Olmert and Hirchson maneuvered to fire the accountant general. (This would have been the first time in Israel's history the accountant general was deposed in such circumstances .) In the end, Zelekha resigned.
Four years have gone by since he left the Finance Ministry. The Bank Leumi tender investigation was halted due to "insufficient evidence." Meanwhile, the political map has changed: Netanyahu is prime minister, Hirchson is behind bars for offenses including taking bribes, and Olmert is embroiled in multiple other corruption affairs. Prosecutors have already decided to indict Olmert in what is turning out to be the country's largest corruption scandal ever, the Holyland affair, pending a hearing.
Beyond corruption
Today, Zelekha is a 41-year-old professor. Unlike with many former accountant generals, the so-called tycoons made a point of offering Zelekha jobs when he left the public service. He established a consulting firm, but spends most of his time in academia. He is dean of the business management faculty at Ono Academic College, in Kiryat Ono, and a lecturer at other institutions.
"I don't like to use the term 'corruption,'" says Zelekha. "That minimizes the problem. Olmert and Hirchson's cash envelopes - that's corruption. Big businessmen can say, 'Take care of corruption, what's that got to do with us?' but the economy's main problem isn't cash envelopes, but rather fundamentally unsound economic policy, which ought to be overhauled. This government, like its predecessors, ran an economic policy of an oligarchy. This is not anti-poverty policy, but rather pro-poverty policy. It manufactures poverty."
Are you disappointed in Netanyahu?
"I have a lot of respect for Bibi, and the fact that I am very friendly with him on a personal level is no secret. But I have no response to your question. Aristotle once said that Plato was a good friend, but the truth was greater than them both."
Do you think Israel is a poor country?
"Israel suffers from the highest levels of poverty in the West. Some 24.7 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. The middle class is closer to poverty here than in other places. Some 70 percent of households - the bottom seven deciles - have an average monthly income of less than NIS 15,000."
What causes this?
"It comes from the unequal distribution of income, which makes the cake smaller for everyone. The inequality causes poverty. It's a vicious cycle - unequal distribution makes the cake smaller, which aggravates poverty, which increases inequality, which stops the economy from growing. Who is responsible for this - the government or the oligarchy? Economic policy is the main factor creating poverty.
"The problem includes very high indirect taxes [like customs and VAT], which, coupled with low incomes, mean people have high expenses. This also makes the country uncompetitive - Israel ranks 79th in terms of economic competitiveness, which is nowhere near the West. And if that's not enough, every few years we take a macro-economic blow due to a policy error, such as the decision to lower interest rates and create inflation two years ago."
Why was that a mistake?
"Inflation expresses itself in one of three spheres, or in all of them: in goods and services, in the capital markets and in the real estate market. The prices of goods and services rose 4 percent, but inflation was not really felt there. Why not? Because of the high poverty level. How much can prices be raised? So most of the inflation was felt in real estate and in the capital markets, where prices went up 50 percent. That is a bubble, and bubbles collapse in the end."
How is this connected to the oligarchy?
"The economic policy defends uncompetitiveness. It doesn't carry out reforms. Why not? Because that's how the oligarchy operates. That's the connection between money and political power. Money means large employers and manufacturers that demand government protection, and this protection takes the form of stifling competition.
"The government's job ought to be encouraging competition and pushing back monopolistic trends. The reforms would be simple to implement.
"I tried - unsuccessfully - to change how the government privatized things. I wanted to halt the use of tenders, which strengthen powerful groups and individuals. The tenders involve billions of shekels, and the privatization process means selling government companies' stock to the public. I tried to promote [reform] in the case of Bank Leumi, but then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stifled the [legislative] effort in the face of pressure."
Theories coming true
Since the Bank Leumi controversy, Zelekha's detractors allege he promotes paranoid theories about oligarchies. Yet as time passes, his conspiracy theories seem less outlandish. The legal proceedings against Olmert reinforce what Zelekha has been saying, and the economic theory he propounded two years ago in that Technion lecture has impressed thousands of people protesting the high cost of living.
"There are three levels of improper management," he explains in the lecture. "The highest one is when the state does not just take the fruit from the tree, but rather takes the entire farm. The state is rendering the public unable to influence economic policy.
