Archive for December, 2011

The moment had finally arrived. The pomp and circumstance of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony surrounded Technion Professor Dan Shechtman as he took his place among this year’s Nobel Laureates at the Stockholm Concert Hall.  Across the stage sat King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland, Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland and Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland, husband of Princess Victoria.

Men in white ties and tails, and women in stunning ball gowns made up the capacity crowd. Professor Ziporah Shechtman (Dan’s wife) and the Shechtman children were seated in the second row from the stage, while the extended family was seated in the fourth row.

The evening began with the Swedish Royal Anthem, followed by an address from Dr. Marcus Storch, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation. After welcoming the laureates and guests, Dr. Storch offered five factors that promote creativity based on a study of the life of Alfred Nobel. These include a home environment conducive to study; good schooling; living in a cosmopolitan environment where opportunities for learning are abundant; exposure to leading researchers who are on the frontiers of science; and time and patience.

The presentation of the Prizes by the King followed. Each Prize was preceded by an introduction of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences member who represented the particular discipline. Their remarks were in Swedish but a booklet was provided with translations. Professor Sven Lidin paid tribute to Prof. Shechtman and said, “Your discovery of quasicrystals had created a new cross-disciplinary branch of science, drawing from, and enriching chemistry, physics and mathematics. This is in itself of the greatest importance. It has also given us a reminder of how little we really know and perhaps even taught us some humility. That is truly a great achievement.”

Professor Shechtman then stepped forward and stood center stage with the King, who presented him with his Nobel diploma and medal as trumpets heralded him and the audience clapped enthusiastically. Prof. Shechtman then followed the tradition of bowing to the King, the Royal Academy members seated on the right hand side of the stage, and finally to

The Technion delegation: (l to r) Tova Kantrowitz, ATS Director of Communications, Prof. Wayne Kaplan, Dean of the Technion Faculty of Materials Engineering, Technion President Peretz Lavie, Yvette Gershon, Technion Public Affairs Head, Larry Jackier , Chairman of the Technion International Board of Governors, Yoram Alster, Chairman of the Technion Council

the audience. The Technion delegation, which included Technion President Peretz Lavie, beamed with pride as did people in Israel and Jews all over the world.

Between each Prize presentation, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra performed, delighting all in attendance.

The ceremony concluded with the Swedish national anthem, after which the Laureates and guests traveled to City Hall where a special banquet was held in their honor. The laureates were seated with members of the Royal Family at a table of honor in the center of the room. Click on this link to view the seating (http://www.nobelprize.org/press/nobelfoundation/press_releases/2011/table-of-honor.html). Click on the following link to see the menu for the evening


Prof. Shechtman and the other laureates addressed the 1,300 guests in attendance. He concluded his remarks with:

“Science is the ultimate tool to reveal the laws of nature, and the one word written on its banner is TRUTH. The laws of nature are neither good nor bad. It is the way in which we apply them to our world that makes the difference.

It is therefore our duty as scientists to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance. We should also encourage our educated youth to become technological entrepreneurs. Those countries that nurture this knowhow will survive future financial and social crises. Let us advance science to create a better world for all.”


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Israel is a Universal Scientific and Technological Powerhouse

Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, formerly of the Technion Faculty of Mathematics, is in Stockholm this week together with his wife Shimona, for the Nobel Prize Festivities. This is the first time that a governmental official has been invited to join in the Nobel ceremony. The following interview reflects his thoughts about the Nobel Prize and science and technology in Israel.

Q. What does the Nobel Prize mean to Israel?

A. This is another acknowledgement of the very special status of Israel as a universal scientific and technological powerhouse. It’s also an indication of the special status of the Technion. How many universities have three Nobel Laureates in seven years, and all of them grew up in the Technion, studied there and continued to conduct research and teach there. That is remarkable.

Q. What is the impact on the worldwide Jewish Community?

A. Most Jews around the world feel that the State of Israel is their homeland. The Nobel provides them with a great sense of pride. There is naturally excitement throughout the community as this is a great honor for Eretz Yisrael and the entire Jewish world.  I feel that when I represent the State of Israel at the Nobel ceremony, I will be representing Jews around the world as well.

Q. Before becoming a Minister, you were a Professor at the Technion. How important has the Technion been for the State of Israel?

