Technion USA - Winter 2016-2017 - page 20-21

ome summertime, most
folks head to the beach,
lake or mountains. But
for hundreds of the world’s most
influential scientists, the Tech-
nion was last summer’s hot des-
tination. From the microscopic
frontiers of genetics and quan-
tum physics to the vast reaches
of space exploration, the Tech-
nion’s growing global reputation
was dramatically spotlighted as
the Haifa campus hosted an all-
star lineup of research symposia.
In a major first for the university
and for Israel, the Technion was
chosen as the launching pad
for SSP, the International Space
University’s Space Studies Pro-
gram—a two-month event never
before held in the Middle East.
“The decision to hold SSP16
here was a tribute to the ongo-
ing excellence of the Technion
in space research and educa-
tion,” says Professor Pini Gurfil,
director of the Technion’s Asher
Space Research Institute—which
coordinated the Space Univer-
sity visit with lunar-mission
precision.“We received unprec-
edented exposure, both local and
With astronaut Buzz Aldrin—
the second man to set foot on
the moon—leading a stellar
crew of Space U. experts, SSP16
brought together more than 100
space enthusiasts, from young
postgrads to seasoned aeronau-
tics pros, for an intense series of
workshops exploring all aspects
of space programs and entrepre-
neurial enterprises. “We were
gratified to see students from
24 countries,” says Prof. Gurfil.
As one of the world’s few
universities with its own space
program, the Technion was a
natural to host the SSP, which
chooses a different location each
summer. “The Technion’s activi-
ties in space technology and
science were acknowledged by
leaders of the worldwide space
industry,” says Prof. Gurfil,
“which will lead to future col-
laborations on satellite projects.”
SSP’s space troopers probed
topics ranging from artificial
gravity and human performance
in space, to Israel’s role in the
space race and new data on the
Martian environment. There
was playtime, too, with teams
competing to launch rockets and
build robots designed to explore
alien surfaces.
The sheer amount of detail in
shepherding such a large-scale
event seemed astronomical at
first, Prof. Gurfil admits. Just
arranging a live address from a
crew member aboard the Inter-
national Space Station required
extensive collaboration with
NASA. But, he noted, SSP’s aca-
demic director called this SSP16
probably the most successful in
the program’s 30 years.
Experts from as far away as
Germany, France, Canada and
the U.S. flocked to Haifa last
June for the inauguration of the
Technion Center for Quantum
Science, Matter and Engineer-
ing. The university marked the
occasion with the Mark and
Diane Seiden International Sym-
posium on Quantum Science,
Matter and Engineering. Twelve
leading international scientists,
including Harvey Prize winner
Immanuel Block of the Max
Planck Institute, joined experts
from the Technion and the Weiz-
mann Institute for this event,
organized by Professors Gadi
Eisenstein, Moti Segev and Meir
Activities in the new Tech-
nion Center focus on merging
the fundamentals of quantum
science with engineering prin-
ciples, and paving the way
toward new devices, systems
and eventually practical quan-
tum applications. “The field
of sensing will receive special
attention because of its wide-
spread applied implications in
all spheres of life,” says Prof.
Eisenstein, head of the Tech-
nion’s Russell Berrie
Nanotechnology Institute.
The Seiden Symposium
brought together nanotech-
nology and photonics experts
with Technion information
scientists. Presenters debated
questions on such intriguing
topics as the properties of
matter on a molecular level,
superconductivity, and
whether “the age of the quan-
tum computer” has arrived. “It’s
very encouraging,“ says Physics
Professor David Gershoni,
“to see interest from renowned
researchers in what is happen-
ing at the Technion.”
High-profile international forums at the Technion
attract top scholars and scientists
The Technion
Center for
Science will
pave the way
for new devices,
systems and
Meanwhile, some of the world’s
leading geneticists, clinicians and
policymakers gathered in Haifa
to examine “Lessons from the
Jewish Genome.” Focusing on
Ashkenazi Jews, it was the first
international conference to look
at how ancient “founder” popula-
tions can deepen our understand-
ing of biology and genetics.
Prodding experts to think
outside the box was just one
goal, explains conference founder
Dr. Gad Rennert, a professor in
the Technion’s Rappaport Fac-
ulty of Medicine, renowned for
his research on breast cancer
and related mutations. “More
important, our mission for the
layperson is to change attitudes—
make genetics something that
empowers rather than fright-
ens. People are sitting home not
knowing their risk of disease.
If we actively seek them out and
test them, we could potentially
save lives.”
Attendees from more than a
dozen countries included special-
ists from New York’s Memorial
Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,
the head of the U.S. National
Human Genome Research Insti-
tute, and prominent geneticists
from Oxford University and
Imperial College London.
The conference “brought a
fresh slant to the study of geneti-
cally isolated populations,”
says Dr. Harry Ostrer of Albert
Einstein College of Medicine
in New York. “It stood out for
the many discoveries in Israel
and abroad, the opportunities
for preventing diseases through
expanded screening and the
possibilities for developing med-
icines” based on genetic data.
A follow-up conference is
set for India next fall and will
examine the Asian genome—
which, like the Ashkenazi, can
shed important light on wider
The Technion
was the launch
pad for SSP16,
the Inter-
national Space
Space Studies
“Lessons from the
Jewish Genome”
was the first inter-
national conference
to look at
genetically isolated
populations —
and potentially
save lives
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, above left, led a stellar crew of Space U. experts at SSP16,
which brought together more than 100 space enthusiasts from 24 countries.
Quantum Symposium organizers (above, l–r) Prof. Meir Orenstein and Distingished
Prof. Moti Segev with Profs. Uri Sivan and Gadi Eisenstein.
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