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By Jennifer Frey
DECEMBER 20, 2018 – As the year comes to a close, the Technion has again powered the most transformational breakthroughs, milestones and innovations that are advancing Israel, and changing lives throughout the world. This list of highlights from 2018, while not comprehensive, offers a glimpse of the Technion’s global impact.
1. An interdisciplinary team collaborated to develop Quantum Metamaterials, a new scientific field, proving that man-made nano-materials (metamaterials) can generate and control quantum light. This discovery could yield unbreakable encryptions, quantum information computer chips, and more. The researchers found that when pairs of photons, which are the particles that make up light, are run through metamaterials, scientists can create and manipulate entanglement, which is when particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even they are when separated by great distances. It’s what Albert Einstein, one of the Technion’s earliest supporters, called, “spooky action at a distance.”
2. On the (very slightly) larger side of the small scale, a team of Technion chemists, mathematicians and physicists discovered a better way for nano-robots to travel in human bodies, where they can perform seemingly impossible tasks, like delivering drugs directly to a small area. Previous researchers had long thought that the best shape for these nanomaterials was a helix—which is how bacteria are shaped, but the Technion team found that the best shape was actually an arc with twisted ends.
3. Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Professor Moshe Shoham started Mazor Robotics in 2001 with a bold vision: create revolutionary robots to redefine the gold standard of quality medical care. Since then, he and his team have been at the forefront of research, creating software that allows surgeons to accurately create 3D “surgical blueprints” to guide procedures, software that more accurately identifies unique anatomical features on images like CAT scans, software that helps doctors analyze multiple images of the inside of a body at the same time and advanced robots that make surgery less invasive. This year, Mazor was sold to Medtronic for $1.6 billion, which will make spinal and brain surgery safer for Medtronic’s more than 46,000 patients in over 150 countries.
4. Technion researchers have developed a new, integrated wearable medical system that is made of self-repairing materials (in case of a scratch or cut) and recharges itself from the wearer’s body movements and body heat. This new system, created by a professor and a postdoc at the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering, also contains precise sensors and advanced analysis tools that process the data and transmit it to an authorized medical authority. This could revolutionize the use of wearables in medicine, which already are used to monitor diseases by facilitating better treatment plans and helping with epidemiological studies.
5. Intel and the Technion inaugurated the Center for Artificial Intelligence on the Technion’s Haifa campus this year, which will be the home for cutting-edge, collaborative research on advanced AI systems.
This is the next step in the relationship between two leaders in innovation: the American tech company has long supported groundbreaking research and bright students at the Technion, and in 2009, Intel recognized the university for its role in helping establish Intel’s campus in Israel, where many of its first employees were Technion graduates. As one of the top 10 universities for AI in the world, the Technion will continue to advance research in natural language processing, deep learning and hardware optimization—the ideas that fuel tech breakthroughs like Siri and Alexa, self-driving vehicles, and smart homes.
6. In August, Technion Visiting Professor, Alumna, and Chief Scientist / Director of Data Science for eBay Israel, Dr. Kira Radinsky, and Technion Computer Science Department student Shahar Harel, created an AI-based system to develop new drugs faster and for less money. It is very difficult to determine what molecules might be effective drugs because so many could potentially be effective. By creating an analytical system that treats organic chemistry vocabulary like natural language, the scientists used a database of effective drugs (going back to ones discovered in 1950) to narrow down which molecules could be useful for researchers. This means effective, lifesaving medication can be made available sooner and more safely.
7. One groundbreaking way scientists are working to reduce environmental impact is by growing beef in labs—using fewer resources and reducing pollution. One of Scientific American’s 50 leading scientists in the world, Technion Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, and Stanley and Sylvia Shirvan Chair in Cancer and Life Sciences Shulamit Levenberg is at the forefront of this effort as a co-founder and chief scientific officer of Aleph Farms, Ltd., which pioneered a new way to grow meat on a 3D platform, while mimicking beef’s complex structure and texture.
8. Technion scientists have also found new ways to generate clean energy: bacteria. Researchers discovered how to harvest energy from cyanobacteria, which are common to lakes and seas and use photosynthesis to generate energy from sunlight, like plants. Cyanobacteria also generate energy in the dark through respiratory mechanisms. The researchers have harnessed a way to harvest energy from the bacteria both during the day (from photosynthesis) and at night (from respiration). This energy is then used to make electricity and hydrogen gas—a clean gas that emits water when used, paving the way for a clean, eco-friendly future.
9. Technion Professor Marcelle Machluf was named Woman of the Year by one of Israel’s leading magazines, Lady Globes. One of the world’s top researchers on cancer and nanotechnology, the Morocco-born scientist is currently working on the “nano ghost”: a modified stem cell to treat metastatic melanoma and mesothelioma. Prof. Machluf is just one of the trailblazing women of the Technion, and one of its five female deans, a record for academic institutions in Israel.
In addition, 42% of Technion students are women and 20% are Arab.
10. Technion is a leader in global cybersecurity and students, researchers and faculty alike are finding ways to make information safer.
• Professors and researchers at the Technion and an international team of computer scientists broke through Intel’s advanced security feature for PCs and internet servers, and were able to find private data and fake authenticated activities, exposing a major hardware vulnerability.
• A master’s thesis at the Technion exposed a vulnerability in Bluetooth communication systems, which had previously been thought to be secure, leading Intel, Google, Apple, Qualcomm, and Broadcom to update software to protect the information of people around the world.
• As part of an undergraduate class, two Technion students discovered a massive security vulnerability in Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, and (after the tech giant corrected the problem), presented their findings at Black Hat USA, the world’s leading information security conference in August.
Finding these problems showed global multi-billion dollar companies how to patch their software and protect countless people, governments, and businesses.
With campuses in New York (Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute), China (Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology) and Haifa, the Technion is positioned to make an even bigger impact in 2019 as a global leader in entrepreneurship and innovative technologies that benefit humankind.
For more information on Technion, visit www.ats.org.