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September 24, 2016 / 21 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘science’

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

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

Israeli Scientists Start to Bring Star Trek Tricorder to Life

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Israeli scientists at Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering are in the process of bringing the iconic Star Trek “tricorder” to life.

The essential multi-functional tool used on board the Starship Enterprise as it explored new worlds on its five-year mission in space was used to sense, compute and record data in a non-threatening manner.

So too is a new optical component and imaging processing software developed by Professor David Mendlovic and his doctoral student Ariel Raz.

Mendlovic states the obvious: “A long list stands to gain from this new technology. We predict hyperspectral imaging will play a major role in consumer electronics, the automotive industry, biotechnology and homeland security.”

The two men came together with a team of researchers at the Unispectral Technologies firm and patented an optical component based on existing microelecctromechanical (MEMS) technology that can be used in mass production and is compatible with standard smartphone cameras. The combination of the optical component and newly designed software, however, go further than the current smartphone cameras by offering superior imaging performance and hyperspectral imaging capabilities, Mendlovic said.

“The optical element acts as a tunable filter and the software – an image fusion library – would support this new component and extract all the relevant information from the image,” he said. It works both in video and still photography,” he added.

Ramot is the tech transfer company for Tel Aviv University, and acted to consolidate key intellectual properties. It financed the engineering team to go ahead with the research and development phase of the project, as well as the business development.

Funders for Unispectral include Momentum Fund, backed by Tata Group Ltd and Temasek, based in Singapore. SanDisk also has an interest in the project.

Unispectral is already moving forward to advance discussions with smartphone makers, automotive companies and wearable device manufacturers.

The future is near; closer than one might realize.

Hana Levi Julian

Weird Science: Weizmann Institute Study: People Sniff Their Hands Twice As Much After A Handshake

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Published on Jewish Business News

People sniff their hands twice as much after a handshake, according to a Weizmann Institute study Why do people shake hands? A new Weizmann Institute study suggests one of the reasons for this ancient custom may be to check out each other’s odors.

Even if we are not consciously aware of this, handshaking may provide people with a socially acceptable way of communicating via the sense of smell. Not only do people often sniff their own hands, but they do so for a much longer time after shaking someone else’s hand, the study has found.

As reported today in the journal eLife, the number of seconds the subjects spent sniffing their own right hand more than doubled after an experimenter greeted them with a handshake. “Our findings suggest that people are not just passively exposed to socially-significant chemical signals, but actively seek them out,” said Idan Frumin, the research student who conducted the study under the guidance of Prof. Noam Sobel of Weizmann’s Neurobiology Department.

“Rodents, dogs and other mammals commonly sniff themselves, and they sniff one another in social interactions, and it seems that in the course of evolution, humans have retained this practice – only on a subliminal level.” To examine whether handshakes indeed transfer body odors, the researchers first had experimenters wearing gloves shake the subjects’ bare hands, then tested the glove for smell residues.

They found that a handshake alone was sufficient for the transfer of several odors known to serve as meaningful chemical signals in mammals. “It’s well known that germs can be passed on through skin contact in handshakes, but we’ve shown that potential chemical messages, known as chemosignals, can be passed on in the same manner,” Frumin says.

Next, to explore the potential role of handshakes in communicating odors, the scientists used covert cameras to film some 280 volunteers before and after they were greeted by an experimenter, who either shook their hand or didn’t. The researchers found that after shaking hands with an experimenter of the same gender, subjects more than doubled the time they later spent sniffing their own right hand (the shaking one). In contrast, after shaking hands with an experimenter of the opposite gender, subjects increased the sniffing of their own left hand (the non-shaking one).

“The sense of smell plays a particularly important role in interactions within gender, not only across gender as commonly assumed,” Frumin says. The scientists then performed a series of tests to make sure the hand-sniffing indeed served the purpose of checking out odors and was not merely a stress-related response to a strange situation. First, 2 they measured nasal airflow during the task and found that subjects were truly sniffing their hands and not just lifting them to their nose.

It turned out that the amount of air inhaled by the volunteers through the nose doubled when they brought their hands to their face. Next, the scientists found they could manipulate the hand-sniffing by artificially introducing different smells into the experimental setting. For example, when experimenters were tainted with a commercial unisex perfume, the hand-sniffing increased. In contrast, when the experimenters were tainted with odors derived from sex hormones, the sniffing decreased.

These final tests confirmed the olfactory nature of the hand-sniffing behavior. Taking part in the study were Ofer Perl, Yaara Endevelt-Shapira, Ami Eisen, Neetai Eshel, Iris Heller, Maya Shemesh, Aharon Ravia, Dr. Lee Sela and Dr. Anat Arzi, all of Prof. Sobel’s lab “Handshakes vary in strength, duration and posture, so they convey social information of various sorts,” says Prof. Sobel. “But our findings suggest that at its evolutionary origins, handshaking might have also served to convey odor signals, and such signaling may still be a meaningful, albeit subliminal, component of this custom.”

