Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A New Nazereth

“This is an impressive and inspiring achievement for the Technion,”

25 October 2011

Technion graduates win first prize in the Innovativeness in Architecture and Sustainability Buildings Competition held in Italy. The contest included students and architects from 36 countries from around the world

Rosan Qubti and Samer Hakim with their award, in Bologna, Italy. Photo: Technion Spokesman

Conceptualization of the architectural project. Photo: Technion Spokesman

Graduates of the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning Rosan Qubti and Samer Hakim, have won first prize in the SAIE (International Building Exhibition) architectural competition recently held in Bologna, Italy. In the three-day long competition, 200  innovative architectural projects were presented by students and young architects from 36 countries around the world.

The winning project, C-Park, won in the category of Planning in Concrete for Students - beating 70 other entries. The reasons cited for the project’s winning were its innovations in using concrete, and the way the design functions on a number of different levels.

The two graduates, both residents of Nazareth, conducted an extensive geographic study of the area of Nazareth and Nazareth Elite and consequently drew up an urban and architectural plan for the seam between the two cities that includes a conference center, a train station, walking trails, a hotel and a parking lot, all of which are intended to improve the lives of residents and “bring life to the area.”

“Between the cities, there is a continuum of open spaces, most of which are abandoned and neglected, between the road skirting Nazareth and the city’s municipal border,” explains Rosan Qubti, the architect designer. “These areas are characterized by their lack of identity; neither of the two cities has any plans to build there and our project proposes to transform this continuum into an open city - a new type of space - that is open and inviting and that will function at many levels, in order to bring people to metropolitan Nazareth and make it more central.”

The project was executed in the framework of a joint studio between the Technion and the University of Leuven in Belgium, organized and conducted by the architect Els Verbakel, who chose to focus on Nazareth and Nazareth Elite. Students from the two countries proposed new ideas for developing sites in the area and the studio was held in cooperation with the municipality of Nazareth. As already mentioned, the project by Qubti and Hakim was chosen to represent the studio in the competition. “This is an impressive and inspiring achievement for the Technion,” sums up Els Verbakel.

The two intend to present the project to the municipality of Nazareth Elite, in whose jurisdiction most of the sites fall, in order to see it implemented.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Technion + Cornell = NYC

Cornell and the Technion will partner in groundbreaking NYC Tech Campus

Cornell University and The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology announced today a new partnership to create a world-class applied science and engineering campus in New York City, as outlined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The NYC Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island will combine the full spectrum of both institutions’ academic strengths, as well as Cornell’s entrepreneurial culture and deep connection to the city’s emerging tech sector and the Technion’s global leadership in commercialization and technology transfer. This partnership will transform New York City into a world hub of innovation and technology commercialization.

Cornell President Skorton and Lavie
Cornell University President David Skorton (left)  and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology President Peretz Lavie

“By joining forces in this groundbreaking venture, our two great universities will employ our demonstrated expertise, experience and track record of transforming new ideas into solutions to create the global avenues of economic opportunity and tech leadership that Mayor Bloomberg envisions,” said Cornell President David Skorton. “The Technion is the driving force behind the miracle of Israel’s technology economy. Its academic rigor in computer science and engineering and its leadership in technology transfer has helped create one of the largest concentrations of start-ups anywhere and attracted the world’s leading technology companies to Haifa to leverage Technion’s research and its outstanding graduates.”

“We are very proud of the many strengths we bring to this endeavor, and we are excited to be a partner with another of the world’s great research universities,” said Technion President Peretz Lavie. “Cornell‘s globally recognized research and graduates are fueling new technologies and innovative start-ups at the center of New York City’s current tech boom. Cornell is uniquely positioned by its deep connection to the city’s emerging tech sector to serve as a catalyst for the creation of new technologies, jobs and industries in New York City.”

The key attributes of the partnership between Cornell and the Technion underscore the distinctive and practical dimensions of the proposed NYC Tech Campus and its specific focus on strategies to spur innovation and commercialization. An integral part of the campus will be the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (TCII), a 50-50 collaboration between the two universities to form a graduate program that will focus on commercialization of immediate relevance to the city’s economic growth.  Second, the campus’ academic hubs will provide an interdisciplinary environment to better prepare students for careers in tech companies, large and small, where the problems to be solved involve using technical knowhow and also expertise in other domains at the heart of the city’s key industries.  Finally, for their degrees, students will be required to take courses that prepare them to be entrepreneurs and early stage investors, fueling the rapid expansion of the tech ecosystem in New York.

