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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘institute’

Weizmann Institute Professors Launch Course Helps Women Juggle Science and Motherhood

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Profs. Maya Schuldiner of the Molecular Genetics Department, Nirit Dudovich of the Physics of Complex Systems Department and Michal Sharon of the Biomolecular Sciences Department were discussing the challenges their female students undergo as they move from childlessness to motherhood, and they reflected on the difficulties they had experienced during this time in their lives.

“Why don’t we give them the benefit of our own experience? We all wished we had such a course when we were in that situation. Maybe if we’d had one, the transition to becoming a mother would have been easier for us.” – Michal Sharon

The three professors approached Prof. Daniella Goldfarb, the President’s Advisor for Advancing Women in Science, who was happy to allocate funds for the course. They then consulted Orit Viterbo, Head of Social Work at the Institute, and she joined them in the planning and execution of the course. Finding interested participants for the course was the easy part; the difficulty was in having to turn away others. To maintain an intimate and open environment, the course is limited to twenty women.

The course consists of six sessions, in which the young women are taught practical solutions for managing their career and family life, emphasizing the need to maintain open communication with their advisors and set realistic expectations. Decision making is another area they work on, as is learning to define their own interpretation of success and learning to pay less attention to the expectations of others.

 “We are part of this culture in which, as women, we are pushed to be perfectionists. To be the best mother ever. To be the best scientist ever. We say: You don’t have to be best at one or the other. You can be happy about the way you mother and happy about the way that you do science, and you can combine them in a way that is optimal for you and not the outside world.” – Maya Schuldiner

Although the presence of women in the field of science has seen notable increase, there is still much progress to be made. At the Weizmann Institute 85 percent of the principal investigators are male. In the life sciences 70 percent of the PhD students are female, but they make up only 15 percent of the principle investigators. The childbearing period is also the critical juncture where women often decide not to proceed to the next stage in a scientific career. Indeed, many women at the Weizmann Institute of Science have their children while they are doctoral students. According to Schuldiner quite a few women obtain advanced degrees; it is the lack of support just when they are deciding whether to continue that often leads them to abandon their careers. This, she says, is why the course is vital. The women who participate are learning how to navigate a challenging situation, but during this process they also become confidantes who encourage one another and continue to meet after the conclusion of the course.

“When a student feels her situation is impossible, even if it doesn’t directly help to solve her specific problem for the day, knowing that other women – women who eventually succeeded in their careers – faced the same difficulties, it gives her some perspective. I think there is something relaxing about knowing that you are not the only one who faces certain difficulties.” – Nirit Dudovich

Schuldiner, Dudovich and Sharon all say that the biggest lesson they hope the participants will take away is that they are the sole proprietors of their careers. Balancing motherhood and a scientific career is difficult, but with the correct approach it is doable and can be very successful.

“There are voices that say if you try to combine family and a career, this is doing science like a woman. We say this is a good thing: Do science like a woman! ” – Schuldiner.
JNi.Media

Weizman Institute Revealing Secrets of Protective Coating of Wheat and Barley

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Young cultivated wheat has a very particular color. As opposed to wild wheat species, which can be either glossy green or matte and bluish gray, cultivated varieties are always the latter. An international team led by Weizmann Institute scientists has discovered the mechanisms by which plants produce the major component of the bluish-gray, waxy film that coats cultivated wheat. This film is thought to help increase yield and protect the stem, leaves and spikes of the plant against environmental hazards, particularly drought. The findings, reported recently in The Plant Cell, may in the future be used to impart hardiness to other crops.

Scientists have been trying for several decades to decipher how certain wheat varieties, and a number of other plants, manufacture their protective bluish-gray coating. Its presence on the plants’ surface is a dynamic feature, appearing at certain stages in plant growth or only on certain organs, reinforcing the notion that the wax-like substance plays an active role in defending the plant. But figuring out the wheat genome, which contains multiple sets of chromosomes and repeated copies of some of the genes, has presented a notoriously difficult challenge.

Weizmann’s Prof. Asaph Aharoni has picked up the gauntlet: His lab specializes in studying plant surfaces – what they’re made of and how they function. In the new study graduate student Shelly Hen-Avivi and other researchers on Aharoni’s team compared the genomes of two different types of wheat, one glossy green and the other bluish gray. They assessed gene activity in these two wheat types at different stages of their growth using various methods, including next-generation RNA sequencing technology, which makes it possible to simultaneously evaluate the expression of vast numbers of genes. The team also made use of the full readout of the wheat genome, sequenced recently by a consortium that included scientists from Tel-Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute and the Israeli company NRGene.

