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.

When we navigate through our environment, do we track mostly in two dimensions or in three? Clearly, we can move in all three dimensions, but does our internal map relate to the vertical direction in the same way as it does to the horizontal axes on the ground? That question has not yet been definitively…

Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, who is at both the Weizmann Institute and MIT, will receive the 2012 A.M. Turing Award, together with Prof. Silvio Micali of MIT. Goldwasser is only the third woman to receive the Award since its inception in 1966, and she is the third faculty member of the Weizmann Institute to receive what…

Happy International Women’s Day. In the midst of today’s hand wringing about women in science, here’s some good news: The Weizmann Institute has just been awarded a prize by the City of Barcelona for its efforts to promote women in science. Above: Barcelona Civil Rights councilor Francina Vila i Valls presents the award to the…

Overturning Ideas on Cancer

Another advance in cancer research is featured on our website this week. Among other things, this one highlights the dangers of assuming causation from correlation. Prof. Dov Zipori and his team were looking at adult stem cells in the bone marrow. These hold a lot of potential for treating many kinds of disease but, like…

Double Attack on Cancer

New research at the Institute may offer a sliver of hope for treating “triple-negative” breast cancer. “Triple-negative” refers to the fact that the breast cancer cells are missing the three different receptors targeted by the currently available drugs, for instance Herceptin and steroid hormone blockers. This type of cancer also tends to be fairly aggressive,…

Touching on Physics

  What happens when a former physics-student-turned-documentary-director is invited to create a video clip for the first ever physics reunion? The answer is below. You may not learn anything new about physics by watching it, but you will note that Weizmann President Prof. Daniel Zajfman and VP Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph are featured, along with others.…

Does your face reveal what’s in your heart? It might – even more than you know. Take, for instance, a common group of birth defects – forms of a disorder called DiGeorge syndrome. Around one in 4000 is born with this syndrome, which arises from a deletion of a short segment of chromosome 22.  Among…

At the beginning of the year, we published an interview with Dr. Zohar Komargodski on this blog. Apparently we were not the only ones impressed by Komargodski’s accomplishments: The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation has announced that he will be one of three recipients of a New Horizons in Physics Prize. This prize is given to…

Is anyone old enough to remember the ad in which two people walking down the street while snacking accidently bump into each other and discover peanut butter on a chocolate bar? Well, it turns out that when physics students run into each other on the street, the result is a quasicrystal with topological properties. The…

What’s that Smell?

Weizmann Institute scientists have created a “white smell.” Think about white light or white noise: Each mixes a bunch of different waves together from various parts of the visual or audible spectrum. Those wavelengths combine such that we perceive that unobtrusive light or sound we call “white.” How do smells fit into this scenario? Prof.…