The partners will be joining in a full-scale campus – not a satellite of either school – to open in 2012, initially in either leased space or existing Cornell facilities in New York City. The NYC Tech Campus will eventually grow to more than 2 million square feet on Roosevelt Island, accommodating, at full build-out, nearly 2000 graduate students and 250 faculty, as well as visitors and corporate researchers. Cornell and the Technion will collaborate in teaching, educating and advising students. The sustainable campus will include academic and commercialization space, as well as housing and community gardens.

Initially, the NYC Tech Campus will offer Cornell degrees in technical fields such as computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and information science., but the academic programs for these degrees will have unique interdisciplinary requirements related to each of the campus’s academic hubs. Once the proper New York State approvals are received, students also will be able to pursue a dual degree from both the Technion and Cornell.  These programs will provide students with an unparalleled breadth of studies from which they may choose.

More details of the partnership will be outlined in the universities’ proposal to the city, due Oct. 28, said presidents Lavie and Skorton.

“I launched Qualcomm's first international R&D Center in Haifa, Israel, in 1992, staffed entirely with Technion graduates and purposely located near the campus to take advantage of its great education and research,” said Irwin Jacobs, the founding chairman and CEO of Qualcomm. “Technion, with its many contacts, was a great help in our subsequent worldwide expansion. The Technion’s demonstrated success in translating basic and applied research to job creation complements Cornell's deep academic strengths and translational activities, providing an extraordinary partnership for the benefit of New York City. Technion and Cornell, working in close collaboration on the new campus, will inspire a next generation of entrepreneurs to pursue innovations by forming start-ups and expanding existing businesses.”

Technion is a global leader in applied research, technology transfer and commercialization and a major force behind Israel’s emergence as the home of one of the greatest concentrations of high-tech start-up companies anywhere in the world.  In partnership with a strong community of incubators, private investors, venture capitalists, angel groups and entrepreneurs, the Technion’s tech transfer arm, Technion Technology Transfer (T3), has filed 300 average annual patents and nurtured scores of innovative startups in sectors such as clean-tech, cell therapy, drug delivery, nanotechnology and others. Companies including Intel, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Yahoo! and Hewlett-Packard have established their operations near or on the Technion campus, where they can take advantage of the Technion’s research power and outstanding students and graduates.

Technion graduates head 59 of 121 Israeli companies on the NASDAQ, and these companies have a combined market value of over $28 billion.  More than 70 percent of Technion graduates are employed in the high technology sectors that drive Israel’s economic growth.  Today, Israeli companies headed by Technion graduates employ 85 percent of Israel’s technical workforce. And the Technion also has an established presence in New York City with the American Technion Society (ATS) , which maintains a national network of thousands of alumni and supporters and has raised more than $1.65 billion since its founding in 1940, the majority raised in the last decade.

Cornell is known worldwide for its top programs in engineering and computer science, and for its interdisciplinary approach to technology that spans fields from the social sciences to the arts and humanities. Cornell's entrepreneurial culture and deep connection to every aspect of New York’s tech sector – start-ups and entrepreneurs, existing industry leaders, and venture capital – will make the NYC Tech Campus uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst for the creation of new technologies, jobs and industries in New York City.

Cornell’s portfolio in New York City includes the world-class Weill Cornell Medical College – where Cornell is now engaged in a $1 billion capital project that includes construction of a new state-of-the-art medical research facility – as well as Cornell Cooperative Extension-New York City, Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations in NYC in Midtown and its Architecture, Art and Planning Center in Chelsea, Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan off Wall Street, Cornell-sponsored Food and Finance High School on the West Side, and various programs in disciplines ranging from labor and employment law to human ecology. The city is now home to almost 50,000 Cornell alumni – including thousands already working in the tech sector – and about 5,000 Cornell employees.

Technology for underground tunnel detection

Never again?

The scientific challlenge of detecting underground tunnels - such as those used in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Picture of Gilad Shalit, speaking to his parents for the first time since his release.

Gilad Shalit (rank at the time: Cpl.) was kidnapped early on Sunday June 25, 2006. A terrorist cell attacked Shalit’s tank that was defending the security fence near the southern Gaza Strip. The terrorists crossed the border using an underground tunnel dug near the Kerem Shalom crossing. During the attack, the tank commander, First Lt. Hanan Barak, and another soldier in the tank, Staff Sgt. Pavel Slotzker were killed. Four of the soldiers in the post were injured and terrorists kidnapped Shalit into the Gaza Strip, using the tunnel they dug.
In response to the kidnapping, the IDF began Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip on June 28, 2006 and lasted through November 26, 2006. Ground forces entered the Gaza Strip for the first time since the unilateral disengagement was executed.
Sgt. 1st Class Shalit was 19 years old at the time of his abduction. He is the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit and the brother of Yoel and Hadas. Sgt. 1st Class Shalit excels in math, graduating with distinction from the science class of Manor Kabri High School. He is also a major sports fan, with a passion for playing basketball.

