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Tel Aviv University

Eli Gelman appointed TAU Executive Council Chairman

The former Amdocs CEO replaces Dr. Giora Yaron, who completed two terms in offic

The Executive Council of Tel Aviv University approved the appointment of Mr. Eli Gelman as its Chairman, replacing Dr. Giora Yaron, who completed a two-term stint in the position. The selection of Gelman was made by a search committee.

Gelman served as CEO of Amdocs, one of Israel’s leading technology companies employing over 25,000 people, from 2010 to 2018. He is considered as one of the most valued executives in the global telecom industry. During the past 30 years, Gelman has held leading development and management positions at Amdocs as well as several other international high-tech companies.

“Tel Aviv University is a distinguished academic institution and I am proud to join it,” said Gelman. “I regard strengthening the connection between industry and the universities – with the knowledge and human capital they produce – as an essential goal, with Tel Aviv University taking a leadership role in this endeavor.” Gelman stressed that this challenge was part of a broader strategic goal: “to maintain the scientific and technological edge of Israel in the global arena.”

Gelman is a graduate of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology’s academic reserve program in electronics and computer engineering. During his service in the IDF in the 1980s, he was responsible for developing the IDF’s tactical communications system, which is still in use today.

Photo: Yehonatan Zur

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Tel Aviv University

TAU’s Ben Luria is one of the first Israeli Rhodes Scholars

We talked to the Political Science major just before he flew to Oxford to begin his Master’s degree

What does former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner have in common with three Australian prime ministers, Bill Clinton and Ben Luria, a graduate of Political Science at Tel Aviv University? They all received the most prestigious scholarship in the academic world – the Rhodes Scholarship. Rhodes Sholars are considered “future leaders” and receive funding to study at Oxford University. The expectation is that in the future recipients will contribute to their societies and enter public life, although many have also been successful in the business world.

This year two Israelis received the Rhodes Scholarship, an honor not many Israeli students have recieved in the scholarship’s 116 year history. We are pleased to announce that this year one of them is a member of the TAU family – Ben Luria, who holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Tel Aviv University. A moment before he packed up and went to England for two years, we asked him about his feelings and plans for the future, and also got a tip about his Spotify playlist.

Ben Luria

Ben Luria, recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship

Ben, in all honesty, did you think you’d get the scholarship when you applied?

I hoped, but I didn’t completely believe it. Seeing the high level of the scholarship required from the start, and then when I saw some of the other applicants and how impressive they were, I didn’t think I would be one of the recipients. Even in the introductory meetings with the selection committee and in the interviews themselves, I didn’t feel at any stage that I had it. But I brought my best self and my true self, my ideas and achievements but also my character, humor and honesty. Throughout the process, I made sure I was doing the best I could, and that helped to deal with my fears.

What does the scholarship mean to you? What will you be able to achieve with it that you haven’t been able to before?

Above all, it’s an amazing feeling that you know you were chosen for something like this. In my opinion, more than being a scholarship of academic ability, this is a leadership scholarship and it expresses confidence in my ability to bring about change in the future. The opportunity to study at an institution as esteemed as Oxford and to join such a distinguished family of influential Rhodes Scholars is a wonderful gift, and I hope to use the time there to learn and acquire tools that can serve me in the future and help promote change and social reform.

You were marked as a “future leader”. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Working for the society in which I live, in the hope of being in a position of influence and leadership. It can be on the public level but can also be through the third sector or social entrepreneurship. In any case, I hope and believe that my future will be directly related to contributing to my community.

Tell us a bit about your academic journey at Tel Aviv University.

At the university I studied for a Master’s degree in Security and Diplomacy at the School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs. As part of one of my seminars, I was researched the struggle of the Persian Gulf countries against Iran and China-US relations, which is the continuation of a BA in Sociology and Communication at the Open University, which I began during high school.

Have you always been an outstanding student?

Not really. Although I wasn’t afraid of not graduating high school, as an opinionated person from elementary school to high school, I was suspended more than once. My parents have grown accustomed to receiving phone calls and summons from teachers. In fact, I wrote about it as part of the scholarship application. The house I grew up in was very free in its educational approach. It allowed me to delve deeper into my interests, in any way I saw fit. So in high school I found myself taking courses at the Open University out of personal interest.

