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Archive for May, 2017

Our ATS community across the U.S. was treated to recent visits (February 21-March 7) by some of the Technion’s incredibly impressive students. Their academic interests range from medicine to environmental engineering and artificial intelligence, while their hobbies include dancing, Tae Kwon Do and skydiving. Dave Doneson, ATS Senior Vice President of Resource Development, had the chance to catch up with the students when they were passing through New York. Below are some excerpts from this inspiring panel discussion.

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Dave: We’re thrilled to have such a diverse and interesting group with us this year. We’ve tagged your trip #TechnionFuture so we can follow you around on social media. But the hashtag could just as easily have been #Israel’sFuture because of the outsized role that Technion students have typically played in transforming Israel’s economy.

Given the academic rigor the Technion requires of its students, and the fact that you guys are raising babies, training seeing-eye dogs and dancing on the side, I’m wondering how you could get away—even for a brief week—to visit us? And what you most want to tell us regarding what the Technion and ATS mean to you?

Amit Gilboa: Undergraduate in Civil Engineering & Transportation Infrastructure, “Cadets for Transportation”

I want to say thank you! Without you, it wouldn’t be possible for me to now be in my fourth year at the Technion.

When I was just about to finish my first year, Operation Protective Edge (2014 conflict with Gaza) broke out. I was on active duty for 40 days. The time needed to go from Haifa to where my unit is based was the time I needed to shift into military mode. But shifting back to my academic life was much harder. I returned during an exam period, the hardest part of the semester. The ATS helped me get back on course. Without the support of the Beatrice Weston Unit for the Advancement of Students, I would not have managed to get back on track. But I got good grades and saved some money for the next semester. I even used a small portion of the funds to go on a much-needed vacation to clear my head.

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Dave: Our Executive Vice President Jeff Richard recently tweeted an article about the awful air pollution in India. Pollution is a global concern. Two of our Technion alumni innovators founded BreezoMeter, and are developing apps to monitor air quality all over the world. Yaela, you seem to be following in their footsteps. Can you tell us about your involvement in the field of “citizen science,” and the project you are leading called “Sensing the Air?”

Yaela Golumbic: Ph.D. student in Science Communication, specializing in “Citizen Science”

Air quality is of great interest to most people in Haifa. On one side, we have environmental scientists who build algorithms to measure air quality distribution over time and space. On the other side, we have people who want to know the quality of the air that they’re raising their kids in. “Citizen Science” connects the two by helping citizens collaborate in scientific research. “Sensing the Air” is an air quality monitoring project in which residents help scientists by providing observation on the air that they are experiencing in their community. Some residents take air sensors with them to their homes or other places of interest. That information is transferred to scientists. And we are building an online platform to monitor air quality—in real time—at many locations throughout Haifa. We are now expanding through the whole country. So, we’re all working together to improve the situation for everyone.

Dave: Speaking of innovations to improve health, we’re very excited about the opening last year of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC), which brings together clinicians, engineers and researchers from many areas. Eliana, as a medical student, can you speak about what it is like to be part of such a multidisciplinary program? Does that differentiate your experience at the Technion from that of other medical students in Israel?

Eliana Fischer: Medical student in the Technion Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine

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Yes, definitely. I like science in engineering ways, as well as medicine. That comes together at the Technion. There is a big focus on getting us into medicine, technology-wise—in really understanding the tools. I understand much more because I understand the mechanism behind the machines I use, behind, for example, why things flow the way they do in the body. I also learned how to program in Matlab. You won’t find medical students in other universities who know how to use that.

There are also many projects that focus on collaboration between engineers and doctors and other researchers. That’s the future in hospitals and startups.

Dave: For people who don’t know a lot about the Technion, its graduates have a stellar track record in helping create Israel’s high-tech miracle. More than half of the Israeli companies on Nasdaq were founded or are run by Technion alumni. And the university offers opportunities for students to work with industry. Omer, I understand that you worked at Mellanox. Can you tell us what it was like to work in a startup?

Omer Amit: Undergraduate student of Industrial Engineering and Management, and Chairman of the Technion Student Association

It was wonderful. I worked for a year at Mellanox (communication equipment), whose co-founder and CEO, Eyal Waldman, is a Technion alumnus. I remember one of my first interviews in the office. I could tell that everyone was so proud of that company. They were not the owners yet they spoke of the company like it was their own. One thing I realized after I started working there was that it’s an Israeli company that grew up step by step to the worldwide, industrial company it is today. That makes its workers feel a part of it.

Personally, it was inspiring to think that students like me can graduate and start their own company. I’ve always had a dream to start my own company. And I’ve wondered, not once, but many times, what to do so that maybe, one day, I’ll get to this!

Dave: We all know that machine learning is a fertile topic in today’s world. Who can forget when IBM’s Watson computer competed on Jeopardy! and won first prize? Noah, you are pursuing a master’s degree in the field. Can you tell us about what interests you about machine learning, and talk about its real-world applications?

Noam Heiman: M.S. student in Information Management Engineering (Data Science), specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning

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I’m not good in history. I can’t remember dates or names. But give me something that has logic behind it, and I can make that logic remember those things for me. So, I was always interested in computer science, in writing programs and using that information to do tasks with. But that was yesterday’s computer science.

We still define the task for the computer. We’re not at the stage where a machine can tell itself what to do. But today, we are making the machines write their own code. Computers learn from experience. Just as a child learns what to do and what not to do from experience—he touches the burner and his mother says no, it’s hot. Machine learning is based upon that, though there is also a lot of math behind it. It’s amazing to me.

Dave: Shani, you and Amit are both participating in the “Cadets for Transportation.” This is a program, as I understand it, that trains the next generation of public servants for governmental positions in transportation. Can you tell us a bit about this program and how it equips you to become a leader in this vital area for Israel?

Shani Hamama: Undergraduate student of Civil Engineering & Transportation Infrastructure, “Cadets for Transportation”

We study transportation infrastructure and learn what it means to serve the public sector in Israel. Each week, we meet engineers from industry. Someone from the Ministry of Transportation may come to speak, or someone working in the field talks to us about making your career as a transportation engineer. We also take tours to see various transportation projects. As a fourth-year student, we make weekly visits to one of six governmental companies, like Israel Railways or Israel Port Authority.

We work for at least four years in the public sector after graduation. But the program aims to keep us in the public sector, so that we can grow up in key roles in this field. Israel’s infrastructure is being built up again. It is so important.

See highlights from their journey across the U.S. in social media via #TechnionFuture.

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