"In professional literature, this is called appropriation. That is the primary damage to the economy. The reason for it is the connection between money and politics - and the media. No politician will talk about the issue, because if he opens his mouth, he won't be elected. He won't receive financing, and the media will attack him.
"How do I know this? I may not be a politician, but I addressed this subject. So what did Yedioth Ahronoth do to me? What did Globes do? Why is it that the newspapers with ties to money and politics attacked me? Why was Haaretz on my side, while the others were against me?"
Zelekha declares: "I'm not attacking the [newspaper owners], but rather the system."
These remarks were made a year and a half before Nochi Dankner purchased control of Maariv and joined the list of big businessmen who control Israeli media outlets.
Zelekha continues: "I'm not a politician, and I don't mind saying that I don't believe I have a political future. It doesn't matter who is elected; everyone does the same thing. Nobody will open up sectors to competition. Once again, they're talking about privatizing [the Israel Lands Administration], and how do they want to do it? They don't want to distribute assets among the public, but rather to give them to the controlling shareholders. Rather than distributing land to ordinary citizens, they've started to talk about tenders."
Zelekha says: "You could carry out at least 40 reforms in any sector you want: cellphones, banks, media, gas stations. We know how to carry out the reforms, but governments are doing everything to block this."
Brainwashed
"Once we agree that Israel is the poorest Western state in the world, you have to ask why, what's so unusual here? Most of us have been brainwashed for decades by the political culture and media culture," Zelekha continues in the lecture. "So we have several factors that seem unusual, but they're ultimately not that meaningful.
"I am not an expert on security matters, but we are not poor because of defense spending. True, our situation isn't the greatest. But if you look at the changes in GDP during Israel's wars and at other times, you'll see that during some wars, the economy grew, and in others it didn't. In general, the level of defense spending has been declining for 50 years. So it's not true that war is good for the economy, it's bad for the economy, but its economic influence is relatively marginal, it's not an explanation.
"What else do they tell us? That we are a young state. As it turns out, when Israel was established, the UN had 57 members, and now it has 200, and this means that three-quarters of the world's countries are a bit younger than we are, including Cyprus and Singapore. So that's apparently not the explanation.
"They tell us it's the settlements, the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs and women. Recently the Finance Minister [Yuval Steinitz] came to the Kiryat Ono college and said what we've heard from other ministers, that the main cause of poverty is the fact that the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs don't work. There's no bigger error. What the minister said is that there are 600,000 potential workers who are idle. Anti-social behavior. Therefore we produce less and therefore we're poor.
"Now, let's suppose that these 600,000 persons were sitting at the Kiryat Ono college, listening to Dr. Steinitz's lecture, and they then said to themselves, 'Wow, he's right. We're anti-social and not working, and the whole country is poor because of us. We can't continue this way.' And then the 600,000 knock on the minister's door, and say, 'Dr. Steinitz, we listened and we're convinced, and now we've come to join the workforce. Where do we get involved?'"
Zelekha continues: "What, is anybody creating jobs here? Israel's economy lacks 600,000 jobs - and that's probably the most unusual aspect of our economy. With a workforce of 5.5 million, no Western economy created jobs for less than 60 percent. In Israeli terms, that means we should have 3.3 million jobs, but how many has the economy produced? Only 2.7 million. The economy produces fewer jobs than any other Western economy. Only 2.7 million people work here, because there are only 2.7 million jobs.
"If 600,000 Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and women were to join the workforce, meaning they were to start looking for work, unemployment wouldn't be only single digit. It would jump to 30 percent."
Almost two years have passed since Zelekha delivered that lecture. Now, as then, he still doesn't see a future in politics. Asked whether he would want to enter politics and influence the Knesset from within, he replies dryly, "No, thank you."
In another month, he will publish his second Hebrew-language book, "A New Socioeconomic Agenda for Israel" (Hakibbutz Hameuchad and Ono Academic College ). The timing assures this book more success than its predecessor, "The Black Guard" (Kinneret Zmora-Bitan), published in 2008. In that book, he accused politicians of corruption and other officials of turning a blind eye to the plundering of the public treasury.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Middle Eastern students learn that history can unite : Bikya Masr | Independent news for the world