What do you think studying the social sciences gives students?

I feel that social sciences allow us to understand the reality around us, a bit like unplugging from the matrix. The ideas you lean seep deep into your consciousness and give you the ability to analyze events from a much broader perspective: understanding trends in depth, understanding the social structures in which things take place, analyzing the behavior of the various players in the arena and their interests. Suddenly, news about a demonstration, a new agreement, a social phenomenon or a political turnaround take on deeper, even surprising, meanings. Aside from the fun of understanding the reality around you, I think it also makes us better and more active citizens.

Who are the lecturers at TAU who most influenced you?

In the program I studied there are lecturers from diverse backgrounds, each of whom brought with them a deep and unique knowledge of their field, along with great accessibility to students, which I believe is the key to true learning. I can mention and thank the head of the program, Prof. Ezer Gat, whose course on strategic thought was really profound, and Dr. Yoram Evron, who supported me in the study of China-US relations and helped me a lot thanks to his attempt to help me develop a new sphere of knowledge.

What’s one thing that you’ve gotten from your studies at TAU that will stay with for the rest of your life?

I see learning as a way to avoid freezing in place. The habit of constantly acquiring new knowledge and discovering areas that were foreign to you, and being in another framework besides the professional one, makes us better rounded people, in my eyes.

 What will you miss most when you’re abroad?

I believe I’ll try to keep the home atmosphere going. I really like to cook vegan food, do yoga and try to go to as many live shows as possible, and believe that at Oxford I’ll find all these things too. I will miss the warm weather and the sea, but my playlists on Spotify will certainly help you, and you’re welcome to follow me! I’m BenLur93 or Ben Luria.

Before we say goodbye – do you have a tip for first year students?

Maybe it’s obvious, but I think it’s important to be interested in your field of study and your chosen courses. Obviously you have to think about your professional future and earning potential, but when you find a field you’re already drawn to everything becomes simpler. I chose these two degrees according to a strong personal interest in these fields, and this is what made the learning experience so positive for me.

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Biohistory,Biology & Evolution

Our 2018 Highlights- Dan David research is at the Top

The 2018 Altmetric Top 100; The PLOS Blogs (SciComm) Top 6 Human Evolution Discoveries of 2018; The Ynet top Scientific Research for 2018

Dan David Centerf for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research at Tel Aviv Univesity was engaged in many excavations of prehistoric sites in Israel during the last two decades. Together with our local and global collaborators we have reached “The 2018 Altmetric Top 100” and “The 6 Human Evolution Discoveries of 2018” in PLOS Blogs (SciComm). Ynet, the Israel most popular digital newspaper also chose the Misliya paper among the most important ones in science for the year 2018.

See our movie on Misliya Cave

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Environment

No more plastic in the ocean?

New sustainable tech developed by TAU researchers could free the world of its worst pollutant

According to the United Nations, plastic accounts for up to 90 percent of all the pollutants in our oceans, yet there are few comparable, environmentally friendly alternatives to the material. Now, a new Tel Aviv University study describes a process to make bioplastic polymers that don’t require land or fresh water — resources that are scarce in much of the world. The polymer is derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed. It is biodegradable, produces zero toxic waste and recycles into organic waste.

The invention was the fruit of a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr. Alexander Golberg of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences and Prof. Michael Gozin of TAU’s School of Chemistry. Their research was recently published in the journal Bioresource Technology.

Using seaweed as “fuel” for decontamination

“Plastics take hundreds of years to decay. So bottles, packaging and bags create plastic ‘continents’ in the oceans, endanger animals and pollute the environment,” says Dr. Golberg. “Plastic is also produced from petroleum products, which has an industrial process that releases chemical contaminants as a byproduct.

“A partial solution to the plastic epidemic is bioplastics, which don’t use petroleum and degrade quickly. But bioplastics also have an environmental price: To grow the plants or the bacteria to make the plastic requires fertile soil and fresh water, which many countries, including Israel, don’t have. Our new process produces ‘plastic’ from marine microorganisms that completely recycle into organic waste.”