The Technological Challenge of Underground Tunnels.
Beneath the nine-mile border between Gaza and Egypt lie an estimated 300 makeshift tunnels, according to a Jan. 12 article in Asia Times. And Israel insists that without them, Hamas would not be able to stockpile rockets and mortars. Thus, permanent monitoring and destruction of these tunnels is a key sticking point in the struggle in the region.
During the SPIE’s Defense, Security and Sensing Conference (April 13-17, Orlando, FL), researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will present a method of detecting creation of just these kinds of tunnels and pinpointing their locations. Principal researchers Assaf Klar and Raphael Linker, both of the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, say the system, based on fiber-optic cables, can locate even narrow tunnels at depths greater than 60 ft (see figure).
The research lays the groundwork for the initial stages of an underground fence based on Brillouin optical time-domain reflectometry (BOTDR) that makes it possible to measure fiber distortion along 15 miles using one device. The proposed system is based on “wavelet decomposition” of the continuous BOTDR signal, a process that breaks down the signal profile into simpler shapes, and then filters out noise. The signals that remain are then characterized by a neural network that has been trained to locate tunnels using computer simulation of tens of thousands of profiles, including disturbances (such as raindrops) not related to tunneling.
The system consists of conventional single-mode fiber optics, a BOTDR analyzer, and the computer software. Klar says the researchers considered two layout schemes for the fiber optics: one involved burying the fiber at a shallow depth along the border (“we call that the horizontal configuration,” he notes) and the other based on embedding the fiber in a vertical “mini-pile” (the vertical configuration).
Essentially, the BOTDR technology allows evaluation of Brillouin shift along an optical fiber, says Klar. (The portion of light traveling along a fiber that is backscattered experiences a frequency shift called the Brillouin shift). “As the Brillouin frequency shift is well correlated with the strain in the fiber, this information can be used to evaluate deformation in the soil,” he says.

With Technion-Israel’s “underground fence,” each 15-mile section is monitored by one BOTDR analyzer. The system can pinpoint tunnel-digging activity to within 6 to 9 ft. (Courtesy of Technion-Israel)
He notes that the BOTDR does a combined time- and frequency-domain analysis, in which the time-domain information shows the location of measurement along the fiber, and the frequency analysis reveals the Brillouin frequency shift.
“Using the correlation between Brillouin shift and strain, the distortion of the fiber is measured,” Klar says. “The excavation process is associated with stress release in the soil which causes small static displacements in the soil. These displacements strain the fiber. The geotechnical aspects of how the tunnel induces displacement in the soil and how the fiber is strained due to those were all taken into account in the research.”
10 to 15 m detection range
Recommendations for spacing and depth of the fibers depend on variables such as soil condition and tunnel size. “However, we found that for soils (not rocks) we can detect very small tunnels even when the fiber is 10 to 15 m away from the tunnel,” says Klar. “This implies that if you use the vertical configuration and space the piles a distance of 20 m from each other, you have a very good coverage.”
While the BOTDR has a spatial resolution of about 1 m, the algorithm divides the continuous BOTDR signals into sections of 25 m, to which the wavelet decomposition and neural network classifications are applied. “The system first infers a tunnel being excavated within a section of 25 m. A detailed inspection of that section can probably pinpoint the tunnel to an accuracy of 2 to 3 m,” Klar explains.
The Technion researchers created the database of sound profiles themselves. “Geotechnology is my field of expertise,” says Klar, explaining that his group used continuum mechanics models, empirical relations, and discrete-element models–and conducted small-scale experiments in a centrifuge facility, which allows creation of similitude models. He says their goal was to create a broad range of input data, both for training the neural network and for testing its robustness against imperfect modeling. The system does extremely well in the robustness test, he reports, “probably because the tunnel excavation induces a very distinct–and wide–strain profile along the fiber, which the algorithm recognizes.”
Klar says his team has discussed the tradeoff between detection rate and false alarms with army officials, who have indicated a preference for missed detections over false positives. Klar’s presentation at the SPIE conference will include a comprehensive study on this tradeoff–but briefly, his group can produce zero false alarms with a detection rate of 70% (that is, 30% missed tunnel evacuations). Klar and his team have worked hard to understand the triggers for false positives, which include measurement error and surface activities that affect the fiber. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Google eyes on Technion, Israel's 1st.


A Google ‘first’ for the Technion

Jerusalem Post
10/17/2011 05:26

Prof. Dan Shechtman's Nobel Prize, Google Street View putting Haifa, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology on the map.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has become the first Israeli university to be photographed for Google Street View.