Middle Eastern students learn that history can unite : Bikya Masr Independent news for the world

AMMAN: Within minutes of joining a mixed group of Jordanian and Maltese high school students learning about the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations, I realized that while historical narratives often serve to deepen conflicts, history in a general sense also has the ability to unite people.
The students were participants in the European Union’s Euromed Heritage 4 Program, ELIACH (Educational Linkage Approach in Cultural Heritage), a fairly new project that over the past year has been working with teenagers from several Mediterranean countries to instill a universal love of historic sites – regardless of where that site happens to be situated.
The Jordanian-Maltese meet took place last month in the Hashemite Kingdom, with students learning preservation and conservation techniques from some of the Mediterranean region’s most renowned conservationists, archaeologists, historical architects and other experts.
The program is the brainchild of Professor Dr. Anna Lobovikov-Katz, a senior lecturer and researcher at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. I was sent to observe and write about the program’s objectives.
However, set against the backdrop of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and aware of the growing power of Jordan’s anti-normalization movement, the organizers were concerned that even mentioning Israel’s involvement could have a negative impact on the program and detract from its overall goal of bringing people together to protect cultural heritage sites for future generations to enjoy.
Of course with Israelis taking the lead on this project, it did not take long for this information to reach the students. But much to everyone’s surprise, Israel’s presence did not seem to deter from the workshop’s ultimate success.
At the end of the four-day workshop, I was truly buoyed by the responses of this enthusiastic body of 15- and 16-year-olds, who quickly grasped the concept that a shared love of history can easily cut across borders to unite people, regardless of tensions on a political level.
“When the [Jordanian] participants first realized that Israelis were involved, they did not understand why they had to be here,” one of the Jordanian facilitators told me during the trip. “I explained to them that cultural heritage is not a political issue and that it is of equal importance to all people.”
“The goal is to create a sense of shared ownership among the students so that they will feel more responsible for taking care of the history and culture around them,” explained Christophe Graz, who has been assigned by the EU to monitor the project’s progress and implementation.
He admitted, however, that it had not been easy to bring all the countries together on this project because the issue of Israel’s participation for some nations was politically sensitive. Ultimately, however, all those involved realized that concerns over historical preservation must transcend borders and conflict.
“This program offers a unique opportunity to encourage international intercultural dialogue between course participants in the field of cultural heritage protection,” pointed out Lobovikov-Katz, whose partners include a distinguished team of experts from universities in Athens, Antwerp, Venice and Malta.
In conversations with the students, especially those from Jordan, I realized how quickly this concept can be turned into a reality if young people learn to appreciate history for history’s sake and are not fed it merely for the sake of strengthening their own nation’s narrative.
One of the Maltese students, 17-year-old Martina Bugelli, poignantly observed: “History does not belong to a certain country; it is a world heritage and I think that everyone should learn how past generations lived.”
Bugelli, who also visited Jordan’s most well-known heritage site, the 2,000-year-old Nabatean city of Petra, added: “It is a unique and irreplaceable landmark that belongs to all of us, to all humanity, and we must try to preserve and protect it for as long as we can.”
###
* Ruth Eglash is a senior reporter at The Jerusalem Post. Last year she became the first recipient of the United Nations X-Cultural Reporting award for a story she wrote with a Jordanian journalist. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 16 August 2011, www.commongroundnews.org

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Technion named among leading ... JPost - Environment & Technology

Technion named among leading ... JPost - Environment & Technology

[illustrative photo]
Photo by: Reuters/Catherine Benson

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has been ranked an impressive 15th among 500 universities around the world in computer studies, it was announced on Wednesday.

In addition, it was given 42nd place among 75 in engineering and technology.

Both rankings were accorded by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which has measured the performance of top universities worldwide for the last nine years.

The listings can be viewed at www.shanghairanking.com.

Harvard led the general university list, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology topped the engineering and technology ranking. The Technion also placed 42nd on a list of universities in the fields of mathematics, life sciences and chemistry.