(l-r) Prof. Asaph Aharoni, Sergey Malitsky, Shelly Hen Avivi, Dr. Elena Kartvelishvily, Dr. Gilgi Friedlander and Efrat Almekias-Siegl. The secrets of wheat's color may help protect other plants. / Courtesy

(l-r) Prof. Asaph Aharoni, Sergey Malitsky, Shelly Hen Avivi, Dr. Elena Kartvelishvily, Dr. Gilgi Friedlander and Efrat Almekias-Siegl. The secrets of wheat’s color may help protect other plants. / Courtesy

Over the course of experiments that lasted several years, Aharoni’s team managed to zero in on a cluster of three genes that were shown to produce beta-diketone, a waxy compound that constitutes the major component of the bluish-gray coating. Such groups of adjacent genes, responsible for a particular feature of the plant’s metabolism and known as metabolic clusters, are increasingly being discovered in plant genomes. When the scientists silenced the newly identified genes in wheat grown from seeds of bluish-gray plants, it grew to be glossy-green, which confirmed their findings. The researchers then deciphered the chain of biochemical reactions that leads to beta-diketone synthesis, including the genes and enzymes involved. Next, the team repeated the same research with barley, which also has a bluish-gray coating – as do certain species of rye and the leaves of eucalyptus trees. They found that the metabolic gene cluster and biochemical reactions that are responsible for the synthesis of beta-diketone in wheat perform the same function in barley.

In the future it may be possible to make use of the study’s findings to breed crops with a higher yield and a greater resistance to drought, by genetically engineering plants to contain the genes for beta-diketone production or by enhancing the activity of existing beta-diketone genes. It might conceivably be possible, for example, to introduce the beta-diketone genes derived from wheat into cucumbers or tomatoes. Whatever these vegetables will lose in brightness, they will gain in sturdiness.

This project was a collaborative effort between the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University, the University of British Columbia, and Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre, both in the United Kingdom.

Prof. Asaph Aharoni’s research is supported by the Tom and Sondra Rykoff Family Foundation; the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Adelis Foundation; and Yossie and Dana Hollander, Israel. Prof. Aharoni is the incumbent of the Peter J. Cohn Professorial Chair.

JNi.Media

Weizmann Institute Keeps Israeli Eyes on Jupiter’s Orbiter

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

On July 4, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be entering orbit around Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System. Its extended trip – more than 2 billion kilometers over nearly five years – will be over, but its work will just be beginning. Following some intricate maneuvers, the spacecraft will go into a unique 14-day orbit that will allow it to get as close as 4000 km above the cloud tops of the planet – much closer than any mission ever before flown.

When Juno enters orbit, the Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Yohai Kaspi will be ready. “For the first time,” he explains, “we will have an opportunity to study the flows beneath the thick clouds we see covering Jupiter.” Kaspi, who is part of the Juno Science team, and Institute staff scientist Dr. Eli Galanti, will be at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, along with the other scientists and engineers on the Juno team, to witness the event. Juno is already within the gravitational sphere of Jupiter, and the team will be holding their breath as the speeding spacecraft aligns itself into a stable orbit and begins sending data. The research team has planned an eccentric circuit for the ship, so that it can swing in closely to observe and measure and then circle farther out to preserve its orbit.

Juno's long route to Jupiter

Juno’s long route to Jupiter

Among the many questions Kaspi, Galanti and their colleagues would like to answer is this: How deep are the weather patterns we observe on Jupiter’s surface? These patterns are gas flows that appear as ordered stripes on the planet’s outer surface, and because there is no solid ground to disrupt them, they may extend very deep into the interior.  Adding the third dimension to our understanding of these patterns could help to answer any number of other questions, including how do these patterns form, whether the outer layers rotate in sync with the inner ones, how thick is the famous Great Red Spot, and whether the planet has a solid inner core, which is key for understanding how planets form.

Kaspi, who has been with the Juno project nearly a decade, has used the interval to work out the tools for analyzing measurements that will be taken of the planet’s gravity. Since weather – the movement of mass around the planet – creates slight variations in the planet’s gravity at different points, Kaspi and his team will use the data from Juno’s measurements of the gravitational fields to “reverse calculate” the wind patterns that modified them.