Dr. Avital Stein, the Technion’s deputy president and director-general, said that “the Nobel Prize announcement again put the university on the map, and now Google arrives and actually puts us on the map with magnificent photographs.

“Many Technion graduates are working at Google, and the Technion has many cooperative projects with it,” she said.

The photographers intended to remain on campus for one day but because of its size, had to continue for another full day.

You might also like:
Google sponsors Technion research.
Is smart being greedy? Tomorrow's internet.
Microsoft partners with Technion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breath-test for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) - JPOST

MS can be diagnosed early with ‘electronic nose’

Ariel Miller and Hossam Haick
Ariel Miller, Prof. Haick

Jerusalem Post

10/14/2011 03:18

Young chemical engineer and colleagues at Technion has been proven to detect lung and other cancers from breath, also multiple sclerosis.

The “electronic nose,” developed by a young chemical engineer and his colleagues at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has been proven to detect lung and other cancers from breath. It has also succeeded in diagnosing in the same way multiple sclerosis.

The non-invasive technique using sensors, which has been called a “breakthrough” in early diagnosis of the disease that first appears in young adults, was reported in the latest issue of the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Prof. Hossam Haick, who still in his 30s has received numerous prestigious scientific awards, developed the electronic sensor in the Technion’s chemical engineering faculty and the Russell Berrie Institute for Nanotechnology Research, together with Prof. Ariel Miller of the Technion’s Rappaport Medical Faculty and Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

While no cure has yet been found for MS, in which the immune system of the body mistakenly regards the myelin coating of nerves as a “stranger” and attacks it, a number of medications – most of them, like Copaxone, developed in Israel – can slow and reduce the neurological attacks that can cause loss of muscle function, paralysis and pain.

Conventional diagnosis of MS, which first appears as numbed nerves, has been via expensive MRI scanning and the examination of spinal fluid. But in their first clinical study, Haick and Miller identified organic compounds in the breath that are a sign of MS. They developed nanometric sensors and tested them on 34 MS patients and 17 normal volunteers. The results were found to be accurate.

The NaNose is also being developed to detect cancer & kidney disease.

The researchers predicted that MS could be diagnosed at an early stage and non-invasively using the sensors.

“It is a very early stage, and the research will continue with the aim of developing speedy diagnosis for MS and other chronic neurological diseases. The sensors could also detect neurological attacks after the disease is diagnosed so treatment to halt the attacks can be given.”

Haick is the founder and chief scientific officer of the Nanose Ltd., a leading developer of advanced nanotechnology for cancer detection by breath analysis.

He received his BSc. from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and completed his PhD in chemical engineering at the Technion in 2002. After a two-year period at the Weizmann Institute of Science, he went to the California Institute of Technology-Caltech for postdoctoral research and returned to the Technion in 2006. He has received a Fulbright fellowship, the Science and Technology Ministry award, Prof. Avrahami prize, and CNR-IMIP prize.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Technion gets $30,000,000 to Attract Top Scientists.

The late Henry Taub 

The American Technion Society has announced a $30 million commitment from the estate of the late Henry Taub and The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation. $25 million of the commitment will be used for the “Leaders in Science and Technology” faculty recruitment program at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and $5 million will go to the university’s Faculty of Computer Science.
The gifts will create an endowment for the Leaders in Science program’s future and provide support for its annual expenses over the next 10 years. Established by the Taubs with $10 million in 2002, the program provides the university with the resources and flexibility to attract a cadre of internationally renowned scientific leaders to serve as senior faculty. It also allows the Technion to be competitive in recruiting and retaining exceptional new faculty members in cutting edge fields and to replace those who are retiring.
Since the fall of 2002, 41 new faculty members have joined the Technion through the auspices of this program. Among their many accomplishments are the graduation of 81 postgraduate students, 48 invention disclosures for patents, and research grants in excess of $23 million.
The $5 million for Computer Science will create an endowment to replace and upgrade computer equipment. The Faculty of Computer Science was a primary focus of Mr. Taub’s philanthropy at the Technion for nearly 40 years.
Past gifts from the Taubs to the Technion established the Henry and Marilyn Taub and Family Science and Technology Center, a central campus landmark and home to the Faculty of Computer Science; the Henry and Marilyn Taub Nobel Laureates Research Fund; and the Henry Taub Prize for Excellence in Research. One of their earliest gifts, in honor of Henry’s parents, was for the Technion’s first computer center. The Taubs also set up Technion scholarship funds named after each of their 10 grandchildren, and a housing fund for Technion faculty members.