The Shanghai lists are based on objective criteria and much data including the number of Nobel Prize laureates among their staff and graduates, the number of scientific papers published in leading journals and other accomplishments relative to other leading universities. The Chinese experts assessed a total of 1,000 universities and chose 500 as the best among them.

Technion president Prof. Peretz Lavie said that the Technion’s high rating in computers and other fields explain Israel’s major importance in the global hi-tech industry. A new study found that Technion graduates are the “engines that pull the Israeli economy forward.”

In the last two decades, 76 percent of Technion graduates have been hired in the hi-tech industry, which is responsible for 51% of the country’s industrial exports, he said.

Of these, 25% have been directors- general and 10% in other management positions. A total of 59 out of the 129 companies traded on NASDAQ were established or are run by Technion graduates.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

700 international high-school students livin' it @Technion

About 700 students this summer participated in the Technion’s science workshops and “SciTech” youth summer camp


Approximately 700 students, from all over the north of the country, from 5th grade through to 12th grade, participated in two summer sessions given by the Science Programs for Youth division of the Technion. In addition, 44 young people participated in the international science camp, “SciTech 2011”.
This year the Science Programs for Youth division offered a range of programs in the areas of medicine, genetic engineering, developing mathematical thinking, aviation sciences, architecture, robotics, nano worlds and more. About 40 different classes were run and the most popular classes, by far, were the ones in robotics and architecture.
Classes were given in three different areas: natural sciences and engineering, basic skills and engineering and technology.
The classes are given by Technion students studying in different faculties who believe that in science and teaching, they are also conveying an important message to the young participants. In addition to the classes, the participants in the Science Programs for Youth also received a discount on entry fees to the Technion swimming pool and thus were able to enjoy the summer to the fullest.
The “SciTech” summer camp is an international science camp that takes place every summer at the Technion. This year’s camp marks its 18th year. About 44 young men and women from Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Israel came to the Technion camp, which is aimed at youth aged 16-18 with a proven aptitude in science and technology who strive for academic excellence at the highest level. The camp is about four weeks long and combines scientific research with cultural and social activities. Afternoons and evenings are devoted to social activities and on certain days, the participants are taken on outings to see the country. This year’s tours were to Jerusalem, Caesarea, Kfar Blum, the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa and many other places.
The main objective of the camp is to expose young talented people to scientific and technological activity and research, as well as allow them an opportunity to work under the supervision of professional staff from the Technion, to build a bridge between science and the different cultures, to create relationships among students from all over world and to expose them to different aspects of Israeli society and history.
During the camp, the students work in pairs on projects at the cutting edge of Technion research, using the Technion’s equipment and labs. Toward the end of the camp, participants present their research projects by submitting a comprehensive report, a scientific poster presentation and a visual presentation.
The audience at these presentations is made up of the camp participants, the mentors, the academic staff and guests. The audience participates in choosing the best presentation in every scientific field.
The posters are displayed at a special exhibition during the camp’s closing ceremony. They are judged by a committee comprising senior scientists from the Technion as well as experts. The committee members select the best poster in each scientific field, with each winner getting a prize. The reports and posters appear in the annual “SciTech” review.

