A research initiative between the University of Chicago and Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev enjoyed some rare political star power Sunday, as both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a signing ceremony in Jerusalem to celebrate the new agreement.
The two schools soon will begin funding a series of research projects aimed at creating nanotechnologies that address water shortages in arid climates. The project's goal is to find new materials and processes for making clean, fresh drinking water more plentiful and less expensive by 2020.
The Chicago research team will be led by Matthew Tirrell, director of the university's Institute for Molecular Engineering. Tirrel's group will include scientists from Argonne National Laboratory, which the university manages for the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., which recently signed an affiliation agreement with the school.
U of C, Ben-Gurion and Argonne have jointly committed more than $1 million over the next two years to support inaugural projects, according to the university. The first initiatives are slated to begin this fall.
"We feel it is critical to bring outstanding scientists together to address water-resource challenges that are being felt around the world, and will only become more acute over time," University President Robert J. Zimmer said in a statement. "Our purification challenges in the Great Lakes region right now are different from some of the scarcity issues some of our colleagues at Ben-Gurion are addressing, but our combined experience will be a tremendous asset in turning early-stage technologies into innovative solutions that may have applications far beyond local issues."
Charles also was kind enough to give me permission to quote from his e-mail:
The agreement is a very fruitful step forward.
I'm happy to report that things are going well for other Jewish and Israel-related issues on campus, too.
There are now three active groups: Hillel, Chabad, and JUchicago, each with substantial (overlapping) student involvement.
Plus, there is a wonderful group, University of Chicago Friends of Israel, which has a very strong programming schedule. It's entirely student run; I'm delighted to be their faculty adviser.
So, good news on several fronts.