The announcement from the ATS comes at the close of a week in which Technion was earmarked for $1.5 million investment from Microsoft for software research and in which Technion Prof. Dan Shechtman, holder of the Philip Tobias Chair of Materials Science became the Nobel Laureate in Chemistry for 2011. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Techinon Alum Avichai Kramer of Prize4Life

Technion Alum Avichai Kramer of Prize4Life had been awarded the "Prime Ministers Prize for Initiatives and Innovations", it was announced today. Kramer has spearheaded a global campaign to inspire and motivate scientific research to find a cure for the devastating disease ALS.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will, this year, for the second time, award the "Prime Ministers Prize for Initiatives and Innovations" in order to encourage initiatives, innovational thinking, imagination and creativity among various population groups, including young people.  The goal of the Prize is to lead to significant changes in society, the environment, science, technology, etc.

The Prizes, which are worth NIS 170,000, will be awarded this year to entrepreneurs in two categories: The Prime Minister's Prize for Initiative and Innovation for Financial Profit and the Prime Minister's Prize for Initiative and Innovation not for Financial Profit.  Two honorable mentions will also be awarded, one in each category.  The award ceremony will be held in the framework of Global Entrepreneurship Week, due to be held from 13-20.11.11, and in which over 100 countries are participating.

Avi Kramer.

The winners were chosen by a seven-member committee chaired by Prof. Eugene Kandel.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Initiative and Innovation not for Financial Profit will be awarded to Avichai Kramer for his efforts in founding the Prize4Life non-profit association in 2007, after he was diagnosed with ALS.  Kramer and his friends developed an innovative financing strategy that combines incentives for medical research into diseases for which conventional methods are less applicable.  Through a combination of vision and creative thinking, Kramer succeeded in creating a framework that gives hope to many sufferers and their families.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Initiative and Innovation for Financial Profit will be awarded to Inas Said and Jimmy Levy for their efforts in founding Nazareth-based Galil Software, a pioneer Arab sector high-tech company.  The company develops software and employs over 150 engineers.  The Prize is being award to Said and Levy for changing the employment map for engineers and tech professionals in the Arab sector and for thus providing an example for young Arabs who aspire to careers in engineering and high-tech and becoming entrepreneurs themselves.

The Honrable Mention for Initiative and Innovation not for Financial Profit will be awarded to Lubimer (Lubi) Tsuma Katx for her efforts in founding the Friends by Nature non-profit association, which is involved in community empowerment among Ethiopian immigrants and veteran Israelis.  Friends by Nature affects the lives of approximately 2,000 people by developing leadership, strengthening the family unit, bring different population groups together, strengthening youth at risk and increasing voluntarism.

The Honrable Mention for Initiative and Innovation for Financial Profit will be awarded to Avi Buzaglo-Yoresh hor his efforts in founding Geomine, Ltd., a company dedicated to the location and discovery of landmines.  Buzagl-Yoresh developed a unique system for locating mines through aerial photographs and remote sensing, thus making it possible to map minefields and significantly reduce search areas.

Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that Israel is among the world's leaders in initiatives and innovation thanks to its human capital.  "We have many entrepreneurs who are working in various frameworks – universities, start-ups, etc.  We are investing NIS 7.5 billion in the coming years so as to strengthen higher education in order to be a leader in global research and continue maintaining our qualitative edge in innovation and initiatives.  In the end, all of these are the key to the State of Israel's economic advantage."

Source: Prime Minister's Office.

Technion 100th. Einstein Historic News Archive.

Prof. Einstein on a visit to Technion workshops, 1923.

American Technion Society Raises $3, 000, 000; Honors Einstein

PRINCETON, N.J, Oct. 3 (JTA) – 1954

The State of Israel "can win the difficult battle of survival only by developing painstakingly the intelligence and expert knowledge of her young people in the field of technology," Professor Albert Einstein declared here today at a convocation at which he and Professor James Franck each received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Technology from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.
Two hundred educators, Israel officials and Jewish leaders attended the conferment ceremony and luncheon arranged by the American Technion Society. Professor Franck, who left his research studies at the University of Chicago to share honors with his friend and fellow-scientist, concurred with Professor Einstein on the importance of technological education in Israel.
Professor Einstein said he had seen "with great satisfaction" how well Technion fulfills its task of providing technological education in Israel. "Every bit of practical help that the Jews in this country are giving to Technion contributes effectively to the development of Israel's economy, "Professor Einstein concluded. Professor Franck said that "the work done by the Technion and the spirit in which it has been done shows that faculty and students alike know what was and what is at stake, and how important their task has been and will remain."
J. W. Wunsch, president of the American Technion Society, represented General Yaacov Dori, president of Technion, in conferring the degrees on Professors Einstein and Franck. He revealed that approximately $3,000, 000 had been raised nationally by the American Technion Society toward the $10, 000,000 sought in this country as part of the Greater Technion building fund.
Dr. Ben Zion Dinur, Israel Minister of Education and Culture, extended the greetings of his country to Professors Einstein and Franck and said that the convocation "serves in a real sense as a milestone in the spiritual development of science in Israel." He added that "the identification of Professor Einstein and Dr. Franck with the Technion is a striking demonstration of the educational objectives to which the institute is striving. "