CIDI | Israeli invention can sniff cancer#.TkiRInSXnzt.email#.TkiRInSXnzt.email


Prof. Hossam Haick

Israeli invention can sniff cancer
Wed 04-05-2011
An Arab-Israeli researcher at the Technion has figured out a way to identify cancer in a person's breath
The patient walks into the oncology department’s checkup room. The doctors suspect cancer. But instead of running intrusive biopsies or complicated scans, they only ask that he blow for about 15 seconds into a strange-looking device that looks like a faucet. Within minutes, a computer delivers a full diagnosis.
It sounds like a scene from a science fiction film, but the device described above already exists. It can be found at the Technion in Haifa, the Israeli university for exact sciences. Currently, the device is still in the experimental phase. But in view of the crucial importance of early detection in the fight against cancer, the Technion’s “electric nose” may revolutionize the world of oncology.
The implications of this have not eluded the scientific community. This is the reason that the young Arab-Israeli inventor of this device was named by MIT’s Technology Review – a prestigious magazine – among the world’s 35 most promising inventors.
“Current cancer diagnosis techniques are ineffective and impractical,” says Dr. Hussam Haick, 34, who was born in Nazareth. “Mostly the patient arrives for diagnosis when the symptoms of the sickness have already begun to appear. Months pass before a real analysis in completed. And the process requires complicated and expensive equipment such as CT and mammography imaging devices. Each machine costs millions of dollars, and end up delivering rough, inaccurate results.”
Haick’s device will, one fully developed, be small and mobile, costing less than 1,000 dollars per unit. It is meant for use not only in oncology departments, but as a standard item at the family doctor’s office, and used in routine inspections for patients, just like tests for blood pressure.
Dr. Haick hails from a Christian-Arab family. His father is a lecturer on machine engineering in a technical school in Karmiel. He insisted that Hussam and his four siblings learn exact sciences. “He gave us free choice, on the condition that we also learn engineering on top of whethever we wanted to study,” Dr. Haick says. His oldest brother is an engineer at Intel’s Haifa plant. Their two sisters are both math teachers, and the youngest sister is close to finishing her medical studies, also at the Technion. 
Haik, who is married and hasone child, wrote his master’s degree at the Technion, continuing to take up a position at the Weizmann Institute in Rechovot, where he studies molecular biology. He acquired the basis for his knowledge of olfactory technology at Caltech in California, where he wrote is post doctorate. His research was made possible through the use of sensors belonging to NASA.
The American space agency ended up offering Haik a position, but in 2006 he decided he would return to Israel instead. He returned to the Technion, where he set up a team of scientists to work on the electric, cancer-detection device. Currently, the team consists of 26 people from Israel, Singapore, China, Germany, India en Russia.
Their eventual breakthrough is based on a chemical discovery made possible through the use of spectroscopic analyses of molecular presence, which showed that cancer patients emit certain, characteristic elements in their breath. Haik says that he is not at liberty to elaborate on the issue due to copyright limitations.
Research indicated that Dogs are also capable of sniffing out cancer. “But the use of dogs for diagnosis remain impractical,” Haick adds. Nonetheless, these indications inspired him to come up with a device which simulates the canine olfactory ability to sense cancer. At the lab, Haick and the members of his team began collecting and mapping out the relevant chemical compounds and identifying them with nanometric sensors.
Clinical tests began 18 months ago at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, with 400 cancer patients and 400 people without cancer. The results were very encouraging, according to Haick. “I believe that within a few years this device will be is wide use,” he says. “We have overcome the main technological hurdles, and proved that diagnosing cancer is possible through analysis of a person’s breath. And we’ve classified a few different types of cancer which can be detected in this way, though not enough of them. We are working on broadening that list now.”
Besides cancer, the electric nose is capable of sensing nephrology dysfunctions. This aspect is also beig researched at Rambam Hospital.
“Israeli universities all suffer from shortage in funds,” Haick says. “But the Technion spends its budget in a very effective manner. While some universities splurge on beautifl buildings and facilities, Technion invests in a young, dynamic and prestigious staff. This is an investment which will surely pay off.”
But the Technion’s tempting offer is not the only reason that Haick came back to Israel. “If I stayed in the US, I would be successful there. But also isolated,” Haick concludes. “A good scientist needs to have more than a good feeling for discoveries. They must first of all be good people, and that happens when one is connected to one’s community. For me, that can only happen in Israel.”



TECHNION FOCUS MAGAZINE - Outstanding Achievement Award to Prof. Lior Gepstein

TECHNION FOCUS MAGAZINE - Outstanding Achievement Award to Prof. Lior Gepstein

Prof. Lior Gepstein: Technion Faculty of Medicine.
Date: 15/08/2011
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) honours Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine with an Outstanding Achievement Award. With this award the ESC Council for Basic Cardiovascular Science annually honours two basic researchers with outstanding accomplishments in the early stage of their career. At the ESC Congress in Paris, Gepstein, together with fellow awardee Thomas Thum of Germany, will each receive an honorary plaque and 3,000 Euros.  

The European Society of Cardiology represents over 62,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

Stem Cells with a Heart

A Technion study published in Nature in January 2011 shows the ability of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs ) to recreate - in a Petri dish - a cardiac disorder known as long QT syndrome, enabling researchers to model the abnormal cardiac function and to identify potential new therapeutic agents.