JBN / Jewish Business News

Ancient Leviathan Fossils Found in Arava Valley

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The land that runs along the edge of the southern end of the Dead Sea, near a certain section close to Masada, is soft and white. Although there are steep mounds of chalky white deposits that seem to stand guard along a path that moves inward towards the cliffs that rim the sea, they too are brittle, delicate and soft. They crumble at a touch.

One can climb those mounds, reach the top and then slide down just for fun. Desert tour guides sometimes take their private clients there to do just that – especially if there are children along for the tour.

The entire area, you see, was actually an ancient seabed. So it should come as no surprise that the remains of what may have been the Leviathan were found in southern Israel, researchers announced Tuesday.

Thirty fossilized remnants of the Elasmosaurus, described by Dr. Sarit Ashckenazi-Polivoda in an interview with The Jerusalem Post as the “cousin of dinosaurs” were found in the Arava Valley between 2012 and 2014.

During the period from which the fragments came – some 85 million years ago – the area was covered in ocean water 200 meters deep, the researcher said. “All of Israel was under water until 20-30 million years ago,” she told the Post. “The sea had a lot of algae and plankton that bloomed then, that attracted a lot of fish that fed on the algae, which the reptile ate.”

No one knows how or why the creatures from that period became extinct, but they disappeared about 66 million years ago, she said. Global changes such as volcanic eruptions that warmed and cooled the environment and caused changes in the ocean, as to the fish and algae, certainly could have contributed.

A dinosaur footprint was also found in Jerusalem in the 1980s, she said, and a 75 million-year-old reptile skeleton was found in the Negev in 2005.

The Elasmosaurus remains are currently on display at Hebrew University.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel-Japan Researchers Teaming on Autism and Brain Research

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Israeli and Japanese researchers are teaming on a project to learn how autistic spectrum disorder develops in the brain.

The prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders has been steadily rising; in most parts of the world rates as high as 1 percent are reported, including in the United States. In Israel, previously reported prevalence rates have been in the 0.2 percent rage and were  based on parental reporting of diagnosis. However, they too appear to be rising.

The scientists met together at a conference that convened following a visit to Israel by japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A group of leading Japanese scientists arrived at the Weizmann Institute of Science late last week  to attend the Advances in Brain Sciences conference, which was  was jointly hosted by Weizmann in Rehovot and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan.

Weizmann’s conference co-organizer Dr. Ofer Yizhar is currently involved in the collaborative research project with RIKEN researcher Toru Takumi. The joint project is aimed at determining which neural mechanisms are involved in autistic spectrum disorder behaviorisms, Yizhar explained.

“Takumi creates mice that have a genetic defect which mimics autism,” he explained, “while my optogenetics lab can work with these mice, turning neurons in the brain ‘on’ and ‘off’ with light.”

There were a number of other presentations at the conference as well.

Keynote speaker Professor Shimon Ullman (Weizmann) spoke on visual recognition, a subject that crosses the boundaries between neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Ullman has worked with RIKEN’s Dr. Manabu Tanifuji for a number of years. “Scientificc and personal connections have deepened over the years,” he said, “and we are currently planning the next steps of joint work in the future.”

In 2010, prevalence rates for autistic spectrum disorders in Israel were found to be 0.65 percent in eight year old children, and 0.48 percent in children ages 1 to 12, per 1,000 children, according to an article published in 2013 in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders.

The article, entitled ‘Prevalence and incidence of autism spectrum disorder in an Israeli population, listed the findings of a study of records from the Maccabi Health Maintenance Organization (HMO / kupat holim) Child Neurology and Development, Child Development Center, Jerusalem and Shfela District.

Canada-Israel Autism Research Symposium was also held for the first time last March at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, jointly sponsored by the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Hub at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada and the Canadian Friends of The Hebrew University.

Hana Levi Julian

US Dept of Defense Trains Teachers in 3-D Printing

Friday, December 19th, 2014

The U.S. Department of Defense is teaching America’s teachers how to use 3-D technology to “print” solid objects, according to a report on NJTV.

The workshops are led by engineers who teach the teachers to use Mak-Bot printers with various materials, each relevant to the object being created by the 3-D printer. The purpose of the program, according to the report, is to ensure the next generation will be educated properly in the technology, which is already available.

The medical field is also experimenting with 3-D printing for the creation of human tissue and organs in life-saving transplant surgeries and other situations.

Jewish Press News Briefs

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