In this way, he will help scientists “peer for the first time beneath the thick cloud layer” of Jupiter. Kaspi has already applied these tools to calculating the depth of weather patterns on Uranus and Neptune, showing that the high winds on these planets are confined to a relatively shallow upper layer, as well as to analyzing measurements of Jupiter and Saturn obtained from Earth-bound telescopes. But the Juno mission will provide the first opportunity to measure the differences in Jupiter’s gravitational fields precisely and accurately, and thus develop a clearer picture of the planet’s interior and atmospheric dynamics.

Dr. Yohai Kaspi’s research is supported by the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science.

JNi.Media

École Polytechnique and the Weizmann Institute of Science Sign Cooperation Agreement

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Jacques Biot, President of École Polytechnique (Palaiseau, France), and Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), signed a cooperation agreement to develop and promote collaboration in higher education and research between the two institutions.

École Polytechnique is the leading French institute combining top-level research, academics, and innovation at the cutting-edge of science and technology.

With this agreement, École Polytechnique and the Weizmann Institute of Science, both  renowned for their high standards of quality in academics and research, seek to promote the exchange of students and faculty members, as well as to foster scientific and academic cooperation in topics of common interest.

A laboratory-initiated collaboration

Prof. Victor Malka, Research Director at the Laboratory of Applied Optics, a joint laboratory of École Polytechnique, ENSTA ParisTech and CNRS, joined the Physics of Complex Systems Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science in October 2015. Malka is committed to bring École Polytechnique and WIS closer: “It felt natural to me to initiate this collaboration, to create scientific cooperation. Both presidents − of Polytechnique and the Weizmann Institute of Science − have fully endorsed this initiative, enabling its quick success.”

Malka’s research deals with laser-plasma accelerators. This accelerator concept, invented 30 years ago, has enabled researchers to obtain particle beams with unique properties. Very energetic, extremely bright and tunable in energy, these beams open new opportunities in such diverse fields such as medicine, chemistry, biology and materials science.

Recent improvements at the Laboratory of Applied Optics have opened the path to treating cancerous tumors. Research projects in this lab have yielded new perspectives, for example, on the detection of breast cancerous tumors at a very early stage. This new laser-plasma technology can also be used for industrial applications as it produces high-resolution, three-dimensional images of dense materials, for example those used in airplane parts.

Malka is currently working towards an association between the Laboratory of Applied Optics and the Weizmann Institute of Science Faculty of Physics to develop applications for laser-plasma accelerators. Under his initiative, two students from the Weizmann Institute of Science have already started PhD research at LOA.

Jewish Press Staff

Temple Institute Blames Netanyahu Govt. for UNESCO Fiasco

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Director of the Temple Institute Rabbi Chaim Richman said the Netanyahu government policies regarding the Temple Mount have led to last week’s UNESCO’s resolution which ignores any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

Calling the resolution “another politically motivated act of revisionist history, obscene even by the standards of this morally bankrupt organization,” Richman announced that “UNESCO’s heinous resolution was not born in a vacuum but is a direct result of Israel’s ambivalent, nebulous policy towards the Temple Mount. We call upon Jews to ascend in purity and with proper halakhic guidance to the Temple Mount and to exercise their right to pray openly at the site from where the Divine Presence never departed, the location of the Holy Temple,” Richman said.

“Judaism was founded over 3500 years ago; Islam dates to the seventh century,” Richman noted, adding, “The resolution flies in the face of both the Bible–a bedrock of civilization, archaeological evidence, and scholarship. It also stands in denial of Islam itself, and the official statements of the ‘Supreme Moslem Council (sic),’ the Muslim Waqf which administers the Temple Mount. In the English-language booklet ‘A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al Sharif’ published by the Waqf in Jerusalem in 1924, it states: ‘Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings’ (II Samuel 24:25).”

According to Richman, UNESCO’s “perversion of history is not only a deliberate degradation of the Jewish people, but an insult to all people of intelligence – and all people of faith. It is the latest of the United Nations’ calculated moves aimed at denying the Jewish people’s very right to exist. Wiping out a people’s past is the best way to ensure that they have no future. Thus the Muslim Waqf has been systematically destroying tons of archaeological evidence dating from the Second and First Temples – with no protest from UNESCO.”