Led by Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, the research team obtained skin cells from a patient known to have long QT syndrome - a disease which affects the heart’s ability to recharge itself after each heartbeat, causing fainting, seizures and even leading to sudden death. The Technion scientists turned the skin cells into iPSCs and then coaxed these all-purpose stem cells to become cardiac cells.

These newly created beating heart cells showed abnormal electrical activity, mimicking that of the patient’s actual heart, and enabling the scientists to test the efficacy of different drugs on the cells.

While some patients acquire the syndrome after taking certain medications, Gepstein’s patient was a 28-year-old woman with an inherited form of the disorder - type-2 LQTS - caused by a single genetic mutation. In this case, the individual cardiac cells derived from iPSCs demonstrated the same long recharging period and arrhythmia common in the hearts of long QT syndrome patients.
  
The study represents a new paradigm to help scientists learn more about how a disease like long QT syndrome works at the cellular level. Gepstein said that the disease “could be demonstrated and studied at the single-cell or multicellular level, but it doesn’t require an entire organ, which of course we cannot create.”

But it also offers a glimpse at the future of personalized medicine, where a patient’s own cells can be used to determine which treatments might work best - or should be avoided - for a particular condition. Furthermore, since heart biopsies, for example, are hard to obtain, this methodology using iPSCs also offers a novel way to study diseased cells that cannot easily be removed from the body. Researchers around the world are also using iPSCs to study other heart diseases and nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Gepstein said.

The research team at the Sohnis and Forman Families Center of Excellence for Stem Cell and Tissue Regeneration Research included Ilanit Itzhaki, Leonid Meizels, Irit Huber, and colleagues.

Heart cells derived from the human induced
pluripotent stem cells.




Thursday, August 4, 2011

Technion researchers successfully build “a biological Rosetta Stone” inside a bacterium

Technion researchers successfully build “a biological Rosetta Stone” inside a bacterium

“Now we can understand, at least partially, many natural programs that have not yet been decoded by simply reading the DNA sequence.”


Technion researchers successfully build “a biological Rosetta Stone” inside a bacterium. They hope that in the future this will enable the translation of the genome’s “operating system”; they are working in the new field of synthetic biology and believe that this will be “the high tech of bio tech”.

The prestigious science journal, Cell, reports that Technion researchers in collaboration with Caltech researchers have successfully built a “biological Rosetta Stone” within a bacterium, by developing a new understanding of the group of bacterial regulators called Enhancers. These objects encompass non-gene coding sequences on DNA, to which proteins attach. These objects function by integrating several proteins, and upon reaching the correct combination, the target gene is expressed. By learning how to “program” these enhancer, the researchers hope to gain a more precise control of gene expression.

“One of the central discoveries in biology in the post-genome era is the understanding that the main factors contributing to the differences between organisms (for instance, between mice and men) is not the result of genes,” explains Dr. Roee Amit of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion, who began his research as part of a post-doctoral fellowship at Caltech. “The origin of this difference is in the algorithm or program that determines when, where and how any gene will be expressed. In the past few years a new picture of the genome is becoming clearer, and as a result, also a model in which the genome is perceived as a complex tool for storage and dissemination of information.”

The objective of the Technion researchers is to decode the “software” that controls the process and use this knowledge to develop medical applications. “In order to do this, we intend to create a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the gene regulatory code (the original Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele that had the same ancient text inscribed on it in three different languages, as a result of which archaeologists were able to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics),” says Dr. Amit.

“This tool will be used to ‘hack’ the control program of real organisms and consequently allow us to ‘write’ new programs – which do not exist in nature – for medical purposes, environmental applications, etc. Synthetic biology is a new branch of life science, which takes a constructive/building approach. It attempts to use biological components to construct new biological systems that do not exist in nature. It forces us to really examine our understanding by requiring us to use what we think we understand in order to create biological functions. It allows us to ask why evolution “locked onto” specific patterns, to imagine and create new biological functions and forces us to work in a multidisciplinary fashion.”