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Microsoft partners with Technion

The Technion, Microsoft Co-Establish Academic Research Center For E-Commerce Technologies

Center to specialize in e-commerce basic research

9 October 2011

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Microsoft Research (MSR) and Microsoft Online Services Division (OSD) announced today their intent to co-establish the Academic Research Center for E-Commerce Technologies. The new Research Center will promote and fund basic research in areas of computer science, artificial intelligence, game theory, economic and psychology, focusing on the connections between these subjects in the e-commerce domain. The center is the first academic research program by Microsoft Research in Israel, a part of the Microsoft R&D Center in Israel.

Through the five-year joint research and education partnership, Microsoft Research and The Technion will explore scientific and technological insights in e-commerce, such as online advertising and the use of social networks for commerce. Microsoft will invest $1.5 million (U.S.) over the next five years.  The center will be located at the Technion campus in Haifa, Israel.

The head of the new center will be Professor Moshe Tennenholtz of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. Prof. Tennenholtz has collaborated with Microsoft Research (MSR) for several years and is considered a world-leading expert in E-commerce. Research will be conducted by scientists and research students from several Technion departments along with MSR researchers.

Yoram Yaacovi, General Manager, Microsoft Israel Research and Development Center:

“Microsoft understands that academia is at the heart of technological innovation and seeks to catalyze innovation in research and curricula in leading academic institutions worldwide. Today’s announcement reflects Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to partnering with academia in developing new and advanced technologies.”

David Ku, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Advertising R&D: 

"The joint research center Microsoft Israel is building in collaboration with the Technion is the first of its kind established by Microsoft with Israeli academia – and there are few like it elsewhere in the world. Our goal is to shape a new generation of core technologies for e-commerce that will empower new opportunities for industry and exciting new value for customers. We believe that this cooperation between Microsoft Online Services, Microsoft Research and the Technion has the potential to help usher in the next generation of technology and customer value. "

Professor Boaz Golany, Dean of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion:

“Microsoft’s decision to establish the research center at the Technion is a very strong statement by one of the giants of global technology regarding the position of the State of Israel at the forefront of information & communication technologies and the strength of the Technion in the areas of science and technology. Our partnership with Microsoft is part of The Technion’s strategy that strives for cooperation with large international companies both because of their ability to support large-scale basic and applied research and because of the fact that in many cases these companies expose our researchers to significant challenges, which by being solved will, to a large extent, determine the technological agenda for the coming decades.”

About Microsoft Research

Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Researchers focus on more than 60 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art. Microsoft Research has expanded over the years to twelve facilities worldwide.

About The Technion

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is consistently ranked among the world's leading science and technology universities. As such, it breeds first-rate scientific and technological innovations, many of which have substantial economic potential, as well as notable graduates that are now leading global tech industries. As Israel's oldest and premier institute of science and technology, the Technion has been an active and leading participant in Israel's rapid scientific and industrial growth and has played a pivotal role in transforming Israel`s economy and workforce into a leading high tech/high growth economy

Investing in science pays. Israel Nobel Laureate, 2011.

"It's not easy being a celebrity, it could impede future research. The Nobel ceremony itself is nothing to be anxious about...the problem is surviving all the events that follow," 

Technion Nobel Laureate 2004 (Chemistry) Avraham Hershko.

'Investment in science paying off'

Newest member to Israeli Nobel laureates 'club' Daniel Shechtman lauded by past winners who also warn against dwindling investment in sciences

Tomer Velmer

Published:10.06.11, 10:57 / Israel News, YNET

"Shechtman's Nobel is a victory not only over science, but over scientists as well," Israeli Nobel laureates said Thursday, following the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' decision to award Professor Daniel Shechtman the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Shechtman's road to the coveted honor was a winding one, and his win – for the discovery of atom patterns thought impossible – was ridiculed before its significance was recognized by the scientific community.

Prof. Avram Hershko, who won the Nobel Chemistry in 2004 congratulated Shechtman: "This is a great achievement for science and for Israel, but you have to remember that all of the recent Israeli Nobel laureates are over 70, and their achievements can be attributed to the investment and support that science in Israel received 30 years ago."

Shechtman's discovery, he added, "Was always deemed as revolutionary and Nobel worthy. Unfortunately, over the past decade, the (State's) financial support of the sciences has taken a blow… If we want to keep being leaders in the field we have to further invest in laboratories and scientists," he said.

