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Two scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology were awarded the France-Israel Foundation Prize for Promising Scientists at the Elysee Palace in Paris by Israeli President Shimon Peres and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Technion scientists being honored are Dr. Shulamit Levenberg of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering and Dr. Hossam Haick of the Faculty of Chemical Engineering. Dr. Levenberg will receive the prize for her research in the field of embryonic stem cells and Dr. Haick for the development of an “electronic nose” to detect cancer in its initial stages.

The France-Israel Foundation was established in 2005 at the initiative of former French President Jacques Chirac and then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to deepen relations and cooperation between Israel and France.

Shaping the leading edge of Israeli know-how.

-- Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

Because Israel is a land of few natural resources, its future relies on the brilliant minds of its people. The Technion: Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are Technion alumni.

By retaining the brightest minds that might otherwise be attracted to research centers around the world, Technion is preserving Israel’s qualitative scientific which is essential to Israel’s economy and security. Recently, some of the people at the very heart of the engine that drives Israel’s economy -- “ the students and faculty of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology“ -- were in Philadelphia. The group is now touring the United States as part of the American Technion Society's educational outreach effort.

Showing strength during crisis

Technion has shown determination in getting through a number of recent crises.

  • Technion Graduate Student Ehud Goldwasser was kidnapped along with Eldad Regev on July 12, 2006 and is still being held by Islamic terrorists. Technion has stood resolute with Israel and the Jewish people in supporting the Goldwasser and Regev families and calling for their immediate release. Technion’s campus was the target of shelling by Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon during the subsequent conflict during the summer of 2006. Technion accordingly closed its campus for four weeks in order to ensure the safety of its students, faculty and staff. Technion implemented a number of measures to meet the students' academic, financial and emotional needs. It delayed the opening of the 2006-07 academic year from October 17 to November 5, 2006, to enable students to study for exams that were postponed during the war. In addition, students (particularly those who served in the IDF reserves) were eligible for a range of benefits, including special financial assistance; personal tutoring; reduced dormitory fees; an option to accept a "pass" grade in place of a low numerical grade; a choice of three exam dates for every course; and an option to submit papers in certain courses in place of examinations.
  • On January 20, 2008, the Israeli finance minister negotiated an agreement bringing to a close an 89-day strike that had threatened to cancel the academic school year at Technion and at other universities throughout Israel. According to university presidents, all students will be able to complete a full academic year, which has been extended for approximately two months through August 15.

Technion campus on Mount Carmel overlooking Haifa.

A bold vision for the future

However, Technion is now focused on its future. They are in the midst of an ambitious development plan to enhance the research potential.

  • They are in the midst of a massive expansion of the biotechnology research facilities. Unhampered by the US restrictions on stem cell research, Israel is becoming the world’s center of research in this domain.
  • They plan to build four new laboratories to create an ecology research center to help improve the quality of life in Israel and throughout the world.
  • They plan to build a seven-dormitory, 200-plus apartment, graduate student village to supplement the current 40,00 beds which fail to adequately serve Technion’s community of 13,000 graduate students many of whom are married and have children, since Israeli graduate students --- having often taken time off to meet their military service obligations --- are generally older than their American counterparts.

    Technion Biotechnology Professor Marcelle Machluf

Visiting Philadelphia

Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country. The American Technion Society recently met with the Philadelphia Jewish community over breakfast in Center City, and lunch in Narberth. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice met with a group of prestigious Technion students and faculty:

  • Marcelle Machluf, a professor (and wife and mother of three) currently conducting research in the groundbreaking fields of scaffolding for tissue engineering of heart and blood vessels, nanosystems that deliver cancer drugs and the use of ultrasound to deliver therapeutic genes to diseased cells.
  • Haneen Farah, a Christian Arab doctoral candidate working to develop a model that could create safer driving environments. Last month, she presented her research at an international conference of more than 10,000 transportation professionals in Washington DC.
  • Nir Haimovich, a karate-practicing, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering whose research has applications for satellites, combat plane ejection seats, guided missiles and other autonomous systems

Prof. Marcelle Machluf

Prof. Marcelle Machluf is an associate professor in the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, where main areas of research are in the cutting edge fields of cancer drug delivery, tissue engineering and gene therapy. Born in Morocco, Prof. Machluf immigrated to Israel with her family as a child in 1964. She received her B.Sc. in biology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an M.Sc. in biomedical engineering from Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, and her Ph.D., also from Ben Gurion, in the field of biotechnology engineering.