The approach of researchers in synthetic biology is based on using characteristic genomic components and arranging them together (or “wiring” them to each other) in new architectures. In the next stage they develop patterns based on thermodynamic models, and in the end, they analyze the output using their model. By doing this, they can draw basic programming principles that permit them to translate the architecture and the sequence into computer algorithms. “If we succeed in writing a sequence that predicts our output based on computerized rules that we found in the ‘Rosetta Stone’ – we can then use this ‘key’ to decipher certain sequences that appear in the genome,” says Dr. Amit.

In the paper appearing in Cell, the Technion researchers show that they can use this approach to develop a new understanding of enhancers among bacteria. These sequences are common to all living creatures and may be thought of as modular objects that can combine “input” or signals. Because bacterial enhancers have a simpler architecture and at times it is easier to characterize them, the Technion researchers chose to focus on them first. The researches demonstrated the possibility of building new bacterial enhancer programs that will lead to a physical model of the control program, or to the “machine code”. The researchers note that the type of computerization that takes place in this context is reminiscent of analogue computing processes more than digital ones.

“This Rosetta Stone, in the bacterial context, has enabled us to formulate a new understanding, or qualitative model, for many examples of bacterial enhancers in nature, most of which have never been analyzed,” stresses Dr. Amit. “Now we can understand, at least partially, many natural programs that have not yet been decoded by simply reading the DNA sequence.”

Technion opens an undergraduate degree program in Bnei Brak in mapping and geo-information

“As an institution that has been contributing to the state in every field of life since its establishment almost one hundred years ago, the Technion is proud to contribute its part to this national mission – providing a wage-earning profession to the Haredi public,”

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie.

Technion opens an undergraduate degree program in Bnei Brak in mapping and geo-information

A Technion program that will use the existing infrastructure of the Haredi College of Bnei Brak (Mivchar) received authorization from the Council for Higher Education

The Technion is opening an undergraduate degree program in Bnei Brak in mapping and geo-information. The studies are intended for young men from the Haredi sector and will be given in the Haredi College of Bnei Brak (Mivchar). The program has been approved by the Council for Higher Education.

“There is a severe lack of trained professionals in every field of civil and environmental engineering,” said the dean of the faculty at the Technion, Prof. Arnon Bentur. “We will help Haredi students in Bnei Brak acquire a profession that guarantees them a respectable career that combines income with a broad vista for advancing in the public and private sectors. The Technion in general, and the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering in particular are exerting great effort to expand our target audiences. These efforts have so far led to the opening of a special Technion study track in the Jerusalem College of Engineering, whose students study for two years in the college’s Jerusalem campus and then complete their studies at the Technion in Haifa. In addition, as a result of these endeavors we now award 100 scholarships annually as part of the “Atidim for Infrastructures” program, with 60% of recipients being young people from the country’s periphery. And in the same way, today, we are reaching out to the Haredi sector. This step represents a unique model that simultaneously responds to two national needs – the first, in the field of engineering and the second, the integration of the Haredi sector into the workforce of the state of Israel. The Center for Mapping of Israel will act to find jobs for graduates of the new program.”

We are talking about a three-year program that will not only award a BA but will also constitute a strong basis for getting a “certified surveyor” license – a much sought after employee. Registration has already begun and the 15-month preparatory program will begin in September. After completing this program, students will study for three years for a BA. Classes will be held at the college in Bnei Brak and will be given by members of the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students in the program will be official Technion students even though the classes are being given in Bnei Brak.

The Council for Higher Education’s decision to authorize the Technion to establish the program in Bnei Brak says, in part, that “the recommendation of the Committee for Monitoring Education in the Haredi Sector was given in the framework of the green light given by the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budget Committee – to include new programs for Haredi organizational frameworks in the new five year plan, in terms of planning and budgeting.”

The web page of the Haredi College of Bnei Brak says that “Dr. Harav Avrahum Foss, of blessed memory, founder of the Haredi College of Bnei Brak, who gallantly led the vocational revolution of the Haredi sector, initiated the establishment of the college in order to meet the need for appropriate, completely segregated higher education studies for the Haredi public. The great vision of a great founder was to enable thousands of new students to proudly earn a living.”

