Zuckerman postdoctoral scholars enjoyed a day of professional and social networking with a visit to Israel’s Negev region that included a tour of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the south of Israel.
We began at Ben Gurion University with a fascinating discussion with Prof. Jihad El Sana.
Prof. El-Sana grew up in a Bedouin village and moved to Lakiya, just north of Beersheba. He was raised in a tent, without electricity or running water, and went on to win a Fulbright Scholarship to study in America, where he earned a PhD in Computer Science from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Prof. El-Sana heads the faculty of computer science at Ben Gurion University.
Prof. El-Sana has been a Bedouin shepherd, a student, a scientist, a professor, a researcher, a start-up entrepreneur, and a social entrepreneur. He established a school for exceptional Bedouin students in the Negev and is head of the Academic Association for the Development of Arab Society in the Negev.
We were then welcomed by Shila Cohanim, Head of Ecosystem Collaboration @ BGU’s Yazamut360 hub. Shila shared with the scholars how the university incorporates an emphasis on entrepreneurship mindset to their students no matter the discipline. Shila also shared how through the Yazamut360 hub, the university encourages community building among its students, faculty, staff, as well as residents of the Negev.
Hadas Moshe-Barat Head, Department of Public Affairs at BGU, walked the scholars to the BGU Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) pointing out along the way the IDF Technology Campus, the national Cyber Security Research Center and Soroka University Medical Center and explained how all are intertwined with BGU. This collaboration between academia, the private sector, local government and the army is unique to BGU and with the construction of a fourth northern campus, is expected to become Israel’s most exciting new center for business and innovation.
The group had the opportunity to spend time at the Zuckerman Faculty Scholar lab of Dr. Yisroel Mirsky’s, Offensive AI Research Lab (OAR). The lab team researches how adversaries use AI to enhance their attacks, with the goal of identifying and mitigating AI threats before they become mainstream.
We then headed further south to the Ramat Negev Desert Agro-Research Center where we were well-versed about the innovation and creativity that goes into developing agriculture in Israel’s desert. We ended the day delving into Israel’s enterprise to generate electricity from the sun’s heat, driving through the solar fields, exploring the Negev’s history and unique environment.