PM Netanyahu with Prof. Shecthman and Technion President Lavie.

Shechtman has already declared that accolades aside – his place is in his lab. Hershko agrees: "It's not easy being a celebrity, it could impede future research. The Nobel ceremony itself is nothing to be anxious about," the professor continued, amused, "the problem is surviving all the events that follow."

Yisrael Aumann, who was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics, also congratulated Shechtman: "As Israelis, we like to practice self-flagellation and say that our universities are on the verge of collapse etc, but I say that is not the case.

"I'm proud of Israeli science. Wherever Israelis are they are at the forefront of science. This is a tremendous achievement for Prof. Shechtman, but also for the Technion and Israel; and it's a day of jubilation for Israel's higher education system and scientific institutions," he concluded.

Swedish ambassador to Israel Elinor Hammarskjöld met Thursday with Prof. Daniel Shechtman at the Technion.

Hammarskjöld said that she was honored to meet a scientist whose work was so "inspiring"; and expressed her hope that Israel and Sweden would bolster their scientific ties.

Professor Shechtman met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his office in Jerusalem on Thursday and presented his discovery on a dry-erase board. The meeting was also attended by Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz.

Netanyahu told Shechtman he hoped many more Israelis will follow in his foot steps and win Nobel prizes thanks to the government's investment in education. He noted that the government has approved a NIS 7.5 billion (roughly $ 2 billion) increase for the Higher Education budget.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nobel Laureate gives chemistry lesson to Israel PM

Netanyahu meets with Israeli Nobel laureate, is given chemistry lesson

Dan Shechtman, who was awarded the 2011 Nobel in chemistry, explains discovery to Prime Minister, who promises larger investment in higher education.

Shechtman Netanyahu - GPO - October 6, 2011
Dan Shechtman explains his discovery to  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
October 6, 2011. Photo by: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO
Blogged from Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman at his office on Thursday 6th October, 2011, and received a chemistry lesson from the Israeli.

At the meeting, Netanyahu asked Shechtman to teach him about the findings that earned him the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Using a blackboard, Shechtman drew a diagram of his discovery - quasicrystals - a chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible.

Netanyahu told Shechtman that because of his government's investment in education, he can promise that many more Israelis will win the Nobel prize. Earlier on Thursday, Shechtman referred to the extensive government cuts to Israel's higher education budget throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, telling Israel Radio that "we felt humiliated as scientists."

"It didn't seem that the State of Israel saw any importance in our work, and that manifested itself in massive budget cuts," Shechtman said, adding, however "that the educational system has taken recent steps, as opposed to previous periods which were very bad."

Netanyahu said in the meeting that the government has added NIS 7.5 billion to the higher education budget.

The prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.45 million) was the third of this year's Nobel prizes, following awards for medicine on Monday and for physics on Tuesday.

Israel has an impressive showing when it comes to Nobel winners, with 10 laureates in its 63-year history. Most recently, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute won the same Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009, for her work on the ribosomes. Three Israeli politicians have also won the Nobel Prize for peace - Menachem Begin in 1978, and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to win a NOBEL Prize

Technion's 2004 Nobel Laureates Aaron Ciechanover & Avram Hershko

How to Win a Nobel Prize

On Wednesday Oct. 5, I frightened the daylights out of Miriam, with whom I share an office at the S. Neaman Institute.  Shortly after noon,  I opened my emails and read the subject line of one of them:  “Technion Materials Engineering Professor Dan Shechtman awarded Nobel Prize for Chemistry”.  I yelled, leaped out of my chair, spilling my coffee, and screamed “yes!”…  and then explained to Miriam that Danny had been a friend and colleague for over 25 years and that the tale of how he won his Nobel was worthy of a Hollywood feature film.  

Shechtman is the tenth Israeli to win a Nobel prize, the fifth Israeli to win one since 2002 and the third Technion scientist.  He has been short-listed for perhaps 20 years.  It is rather rare that a single scientist gets an unshared Nobel.   In each of the last three years, three scientists have shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. This year, Shechtman is the sole winner.

So, how do you win a Nobel Prize?  Here is how Danny did it.  The recipe has, I think, some valuable lessons for Israel’s science and technology policy, and perhaps that of other nations.  
1.  Read Jules Verne and dream.    “Frightful indeed was the situation of these unfortunate men. They were evidently no longer masters of the machine. All their attempts were useless. The case of the balloon collapsed more and more. The gas escaped without any possibility of retaining it. Their descent was visibly accelerated, and soon after midday the car hung within 600 feet of the ocean.” This passage is from the first chapter of Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island, which Shechtman says he read 25 times as a child. The book is about how an engineer turns a desert island into a lush garden. “I wanted to be exactly that: someone who makes everything from nothing”, he says. 