“As an institution that has been contributing to the state in every field of life since its establishment almost one hundred years ago, the Technion is proud and happy to contribute its part to this national mission – providing a wage-earning profession to the Haredi public,” stressed Technion president, Prof. Peretz Lavie.

Technion researchers discover how click-beetles jump without using their legs

Technion researchers discover how click-beetles jump without using their legs

Monitoring the click-beetle. A series of photographs demonstrating a single jump, in intervals of 100th/second between pictures. Technion spokesman.
The name given to the family of beetles known as click-beetles aptly reflects their unique ability to jump: a unique mechanism enables them to jump in the air without using their legs. This mechanism allows them to evade potential predators – or simply to turn over in the case when they get “stuck” on their back.

This mechanism has been studied in the past and its basic mechanics were known: when a beetle lies on its back, a locking mechanism is activated that preserves the beetle’s elastic potential energy and release of this mechanism bounces the beetle into the air, to a height of about 30 cm.

Nevertheless, up until the present research conducted by Dr. Gal Ribak and Distinguished Professor Daniel Weihs of the Technion, scientists did not understand how much control the click-beetle had over the jump.

Dr. Ribak and Prof. Weihs, who also investigated the bio-mechanical constraints on the jump, discovered that even though the click-beetle controlled some elements of the jump, its “launch angle” barely changes. A launch with such an angle – approximately 80 degrees – exerts the majority of the jump energy (98% of the energy) on the vertical axis, that is, to overcoming gravitational pull.

Based on a combination of theory (a mathematical-physical model of the jump) and experiment (tracking the jumps of real click-beetles), the researchers concluded that the click-beetle controls the launch speed but not the launch angle.

“The issue of the energetics of the jump especially drew me,” explains Dr. Ribak. “We are dealing with insects that propel their body upward with enormous acceleration – more than 300 times the gravitational acceleration (the acceleration of a free-falling object) – and it was unclear why so much energy is required to execute such a simple action as turning over. Taking a second look, I noticed that the click-beetle does its somersaults in the air and I wanted to understand how much control the beetle itself has over its aerial acrobatics.”

The subject of controlled movement is an important issue in autonomous systems (autonomous robots); for example, an unmanned vehicle that capsizes while carrying out a task. It is very important that this type of vehicle be able to right itself even in difficult terrain so as to continue its mission. Design of such a complex task requires a sense of the environment and spatial orientation.

“As we are learning from the click-beetle, evolution has supplied us with its own solution to this problem,” says Dr. Ribak. “The jump will successfully turn the beetle over only 50% of the time. In other words, the chances of a successful jump are the same as a failed jump. Therefore, it is possible that the beetle may have to make several jumps in order to, at the end, land on its feet. It is true that an engineer who designs such a mechanism would not get a lot of compliments but as an evolutionary solution, it has proven itself, and the simplicity of the mechanism is an enormous advantage.”

It is likely that following the research of Dr. Ribak and Prof. Weihs, it will be possible to design tiny vehicles that will be able to jump over obstacles.

Another possible application is a mechanism to turn over sensors. “Suppose that we are interested in dispersing a lot of sensors over a certain area,” explains Dr. Ribak. “The most logical way is to toss them from the air. However, it is clear that some sensors will fall on the ground wrong side up. Using a joint based on a similar mechanism to that of the click-beetle, we can get the sensor to jump up into the air and keep jumping until it lands right side up.”

Dr. Gal is a research biologist studying the eco-physiology of swimming and natural flight, with the focus on natural, evolutionary solutions to engineering problems. “Nature provides us with relatively simple solutions for many engineering problems, which to us seem very complex,” he explains.

The present research is part of Dr. Ribak’s post-doctoral work being carried out in the framework of a Technion program for autonomous systems and under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Daniel Weihs of the Faculty of Aeronautical Engineering.

In his doctoral research (at the Technion, under the supervision of Prof. Zeev Arad of the Faculty of Biology and Prof. Danny Weihs), he studied the diving mechanism of birds such as cormorants, using a theoretical model and computer analysis of underwater video. Dr. Ribak showed that diving birds exploit “negative lift”, which works against the force of buoyancy and enables them to stay under water, just as “regular” (positive) lift opposes gravitational pull and allows airplanes to fly.