Before her appointment to the Technion in 2001, Prof. Machluf was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, where her research focused on gene therapy, tissue engineering, and the control of drug delivery in cancer therapy. She was recruited through the Technion's First Steps program, an ATS-supported priority project that enables the university's up-and-coming researchers.

She is currently conducting research in the groundbreaking fields of scaffolding for tissue engineering of Heart and blood vessels, nanosystems that deliver cancer drugs and the use of ultrasound to deliver therapeutic genes to diseased cells in her new, state-of-the-art laboratory, dedicated by the ATS Women's Division during the 2003 Board of Governors meeting. Co-author of a chapter in a new book on methods of tissue engineering, she has published many articles on emerging topics in her field.

The wife of a high-tech scientist working in the private sector and the mother of three scientists-to-be, Prof. Machluf wrote: "I am proud to be back in my country, and at the Technion, where I have the opportunity to do my work, to teach, and to guide new young students in this exciting world of research."

Innovative, three-week program for outstanding high school students

In addition to her graduate students, Prof. Machluf is an active supporter of Technion Center for Pre-University Educations’s SciTech program, which gives 40 extremely talented high school and undergraduate students from around the world the opportunity to partake in world-class scientific research. Last summer, her team of students won Technion’s competition for best SciTech research project of the year.

Started by the late Harry J. Stern of Sands Point, New York, SciTech is now in its 17th year. Admission into the program is highly selective. Students are required to complete detailed applications that include recommendations from their schools. Final admission decisions are made by the mentor of each Technion project to ensure that an applicant has what it takes to be a full contributing member of a research team. “The SciTech Program allows talented teenagers to research activities in science and technology under the tutelage of world-class Technion researchers,” said Russell N. Stern, son of SciTech Founder Harry J. Stern. “They also build scientific and cultural bridges with students from around the world, and have the opportunity to explore many facets of Israeli society and history.”

Unfortunately, the national strike has forced Technion to extend its academic year into the summer, through August 15. This created a conflict which forced Technion to cancel the SciTech program this year. The SciTech program will resume during the summer of 2009 and talent youth around the world are invited to apply.

Technion graduate students Haneen Farah and Nir Haimovich.

Graduate Student Life

Even a world-class university can’t attract the world’s sharpest minds without being able to offer affordable and convenient student housing. It’s an especially pressing issue for graduate students who often have growing young families in tow. To address its own urgent housing crunch, the Technion has announced top-priority plans to create the Graduate Student Village, a community of more than 200 apartment units designed for family living, reasonably priced and nestled on a quiet hillside right on its Haifa campus. “In order to remain vibrant and productive, we aim to increase the number of first-rate graduate students that are so critical to our future,” says Technion President Yitzhak Apeloig.

But international competition is fierce, he notes, “and recruitment is hampered by the Technion’s shortage of family-friendly accommodations, as well as a tight housing market throughout the surrounding city.” Often faced with the prospect of inadequate or inconvenient living quarters, many top candidates simply decide to enroll elsewhere. That’s a frustrating loss, not just of first-rate academic talent, but of the research and teaching skills plus unique life experiences that graduate students bring to the Technion community. Many undergrads can survive quite well with just a place to hang their favorite poster. But life is more complex for graduate students, especially the many at Technion who are married, with children. The new Graduate Student Village is designed to help meet their unique concerns. All apartments will also feature ample quiet study space, equipped with high-speed connection to the campus-wide online computer network. That’s a vital tool enabling students to make the most of their study time, as they can log into coursework or access research databases around the world. And when work is done, residents will find the university gym, pool, library and other campus facilities within easy reach. The nearby Ramat Alon neighborhood also offers schools, clinics, shopping and recreation.

