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He will take office on Dec. 1, 2006, at which time he will replace Prof. Ilan Chet, who finishes his term of office. Prof. Zajfman will be the youngest president to serve the Weizmann Institute: He will be 47 when he takes office.
Prof. Daniel Zajfman was born in Belgium in 1959 and moved to Israel in 1979. He received a B.Sc. in 1983 and a Ph.D. in 1989 from the Technion, in Haifa, in atomic physics. He then completed post-doctoral research at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. In 1991, he returned to the Weizmann Institute as a Senior Scientist in the Particle Physics Department. In 1997, he was appointed Associate Professor and was promoted to Full professor in 2003. Since 2001, he has been an external member of the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, and in 2005, he was appointed as a Director in the Max Planck Institute.
Prof. Zajfman's research focuses on the reaction dynamics of small molecules and how they influence the composition of the interstellar medium. He recreates the conditions of outer space in the laboratory using special devices called ion 'traps' or 'storage rings.' In these devices, he is able to briefly store and measure the properties of small amounts of material, as little as a few hundred atoms or molecules-worth, under the extreme conditions of interstellar space (especially very low temperatures and low densities). Some of his research has focused on the puzzle of how complex molecules are formed in outer space.
In addition to his research, Prof. Zajfman has invested much time and effort in community outreach, to the public in general and youth in particular. One of his goals is to broaden interest in and knowledge of the advances taking place on the scientific front.
Prof. Zajfman is married to Joelle, who has an M.Sc. in physics and works as a sculptor, and is father to Eyal (17) and Noga (15).
Immediately following his election, Prof. Zajfman spoke to the Board of Governors, Weizmann Institute scientists, Institute employees and friends. The following are excerpts from his speech:
'It is for me an immense privilege to have been elected the tenth President of the Weizmann Institute of Science at the age of 47. It is an immense privilege because when I immigrated to Israel, as a young student, just after finishing high school in Belgium in 1979, I had two dreams: The first one was related to the Zionist idea: as a young Jewish boy, I was educated with a strong vision for Israel, and I wanted to help in the development of a modern homeland for the Jewish people. The second dream was more personal: During my previous visits to Israel, before I immigrated, as a tourist, I got the feeling that this is the country of unlimited opportunities, where a young adult can realize himself, and that anything which is being done here in Israel, has a very different taste than if it is done abroad. A taste of milk, honey and without any doubt, the taste of victory of a small tribe of Jewish people who exemplify in their achievements the notion that it is quality, not quantity,that really matters.
'What should the Weizmann Institute's goal be today? I’m convinced that the goal of this Institute is linked to the cornerstone of our civilization: The mandate of Weizmann is to work on new ideas, to foster innovation, and its no less important mandate is to prepare young people, who will bring these new ideas to fruition. I’m convinced that there are no more important tasks in the world than developing new ideas and engaging in education. This is the ultimate act of faith in the future of our country, the future of the world, and the future of mankind. This is what Weizmann is all about. And this is why I have accepted to take up this position.
'Today, the time between basic discoveries in the laboratory and their application in the everyday world has never been so short. It is a secret to nobody that the world economy is directly and strongly influenced by technologies which have been developed only very recently in research laboratories. And the large increase in human life expectancy, which has almost doubled over the last century, is the direct result of this scientific revolution. All this happened in the past century; in the present century, I believe knowledge will become an industry; research a commodity, and education a must.
'Big challenges are waiting for us in each of the different scientific fields in which Weizmann is involved: Physics is today reinventing itself and is on the verge of new breakthroughs in quantum technology, in the understanding of the universe, and on the unification of the force of nature. Chemistry is going through a transformation with the development of the most sophisticated analytical tools ever created, allowing the scientists in this field to probe with incredible detail into the structure of nature, from synthetic materials to the most complex bio-molecules. Mathematics, the field which is so opaque to many, is already forging new avenues into our life by influencing the way biologists understand living organisms. The life sciences themselves are right now undergoing a revolution. And this revolution will change completely the way diseases will be treated, and drugs will be designed. It is the century where speed of light and speed of life will be equivalent.
'However, the privilege to be the President of the Weizmann Institute does not come without a commitment. And my commitment is to bring this Institute to an even better and stronger position than it has held in the past. It is my commitment to ensure that it remains forever young, so that it can renew itself forever. It is my commitment to promote and support the best ideas of our scientists so that they, in their laboratories, can create a better world.
'In the education arena, we need to restructure our educational activities, and create new ventures which will increase the awareness of the general public to the great scientific challenges facing our society, and use this as a tool to create a community which understands what science is all about, is not afraid of new developments, and is able to use knowledge for the purpose of a better life. We must face irrationality directly, and we can do this by educating a wider portion of society. An education into the scientific basics that shape our lives so fundamentally gives citizens vital tools for rational decision-making in their daily lives, be it in medicine and health, in marketing and advertising, in economics and investments, in technology and gadgets, in environmental issues, in fact – in every field of life. Weizmann has a role to play, and it will raise the flag.'
Photos and the full text of the speech may be obtained from the Publications and Media Relations Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science: 08-934-3856
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,500 scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Weizmann Institute news releases are posted on the World Wide Web at http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il, and are also available at http://www.eurekalert.org.