A. In the high-tech sector, some 70% of the managers and founders of companies are Technion graduates. This is dramatic.  Israel is a very young country — only 63 years old — and is an economic miracle. The Technion played a big role in this. Not only in building buildings but in establishing the whole area of technology and also in the defense of our country. Technion graduates develop the cutting-edge technologies at the Israel Aircraft Industries and Rafael, Israel’s Armament Authority.

In addition the Technion has undertaken a new program to educate the ultraorthodox community. This is a great way to integrate this segment of the population so that they may contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.

Q. How can people become part of Israel’s great success in high-technology?

A. They should come to Israel, be involved, be part of what is happening or support it. Organizations that assist Israeli institutions help maintain its status. We need the brightest scientists and innovators but we also need to find a way to fund them. Those who contribute to these efforts are true partners. They should not view their support as a “donation” but rather as a way to express their deep understanding of what is important for our country, and where it needs investment. The people who help the Technion are in effect policy makers in science and technology — and that is the future.

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Quasicrystals Explained

At the official Nobel lecture, Professor Dan Shechtman spoke about his groundbreaking discovery of quasicrystals in 1982.  He first explained periodicity and four-fold symmetry and that it looks the same, even if it is rotated. From 1912-1982 all crystals were considered to be ordered and periodic. No one expected something new to be discovered.

Using electron diffraction patterns, Prof. Shechtman was able to observe five-fold symmetry.  On the screen he shared a page

Professor Shechtman shares a page from his logbook dated April 8, 1982.

from his original laboratory log book dated April 8, 1982 that listed the experiments that he performed and his observations on that day. Several years later he was joined by Ilan Blech and other scientists and together their work, initially rejected, was published and finally accepted in the scientific community.

Professor Shechtman asked why this discovery did not happen before 1982 as some 100,000 crystals were studied for a period of 70 years.  He said that quasicrystals are abundant, not rare. Aluminum alone has hundreds. They are stable and very easy and inexpensive to make.

He shared the five factors that helped lead to the discovery and acceptance:

1. TEM – Transition Electron Microscope. The discovery could not be made with x-rays and required this powerful tool that enabled scientists to see things at the atomic level.

2. Professionalism

3. Tenacity

4. Belief in self as a scientist


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Message from Professor Dan Shechtman: “Believe in Your Science.”

At the official Nobel Prize press conference this morning at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman said that his loneliness in the academic world did not break his spirit, because he believed in his science. Prof. Shechtman’s personal journey to the Nobel Prize began in 1982 when the scientific community refused to recognize his discovery of quasicrystals. Today there are books and conferences dedicated to the study of quasicrystals, and the ultimate recognition with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“Today a new chapter to the discovery is evolving. For example, physicists are developing optics with quasiperiodic arrays whose uses and applications are unknown at the present time,” said Prof. Shechtman.                                        

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In response to a question about the Technion’s success in producing three Nobel Prize winners in seven years, Prof. Shechtman said: “I have been associated with the Technion for half a century. First as a student and then as a faculty member. In the early days it was not easy to be admitted to the university, and even more difficult to be a student there. In my day, if you failed one course, you had to repeat the whole year. But our graduates know that they receive the best training in engineering and high-technology.”

He added that the quality of incoming faculty members at the highest level is also an important factor to consider. The Technion looks for those who have a chance to do great science — but global competition is fierce. To entice potential faculty to come to Haifa, the Technion provides top funding for state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment as well as highly trained graduate students.

His final point was that while is important to understand how Nobel Laureates are produced, it is also important to look at how a country educates its base. He admitted that the State of Israel faces challenges in how to best educate its young people, and he shared his plans to work to improve the situation and encourage greater governmental investment in education at all levels.

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Professor Dan Shechtman with Panelists
Forum Panelists: Prof. Anders Flodström, Former University Chancellor and Head of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education; Keynote speaker Professor Dan Shechtman; Maud Olofsson, Former Swedish Minister for Enterprise and Energy, Advisor to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on female entrepreneurship; Prof. Karin Markides, President Chalmers University of Technology ; and in the back – Prof. Martin Schuurmans, Founding Chairman of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Governing Board  

The Forum for Innovation Management (FIM) hosted “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education,” on December 6. Some 85 attendees from the Swedish academic, government and business communities listened to keynote speaker Distinguished Technion Professor Dan Shechtman, the 2011 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and expert panelists discuss the challenges facing many countries in today’s economy, as well as ways to improve performance and growth through entrepreneurship.

