weizmann science writer

wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. Hundreds of scientists, laboratory technicians and research students working on its lushly landscaped campus embark daily on fascinating journeys into the unknown, seeking to improve our understanding of nature and our place within it.

The Institute’s roots go back to the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, built in 1934 with the support of Israel and Rebecca Sieff of London in memory of their son Daniel. It was established upon the initiative of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the driving force behind its scientific activity and its first President. A world-renowned chemist, he headed the Zionist movement for many years and later became the first President of the State of Israel. In November 1944, with the agreement of the Sieff family, it was decided that the Sieff Institute would become the nucleus of a large-scale research institution named after Dr. Chaim Weizmann. On November 2, 1949, in honor of Dr. Weizmann’s 75th birthday, the Weizmann Institute was formally dedicated.

The Institute has five faculties – Mathematics and Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology – and the faculties in turn are divided into 17 scientific departments. In addition, the Feinberg Graduate School, the Institute’s university arm, trains research students pursuing graduate degrees.

The Weizmann Institute serves as a meeting place for scientists from different disciplines, setting the stage for multidisciplinary collaborations and the emergence of new research fields. To encourage this creative activity, the Institute has created some 50 multidisciplinary research institutes and centers, most of which provide an intellectual rather than physical framework for joint projects. These institutes and centers stimulate activity in a multiplicity of fields, including brain research, cancer research, nanotechnology, renewable energy sources, experimental physics, biological physics, environmental studies, the study of autoimmune diseases, plant sciences, photosynthesis, genetics and others.

Today the campus community numbers more than 2,600: some 1,000 scientists and scientific staff, 1,000 research students, 220 postdoctoral fellows and 400 administrative employees. The Institute has some 250 research groups headed by senior scientists and professors, of whom approximately 100 were born in Israel; the rest have come to Israel and to the Institute from 28 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, France, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay. Each year, around 500 scientists from dozens of countries around the globe visit the Weizmann Institute or come to work on its campus. And each year, approximately 25 international scientific conferences take place at the Institute.

The Feinberg Graduate School, the Institute’s university arm, was established in 1958. The language of instruction is English, and the average advisor-student ratio is 1:3. Some 300 are pursuing M.Sc. degrees, and 700 Ph.D. degrees. About 45% are female. About a third of the 220 postdoctoral fellows come from the United States, Canada, Latin America, the European Union and Africa, as well as Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The Davidson Institute of Science Education, established in 2002, provides a continuation and expansion of Weizmann Institute activities in the area of science teaching. The “Perach” all-Israel tutoring program, currently headquartered at the Davidson Institute, enlists students from all the Israeli universities to serve as tutors to underprivileged youth. Each year, some 33,000 youngsters take part in activities organized by the Weizmann Institute’s Young@Science section including the Science Mobile, a teaching lab-in-a-van developed at the Weizmann Institute. The Clore Garden of Science, an award-winning outdoor facility is the first science museum of its kind in the world. Its 100 hands-on exhibits allow visitors to learn about science and nature through play and firsthand experience.

Members of the Weizmann Institute’s Science Teaching Department design new curricula for middle and high schools, experiment with future teaching methods, write textbooks (in Hebrew and Arabic), create games and interactive computer programs and implement special teacher training courses.

Does the brain really operate like some kind of extra-complex computer, with logic gates and circuits made of the synapses that connect one neuron to another? In 2009, we wrote: In the future, the interface between brain and artificial system might be based on nerve cells grown for that purpose. In research that was recently…

Is this science writer jazzed that ninth-grade girls from a religious girls’ school in Jerusalem won a space/science contest? You bet your sweet solar-powered spacelab she is! It is not just that these girls beat out a lot of other classes (over 400), or that they break more than one stereotype. They also came up…

The whisking of a rat’s whisker is a classic example of “active sensing” – in other words, sensing that involves movement. Prof. Ehud Ahissar studies rat whisking in order to understand how mammals perceive through all types of active sensing; without the continuous movement of whiskers, fingertips or eyes, our perception of our surroundings would…

Why does infection with bacteria or viruses make you feel sick? Prof. Guy Shakhar and Dr. Keren Shakhar have proposed that your symptoms are not just a byproduct of your body’s attempt to get rid of the infection. It is your genes’ way of ensuring they are passed down. The long and short of their…

New site, new stories

Cells that “spit” out their contents and messenger RNA that is not so swift at delivering its message. Those are two brand new stories on our new and improved website. Check it out and let us know what you think. The first story arose from a simple question: How do secretory cells – those that…

While we’re waiting

The Weizmann Wave has been a bit dormant lately for various reasons, including the fact that we have been getting ready to launch our new website (same address, same content, slightly different look). While you eagerly await the new site, here is a quiz we put on Facebook to see if anyone has been following…

Rates of melanoma are increasing, even as the rates of other common cancers are decreasing. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, it is the most common cancer diagnosis in young adults 25-29 years old in the United States, the second most common cancer in young people 15-29, and its incidence has tripled in the last…

Our researchers often appear in the pages of Nature, Science, etc, but here is one we think is worth mentioning: Christoph A. Thaiss, a PhD student in the immunology group of Dr. Eran Elinav, recently appeared in Nature – as an interviewer of Bruce Beutler, who shared one half of the 2011 Nobel Prize in…

Ziv Zwighaft is a research student in the group of the Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Gad Asher. Their new findings reveal some intriguing connections between our circadian clocks – which tick according to cycles of day and night – metabolism and aging. Here is his description: King Solomon said: “There is a time for everything, and…

    One day in the future, we may be treating our ailments with microbiotic combinations designed specifically to correct imbalances in our personal microbiomes. We’ll bring our prescriptions on rewritable paper and pay using shimmery optical chips embedded in our cell phone cases or maybe our jewelry. Or we’ll be waiting in our doctor’s…