November 24, 2008 Ofakim Program for Training Engineers from the Periphery Opens at Technion

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The Ofakim program has gotten underway at the Technion in the science-technology track and is scheduled to spread to other Israeli universities in the future. The new program will enable residents of the periphery, demobilized soldiers, those lacking acceptance criteria for universities – to acquire an academic education in science and technology.

The Ministry of Defence, through the fund and unit for directing demobilized soldiers, locates suitable demobilized IDF soldiers from communities in the periphery and directs them to the preparatory program, which will prepare them to be accepted into every faculty in the Technion, even if they do not have a matriculation certificate.

Program participants will receive full financial support, including tuition and living stipends. The program is being organized, in its initial stages, by the Technion and financed through the Ministry of Defence’s fund and unit for directing demobilized soldiers, the Association for the Advancement of Education, the Rashi Foundation, the Gruss Foundation and the Israel Association of Electronics and Software.

The program’s initiator is Yehuda Zisapel, president of the RAD-BYNET Group and chairman of the Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries. “Ofakim’s vision is to add professional and quality manpower from the periphery to hi-tech industries and thus to contribute to closing the social and economic gap between the periphery and the center of the country,” he says. “Leading talented young men and women to academic studies in engineering and the sciences, through economic, academic and social support – will enable them to build better futures for themselves and, at the same time, will strengthen the Israeli economy, the periphery and assist in closing the Israeli social gap. We believe, that upon completion of their studies, there will once again be tremendous demand for engineers and scientists and that advanced industries will continue to be the engine pulling the Israeli economy.”

It is the intention of the program’s heads to turn to state authorities for assistance in financing expansion of the program to the national level with 1,500 graduates a year.

The opening ceremony of Ofakim took place on Thursday, November 27, 2008 at the Technion’s Center for Pre-University Studies. Technion President, Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig; the director general of the Ministry of Defence, Pinchas Buchris and the heads of all the foundations and organizations participating in the project all took part in the ceremony.

November 23, 2008 Why Does a Pitcher’s Curveball Curve?

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Researchers at the Technion have become the first to observe the Magnus effect in light, potentially opening a new avenue for controlling light in nanometer-scale optical devices. In addition, their experimental discovery provides a more precise way to study important physical behavior that until now could only be observed in relatively complex, messy condensed matter systems. Their work will be published in the December 2008 issue of Nature Photonics.

The research was carried out by Prof. Erez Hasman, Dr. Konstantin Y. Bliokh, Dr. Vladimir Kleiner and Avi Niv from the Micro and Nanooptics Laboratory, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

The Magnus effect can be observed in a wide range of systems. It describes, for example, the sideways force a spinning ball feels as it travels through the air, which explains why a baseball pitcher’s curveball curves, and why a badly hit golf ball slices. Light waves, which are made up of massless particles called photons, have their own version of spin. Light’s spin depends on whether its polarization, or direction of wave vibration, rotates in one direction or in the opposite direction as it travels. The Magnus effect for light (also called the Spin Hall Effect) causes the light to deflect due to the interaction between the light’s spin and shape of the light’s trajectory.

Prof. Erez Hasman and his collaborators detailed a unified theory of this effect, and also made the first experimental observation of it. The potential extensions of their work are wide ranging. “Utilizing this effect in photonic and nano-optic devices may lead to the development of a promising new area of research- Spinoptics,” says Prof. Hasman. “The hope is that we will be able to control light in all-optical nanometer scale devices in ways that were impossible before.”

They also believe that their ongoing work can provide results that are useful to other fields of physics. According to Prof. Hasman, “There are a number of systems where the spin of a particle couples with its trajectory in high-energy and condensed matter physics. The math is the same in all cases, but experimentally it’s very hard to understand what’s going on. Our experimental system offers a new way to get at some of these fundamental questions clearly and precisely.”

October 24, 2008 Technion Ranked 29th in the World in Engineering and 31st in Natural Science in 2008

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The Technion ranked 29th on the list of the best technological-engineering universities in the world and 31st among leading universities in the natural sciences. This is a rise of five places in the natural sciences and a fall of four in engineering. In overall ranking, the Technion took 109th place in the world, a dramatic rise of 122 places compared to last year. There are thousands of universities in the world dealing with these fields. The world ranking was carried out by the London Times Higher Education Supplement, which analyzes the standing of institutions of higher education in the world.

In the Times ranking, the Technion outranks in engineering a number of well-known universities, among them most of the European and American universities including Purdue (33rd place) Yale (58th place in engineering and 2nd place overall), Ecole Polytechnique in France (31st in engineering), etc. The list of the best universities in the world in engineering is topped by American universities – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Berkeley, Stanford and California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In the natural sciences, the Technion is ahead of Johns Hopkins University (45th place in engineering and 13th overall), New York University (53rd place), all the German universities, including the prestigious Heidelberg University and Munich University, the Dutch universities, the Italian universities, etc.

This is the fifth year that the London Times has conducted a world ranking of universities. The criteria according to the Times for determining a university’s ranking are: ranking by academics from other universities (40%), ranking by employers of graduates (10%), faculty-student ratio (20%), number of research publications (20%), number of foreign lecturers (5%) and number of foreign students (5%).

Technion President, Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig, expressed his great satisfaction with the high ranking of the Technion among the best technological-engineering-science universities in the world and with its dramatic rise in overall ranking. “We have attained this standing despite sharp cuts in government funding to the Technion in particular and to higher education in general,” he said. “The ranking expresses the great esteem to which the Technion is held by other universities around the world, recognition by employers of the high level of Technion graduates employed by them and our high level of research. Thanks to our Technion Friends around the world and recently also due to the help of our Technion graduates and Friends in Israel, who in the last few years have generously contributed to the Technion, we have succeeded in recruiting talented and promising young faculty members, establishing the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute and the Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center, as well as the Lorry I. Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering and launching other large research programs. All these have made a significant contribution to raising the Technion’s world ranking.”

The President warned that if there is no immediate change in government policy with respect to higher education, the Technion will be in danger of falling off the list of leading universities in the future. “This will have serious repercussions on Israel’s economy in general and on the technological sector in particular,” he said. “I hope that the government will understand that the Israel’s future depends on higher education and will implement the recommendations of the Shochat Committee, will return to the Technion and the higher education system the monies cut in recent years and will put education at the top of national priorities. If this happens,” added Prof. Apeloig, “the Technion’s excellent faculty members and students have the talent and ability to put the Technion in the top ten of the leading technological universities in the world.”

October 2008