Matias Bonnier, Chairman of the Karl-Adam Bonnier Foundation, welcomed participants and speakers to Nedre Manilla, his ancestral home where the event was held.

In his introduction, Mikolaj Norek, FIM Director, said that like entrepreneurs, Professor Shechtman had to fight for recognition to achieve success, since the scientific community did not initially believe in his discovery.

“Entrepreneurship education is vital to the survival and growth of a country’s future, especially when natural resources are being depleted at an accelerated rate,” said Prof. Shechtman.

Even as a young academic, Prof. Shechtman foresaw the value in educating engineers in this area. For more than 25 years he has taught technological entrepreneurship at the Technion and counts some 10,000 graduates of this course. The course exposed students to both successful and non-successful entrepreneurs and provided training legal, business and marketing professionals who offered real-world advice.

“Israel is unique, as our students have completed military service where they are already exposed to some of the most sophisticated high-tech in the world. They are also older and more mature when they start their university studies,” said Prof. Shechtman.

While this may give Israel an advantage, Prof. Shechtman believes that there are similarities in small countries such as Sweden and Israel that can create the cultural environment that can ultimately foster a start-up economy.

He also said that Israel faces the challenge of many start-ups developed with an exit strategy in mind. This does not allow for the creation of larger companies that can be impactful through the production of exportable products, and, most importantly, in job creation.

The panelists echoed Prof. Shechtman’s belief that entrepreneurship should start at an early age, even at the Kindergarten level, to create a spirit of entrepreneurship. Matias Bonnier commented that younger students should be active participants in their entrepreneurial education. They should interact, talk and ask questions of their teachers. He added that entrepreneurship is a bridge between societies and nations.

They also suggested that the government take an active role in setting policies that can foster growth in this area.

Tor Bonnier, Chairman of FIM, concluded the meeting with the message that it is clear that the study of entrepreneurship is important to have in any society. “It is important to foster budding entrepreneurs based on our own culture in order to be competitive in a global economy.” he said.

The event was co-created by the Israeli Embassy in Sweden.

FORUM FOR INNOVATION MANAGEMENT (FIM) was established in 1999 as a non-profit activity within the Karl-Adam Bonnier Foundation. FIM is currently in its twelve year, having organized 60 exclusive seminars bringing together influential representatives such as policy makers and selected representatives from financial, legal and academic institutions as well as practitioners in the corporate and entrepreneurial business sectors. FIM has also published two books in the series of “Swedish Innovation Force” – which summarizes many of the topics discussed at the seminars.


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Professor Shechtman last sole winner of the Nobel Prize?

Winning the Nobel Prize alone, without partners, has been a rare occurrence in recent years. At a press conference that opened the 2011 Nobel week in Stockholm, Lars Heikensten, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation, said that there may not be many more cases like this in the future. The nature of research has changed and is now conducted collaboratively in interdisciplinary groups of scientists and through alliances between universities

All Nobel Laureates, including Professor Shechtman are already in high demand as “Nobel Week” is in full swing. The week will culminate with the awards ceremony and banquet on Saturday night, December 10.

Earlier today Prof. Shechtman signed a chair at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, a tradition that dates back to 2001 (see below for slideshow) . This evening, Prof. Shechtman was the keynote speaker at a special event hosted by the Forum for Innovation Management. He and a group of panelists discussed innovation and entrepreneurship. Check this space for more details about the event.

In more Nobel news it was announced that Claudia Steinman, widow of Professor Ralph Steinman who passed away just days before the announcement of his Nobel Prize in Medicine, will receive the award and will sit on stage together with other distinguished winners. This is the first time that this has occurred since the Prize was first established in 1901.

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Congratulations to Technion professor Dan Shechtman, who is receiving the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry this week in Sweden.

Starting Wednesday, December 7th, ATS Director of Communications Tova Kantrowitz will be covering the events of Nobel week from Sweden. Please check back here for updates.


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