 

The researchers harnessed microorganisms that feed on seaweed to produce a bioplastic polymer called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). “Our raw material was multicellular seaweed, cultivated in the sea,” Dr. Golberg says. “These algae were eaten by single-celled microorganisms, which also grow in very salty water and produce a polymer that can be used to make bioplastic.

Fighting pollution without using fresh water

“There are already factories that produce this type of bioplastic in commercial quantities, but they use plants that require agricultural land and fresh water. The process we propose will enable countries with a shortage of fresh water, such as Israel, China and India, to switch from petroleum-derived plastics to biodegradable plastics.”

According to Dr. Golberg, the new study could revolutionize the world’s efforts to clean the oceans, without affecting arable land and without using fresh water. “Plastic from fossil sources is one of the most polluting factors in the oceans,” he says. “We have proved it is possible to produce bioplastic completely based on marine resources in a process that is friendly both to the environment and to its residents.

“We are now conducting basic research to find the best bacteria and algae that would be most suitable for producing polymers for bioplastics with different properties,” he concludes.

The research was partially funded by the TAU-Triangle Regional R&D Center in Kfar Kara under the academic auspices of Tel Aviv University, and by the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Infrastructures.

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Geography

Drivers “bidding” for parking spaces could solve parking worldwide

Parking algorithm can relieve pressure on lucrative parking areas, TAU researchers say

Parking is of paramount concern to urban car owners and urban planners. The current arsenal of solutions available to policymakers addressing the increasingly urgent parking shortage in cities around the world includes better public transportation, carpooling incentives, fines for illegal parking and improved infrastructure.

A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that a parking algorithm that allows drivers to “bid” for a curbside spot may guarantee more uniform parking occupancy, filling spots in less lucrative areas and relieving the pressure on high-demand neighborhoods. A smartphone app that uses the algorithm can offer a practical solution to the problem of bottleneck parking in low supply areas and empty lots outside the immediate sphere of demand.

The research was led by Prof. Itzhak Benenson of the Department of Geography and Human Environment at TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences and conducted by doctoral student Nir Fulman. It was published in IEEE ITS Magazine.

The perfect price for the perfect spot

“Urban parking prices are now uniform over large urban areas, but this doesn’t reflect neighborhood-specific supply and demand,” Prof. Benenson says. “Underpricing results in long and often unsuccessful searches for parking in areas where demand exceeds supply, while overpricing leads to low occupancy and hampered economic vitality.

“Our GIS-based Parking Pricing Algorithm, a geography-specific algorithm for establishing on- and off-street parking prices, guarantees a predetermined uniform level of occupation over an entire area.”

Several cities around the world have initiated pilot projects that adjust curbside parking prices to occupation in real time. But these projects require street sensors that cost millions of dollars to install and operate.

According to the researchers, the Parking Pricing Algorithm has been tested in the Israeli city of Bat Yam and established real-time adaptive parking prices that guaranteed 90 percent parking occupancy without the installation of heavy and expensive equipment.

“If the number of free spots in one specific area decreases, their price increases. So some of the spots are always vacant, because they end up being very expensive,” says Prof. Benenson. “With adaptive prices, a driver who really needs to park close to a destination can now find a space. Any resulting economic inequity is resolved by means of special ‘free of charge’ permits or discounts. When you have an app that informs you about parking prices when you drive to your destination, you can resolve any number of parking and traffic issues.”

​Parking as public policy

The researchers studied the parking behavior of drivers in the field and in laboratory experiments, then compared these results with those of simulation models.

“We truly believe that adaptive parking pricing is the future of cities,” Prof. Benenson concludes. “This is a mechanism that can stop people from coming into the city centers and searching for a parking spot for hours on end; and nobody would be charged more than necessary. On-street parking is public property and should be managed as public property.”

The researchers are now exploring ways of including a balanced parking policy in Israel’s Mobility as a Service (MAAS) transport policy, which proposes advantages for public transport users, car-poolers and bikers and could smoothly adopt to autonomous vehicles in the future.

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