There is a proper response to UNESCO’s most astonishing expression of anti-Semitism to date, Richmean said, “On the eve of Passover, the Festival of Freedom, we call upon the Israeli government to exercise full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and grant freedom of religious expression to non-Muslims at the Temple Mount (in accordance with basic human and civil rights enshrined in Israeli law) so that Israel and all of humanity will finally experience true freedom.”

JNi.Media

Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Earlier this week, we ran a story about a reform cantor and rabbi whose father was Jewish but her mother was not, and who is serving in her two very Jewish sounding roles without the benefit of a proper—or even a Reform—conversion (It’s Official: You Can Be a Non-Jewish Rabbi). To me, it seemed like the ultimate, end-of-the-line kind of illustration of how far the Reform movement has strayed outside the rabbinical tent, although over the heated discussion that ensued by our readers it was mentioned that the lady in question is not the first non-Jewish Reform rabbi since the Reform movement enacted the doctrine of patrilineal descent to determine who is a Reform Jew.

We now received a response letter from David Ellenson, President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, protesting our article. I was conflicted over whether we should run the article as is, and expect our readers to debate it, or add my own running commentary. The reason I decided to do the latter, which, I admit, is taking advantage of my position as editor, at the expense of the author, is that the letter is rife with misleading information.

I debated this with our editor in chief, and we decided that, in the name of fairness, we’ll run only complete paragraphs of the Ellenson letter, in sequential order, and add comments only between paragraphs, much the way some people do when they respond to a long email. So, here we go:

To the Editor:

I recognize that the editors and authors of The Jewish Press have a different stance towards Judaism than we at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and in the Reform Movement do. Indeed, I do not question your right to approach Judaism and the issue of conversion as you deem proper even as our own principled position is distinct from yours. However, no less a rabbinic personage than Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer of Posen, the famed author of Drishat Tsiyon, referred to children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers – even without conversion – as zera kodesh. He asserted that “gdolei yisrael” could well spring from among these children.

The citation from Rabbi Kalischer of Posen (who vehemently rejected the Reform movement of his day, see Hertzberg, Arthur, The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader) is misleading, and a little bit offensive.

It suggests that Rabbi Kalischer—a student of Rabbi Akiva Eger and one of the most noted Zionist Rabbis of the early 1800s (he called for the redeeming of all of Eretz Israel and for the renewal of the Temple sacrifices, both values that I would love to see adopted by the Reform movement) supported the recognition of the offspring of Jewish men and their non-Jewish wives as Jews, without a halachic conversion.

Throwing such a ludicrous claim without proper citation does not befit the president of an academic institute, mostly because it forced yours truly to spend hours online in search of the cite. But I did. Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, affiliated with the RCA beit din in Montreal, told Paul Lungen of CJN (New standards possible for Orthodox conversions) about an 1864 case when two German rabbis, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and Azriel Hildesheimer debated the standards to be applied to child conversion:

“Responding to a query from a rabbi in New Orleans, Rabbi Kalischer argued that if the child was brought up in a home where there was potential for him to grow in observance – even where the mother was gentile – the conversion should be approved. Rabbi Hildesheimer believed conversions should not be approved unless the parents were observant.”

In other words, the honorable president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is trying to pull off a dishonest shmear, suggesting that by his sweet comment that those children of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers are “holy seed” (zera kodesh) – he meant they could become rabbis without a proper conversion.

No, no, no. The debate was over whether a guy who marries a non-Jew can ask for a halachic conversion of their children, even though he is so outside the Jewish fold that he went and married a Jew.

In our own time, Rabbi Haim Amsalem of Israel, in his Zera Yisrael, has offered a broad survey of halakhic writing on this question and has made the same point as Rabbi Kalischer concerning the offspring of intermarried Russian families who have made aliyah to Israel. Rabbi Amsalem has written that such children, who share in the fate and destiny of our people, should be embraced.

This one is not merely a lie, but a stupid lie, because the rabbi in question is alive and well, and can speak for himself, which he did. Here, for the record, is rabbi Chaim Ansalem’s view on the conversion of children of intermarried Russian families (the text was shortened, the full version is available here):

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hebrew-union-pres-pulls-fast-one-in-non-jewish-rabbi-debate/2013/08/16/

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