UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake and three faculty members recently concluded an academic mission in Israel, forging collaborative research agreements and student and faculty exchanges with the country’s top universities. Among the highlights of the trip was a visit with Israel President Shimon Peres.

“Our meetings with university leaders and President Peres were enlightening and productive,” Drake said. “Together, we were able to identify many similarities between UC Irvine and the top universities in Israel. We look forward to continuing our relationships with these institutions, just as we have with many others around the world, including in South Korea, Norway, Poland, China and others.”

Drake last visited Israel in 2008 to participate in an educational seminar hosted by Project Interchange, an organization that connects worldwide leaders with Israel. Accompanying him on this trip were Kenneth Janda, physical sciences dean; Gregory Washington, engineering dean; Dr. Zeev Kain, associate dean for clinical operations and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care in UCI’s School of Medicine; and Larry Gold, international programs assistant to the provost. They visited with leaders at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University.

The academic teams began developing programs designed to enrich students and faculty for many years. Washington said his colleagues are arranging student and faculty exchanges in electrical, civil and environmental engineering. Plans are also in the works to establish a workshop on water resources with Ben-Gurion, a subject of critical importance to California and Israel.

“We hope to be working together for quite some time,” added Washington. “In fact, we plan to establish a joint U.S./Israeli Conference entitled Communications 2025 which examines the technologies needed for IT and Communications in the year 2025. Tel Aviv University will organize the Israeli delegation and Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Calit2 will organize the U.S. delegation. We intend to hold the first gathering this fall.”

Kain returned with ideas he wants to implement within 90 days, including a medical student exchange program with Ben-Gurion and what he called “virtual conferences.

“We’ll have web-based meetings of six to eight faculty members from each medical school,” he said.  “Each will make 10-minute presentations on their research and then pair up where they can collaborate. We’re also looking to expand our iPad initiative in Israel.” UC Irvine School of Medicine in 2010 was the first to distribute iPads to all incoming medical students loaded with everything necessary for the first year of course work.

Janda said he discovered “exceptional shared strengths of chemical synthesis, theory and nano-science” among the universities. “They are excellent both in the basic sciences and in the application of science to solving practical problems,” he said. “I was especially intrigued by projects at Ben-Gurion University and  Technion to create a sustainable living environment in the Negev Desert.”

Among the plans are one-year post-doctoral fellowships. “We plan to host the first successful candidate in the fall,” Janda said.  “The School of Physical Sciences has also agreed to sponsor travel fellowships to enable student visits from Tel Aviv University.”

Underlining the significance of the academic mission, President Shimon Peres met with the UCI delegation in his residence offices. During a 45-minute conversation, he emphasized the shared priorities and importance of international cooperation and educational exchanges.

“We were privileged to hear his thoughts,” Drake said. “It was an exceptional opportunity and a very positive and productive conversation.”

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev: Located in the desert, it shares with UCI an expertise in water issues, nanotechnology and medicine. Many programs are conducted in English.

About Technion – Israel Institute of Technology:The oldest university in Israel is, like UCI, world-renowned for multidisciplinary engineering research, nanotechnology innovation and alternative energy development. It boasts three Nobel laureates in chemistry, with wins in 2004 and 2011.

About Hebrew University of Jerusalem: It’s the best institution of higher learning in Israel and 57th globally, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Its impressive book and manuscript collection includes Albert Einstein’s personal papers.

About Tel Aviv University: Founded four decades ago, it has been deemed No. 2 in Israel by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and has a rich history of international student exchange and research excellence, particularly in engineering and the arts and humanities.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led byChancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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