To win a Nobel Prize in physics, medicine or chemistry, you need to study science or engineering.  And to choose those disciplines, you need inspiration.  How can we inspire our youth to choose science, rather than business or law?  This is far more important than higher education budgets. Perhaps the story of what Shechtman saw in his microscope will help.   

One of Shechtman’s projects was to initiate a Hebrew translation of the popular science magazine Scientific American, now distributed widely to Israeli schools, with the goal of attracting young minds to study science.    

2.  Believe in yourself.  On April 8, 1982, Shechtman was peering into an electronic microscope at the labs of the National Bureau of Standards, during a sabbatical from Technion at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  His mission was to find lightweight alloys for  aircraft.  Shechtman was looking at an alloy of aluminum and manganese that had been rapidly cooled and crystallized.  “Eyn chaya kazoo!” he exclaimed!  There can be no such creature! What he saw was an arrangement of atoms that defied the known laws of nature.  Everyone knew that atoms in a crystal are arranged with perfect symmetry.  What Shechtman saw was an arrangement of 10 dots, indicating “five-fold symmetry” – an arrangement in which the distances between some atoms are shorter than between others. (To understand why, try to tile your bathroom floor with five-sided tiles, without leaving spaces between the tiles. It cannot be done.)   He ran into the corridor to find someone to tell.  But the corridor was empty.  So he wrote in his lab diary, “10 fold???”  with three question marks.  Impossible.  After checking, and rechecking, Shechtman wrote up his results. His research team leader fired him from the team, after showing him a passage in a basic textbook and asking him to reread it.  His research paper was rejected for publication. He was vilified before a large audience by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, at a gathering Shechtman himself attended.  He was called a “quasi-scientist”, playing on the “quasi-crystal” matter he discovered. But he never gave up.  In the end, other scientists replicated and verified his findings and a new definition of “crystal” was adopted.    Shechtman has a favorite picture of a line of a dozen German Shepherds. In front of them, with perfect aplomb, walks a serene cat.   “I felt like that cat,” he recounts.  But he never yielded an inch from what he believed was scientific truth.  “A good scientist needs faith,” he told the daily Haaretz. “I believed in something and it was hard to break my spirit, despite all the hardships and criticism. Every scientist who wants to make a definitive contribution to humanity has to know that he’s right and stand his ground.”   As a Technion undergrad, Shechtman supported himself by odd jobs. During the 1965-66 recession he worked as an official in charge of road signs.  But as a scientist, he ignored the many red-light stop signs other scientists showed him.

3. Believe in Israel.  Shechtman had numerous opportunities to make a stellar career in America, but he chose to return home to Technion, where he did all three of his academic degrees.  “I’m a Zionist,” he says simply.  His grandparents came to Palestine as part of the Second Aliyah, around 1910.  

In the media blitz that followed the Nobel announcement, no journalist mentioned that Danny is a serial entrepreneur.  Until I retired, I co-chaired a popular Technion course with Shechtman, Technological Entrepreneurship, which he initiated, attended each Fall by several hundred students.  The idea was simple – inspire Technion undergrads to launch businesses by bringing successful Israeli entrepreneurs to tell their stories.  “No theories!” we counseled. “Just tell the students how you did it.” And indeed, students who took the course went on to launch businesses.  Shechtman himself has been involved with startups that made knives and kitchen utensils out of “Shechtmanite” (the quasi-crystalline material he discovered, which has special properties), and he is now working on a startup to make durable artificial joints out of magnesium alloys.  

4.  Challenge everything.   Israeli students and managers, even very young ones,  never hesitate to tell me how wrong I am, despite my 44 years of teaching and researching management. And I absolutely love and cherish the ensuing debate! This hutzpa is an integral part of Israeli culture.  I find much less of it in other countries.  Though Shechtman is impeccably polite and soft-spoken,  hutzpa is in part what drove him to challenge what every materials scientist knew as Gospel truth, and stick to his guns.   In international diplomacy,  Israeli stubbornness is castigated; in science, it wins Nobels. In global politics, Israeli hutzpah is condemned as arrogance; in science, it smashes icons.  

Shechtman told a Reshet Bet radio interviewer that the past decade has been humiliating for Israeli scientists, because massive budget cuts told them they were unimportant – a perverse message for a nation that lives on its brainpower. Some of those cuts have been restored.  I think Shechtman’s story of perseverance and courage will inspire a new generation of Israeli scientists, provided we give them the tools and resources they need to change the world and how it thinks.

* Senior research fellow, S. Neaman Institute, Technion.