But the most inviting feature for many residents may be the sense of community the dormitory village is designed to nurture, with grad students and families gathered together to form the kind of support system that can help everyone feel less pressured and less isolated. “The village will bring students from various disciplines together to exchange ideas,” President Apeloig points out, “in a way that would be impossible with living quarters spread around the campus and surrounding areas.”

When complete, the Graduate Student Village will provide 215 family-friendly apartments in seven buildings, mostly two-bedroom apartments, and with several units specifically designed to accommodate the disabled. A cost of some $35 million is estimated for Phase 1 of the project.

The Technion has made great strides over the past few years in recruiting more top graduate students worldwide,’ says Prof. Moshe Shpitalni, Dean of Graduate Studies.

Haneen Farah

Haneen Farah’s parents are firm believers in the importance of education. Both their daughters went to the Nazareth Baptist School, a private school with top academic standards. Today, her older sister has a master’s degree in bibliotherapy, while Haneen Farah is a doctoral candidate at the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Department of Transportation and Geo-Information where she specializes in transportation safety.

Farah finished her undergraduate degree at the Technion in 2002 with a double major: Structural Engineering and Transportation Engineering. Two years later she received her master’s with honors also at the Technion, in Transportation and Highways Engineering.

Israel’s horrific average of 500 auto fatalities per year inspired Farahto focus her master’s thesis on the impact of infrastructure characteristics on road crashes. Farah, together with her thesis advisors, Prof. Abishai Polus and Prof. Moshe Pollatcheck, developed crash prediction models that can assist road engineers to predict the safety level of existing or planned highways. Haneen’s master’s studies were the bases for three papers published in international academic journals.

Farah's doctoral thesis focuses on the development of a model that could help create safer driving environments. She presented her research at the Transportation Research Board, a conference with more than 10,000 transportation professionals from around the world, in January 2008, in Washington DC. Now in her final year of her doctoral studies in transportation safety, Farah is looking for a postdoctoral position abroad, mainly in Europe and the United States. She hopes to continue to do research but to also work as a transportation engineer and deal with practical issues.

Farah loves meeting new people from different cultures. She also loves reading, music, sports and spending time with her family, especially with her sister’s triplets.

Nir Haimovich

Nir Haimovich, a 29-year-old Ph.D. candidate in the Technion Department of Chemical Engineering was a member of the Israeli National Karate Team. In 2002, injuries received during his IDF service left him handicapped. Even so, in 2003, Haimovich voluntarily re-joined the IDF, and in spite of his damaged legs, he also continues to practice karate.

With that kind of “can do” spirit, it’s not surprising that when Haimovich received his bachelor’s degree from the Technion Department of Chemical Engineering. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and was also the co-author of two academic articles in two different research groups.

An academic reservist, Haimovich did military service immediately upon completing his bachelor’s degree. As part of this program he then served as an engineer. The damage to his legs required complex surgery followed by eight months of rehabilitation. During the rehabilitation process, he began his graduate studies part time.

Haimovich then volunteered to re-join the IDF, where as team leader, he served as an engineer who improved chemical processes, to form production lines for some devices and materials. He was able to persevere with his demanding research program in parallel with his process integration work at the IDF thanks in part to his motto: “Sleep is for the weak.” In 2006, he became a full-time Technion student and received his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering while also successfully passing his nomination exam for his doctorate.

His doctoral research on thermal battery modeling and design that have applications in space satellites, eject seats on combat planes and guided missiles or any autonomous systems requiring a one-time-use high-power energy source. This is a continuation of the work he did for his master’s degree and has generated academic articles. It has also been presented in several international conferences.

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