Looking Towards the World
The Faculty of Engineering held its first, unique summer course in Nanophotonics last June, in which approximately thirty Chinese students participated. The ultimate goal, says Prof. Dror Fixler, is to become an international Faculty and to attract the best students, not only from China but from all over the world.
Over the recent years, the Israeli government has signed several academic cooperation agreements with the governments of India and China. Within the framework of these agreements, Chinese and Indian students of advanced degrees will take summer courses in Israel, and vice versa, and will be jointly funded by the three governments. Three years ago, the Council for Higher Education offered the first tender for this project. This past year, Bar Ilan University won the tender for the first time, and last summer the first course was held, with the participation of Chinese students. The project was led by Prof. Dror Fixler from the Faculty of Engineering, along with Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, Director of the Asia Desk in the Office of the Vice President for Research at Bar Ilan, and management personnel of the Faculty of Engineering. "We are the first group at Bar Ilan University to win this tender", says Prof. Fixler.
Prof. Fixler, age 46, is married with five children, and has a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Optoelectronics. His doctoral studies involved biophysics, and during his post-doctoral studies, which focused on electrical and super resolution systems, he spent a year and a half in southern China, at the South China Normal University in Guangzhou. Since then, he has advanced in the Chinese academic world in parallel to the Israeli academic world, and he currently holds the position of Visiting Professor in the Chinese Academic Society (CAS) in Beijing. He has a research laboratory at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry in Beijing, and spends two weeks in each quarter term with his students there. Within the framework of his research, he develops optical tools based on nanophotonics, for a variety of fields. "My systems can be utilized for remote sensing in the military, for diagnosing cancer and heart disease, and I also have a project for identifying lactose levels in milk", Fixler says. "I am developing tools that anyone can use, and that can be made compatible and relevant for every field of knowledge."
The summer course developed by Prof. Fixler involves a month of intensive study and research in the field of nanophotonics. The course covers two main subjects: advanced methods in fluorescent microscopy, and advanced topics in super-resolution taught by Professor Zeev Zalevsky, a world expert in the field. For the first course opened last June, 30 Chinese students were accepted, accompanied by three Chinese faculty members and professors. "We wanted to bring the most outstanding students, with the aim of having them continue their studies and research at Bar Ilan, and that our Faculty of Engineering would become an international faculty," says Prof. Fixler. "For this purpose, we advertised on Chinese media and on social networking. About 100 candidates applied with curriculum vitae and recommendations, and I personally interviewed each candidate. Most of the interviews were conducted in China, when I was there, and a few were conducted over Skype." Five Israeli students also registered for the theoretical course.
The course was conducted in English, with structured slides, and was photographed and documented to enable reiteration of the lectures. The course lasted four weeks and included four days of theoretical studies, two days of laboratory research, and one day trip each week. The school day included frontal instruction for six hours a day, from 9AM o'clock to 12 noon, and from 3PM o'clock to 6PM o'clock in the evening, and during the rest of the time, the Chinese students distributed among the various engineering labs for research work, "so that they could sense our uniqueness, and also for us to assess their abilities”. Each student was guided by advanced degree students from Bar Ilan. As mentioned, one day a week was set aside for trips, during which the Chinese students visited the Knesset, David's Tower and the Western Wall. In addition, they visited Kibbutz Yagur, where they learned about the Kibbutz ideal and the collective communities of the kibbutzim, and Daliat El-Carmel, where they learned about the Druze ethnic minority. They also visited Jaffa and the Bahai gardens in Haifa, learned about desert agriculture in the Negev, visited the tomb of David Ben Gurion, took a dip in the mediterranean Sea, and went shopping in Tel Aviv. "We have received really wonderful feedback", says Prof. Fixler. "For most of them, this was their first trip outside of China. We went out of our way so that they could succeed, and they really enjoyed themselves. There are at least four students who want to come back here, one for doctoral studies and three for post-doctorates. From my point of view, our biggest success is that they will continue to spread the word for years to come, and thereby we will acquire the best students." Already during this semester, one Chinese student, Kai Wang, who completed the summer course, came to study here for a doctoral degree in engineering.
This is not the only project being conducted by Bar Ilan University in collaboration with academic institutions in China. "Last April we established a very interesting collaboration between the Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology (BINA) at Bar Ilan University and the Center for Nanoscience (NCNST) in China, which includes seven researchers from each institute, including Professor Rachela Popovtzer and I from the Faculty of Engineering. Our goal is to submit requests, together with the Chinese, for joint research grants from both the Israeli and Chinese Ministries of Science, and to have the grants awarded by the Ministries of both countries. I am leading this project, as I am the only one from Bar Ilan University to have already been awarded such a research grant in China", says Prof. Fixler. “Overall, the Faculty strives to achieve as many international cooperations as possible, and we hope that in the coming years graduate students will arrive here not only from China, but from all over the world."