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Like many other events in the past six months, the graduation ceremony for the Feinberg Graduate School had a different feel than in any other year, taking place in September rather than May, and with a format that included social distancing and streaming. Yet the new graduates – 309 PhDs and MScs were awarded – found that the spirit of Dr. Chaim Weizmann is alive and well.
Dr. Eman Khatib-Massalha, who spoke in the name of the graduates, quoted Weizmann: “’I trust and feel sure in my heart that science will bring to this land both peace and renewal of its youth.’” Khatib-Massalha described to participants and viewers her initial fears about moving to Rehovot and studying in English, in a place with such a high reputation for the quality of its research. Dedicating the speech to her sister, Hiba, who passed away during her studies, Eman pointed out that she clearly succeeded, as she is received a dean’s prize for excellence and a women-in-science award to help her and family move to Cambridge University in the UK, where she will begin postdoctoral research.
President of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Prof. Alon Chen, told participants that the unique format “only hones the emotion and the significance of this moment in your lives and in that of the Institute…The challenges that await you, already tomorrow morning, are different from those that faced graduates in previous years…The good news is that as you go out into this new reality you have tools from the frontier of human knowledge that will enable you to contribute to improving the situation.”
Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School, Prof. Gilad Perez, also referred to the coronavirus, pointing out that while the pandemic was unexpected, each graduate has the tools to deal with the unknown, and has been doing so already on a daily basis. Also addressing the graduates were the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and the Chair of the Institute’s Scientific Council, Prof. Daniella Goldfarb.
The keynote speaker was the Chair of the Israeli Academy of Science and Humanities and Israel Prize winner for legal research, Prof. Nili Cohen. Cohen had already requested the numbers of male and female graduates, pointing out that their overall percentage was close to half, but women were still underrepresented in the fields of physics, math and computer sciences. Cohen had her own personal connection to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who had visited New York in 1923, where he was hosted by her grandparents, Baruch and Bat-Sheva Grabelsky. That visit, she said, is what led her family to immigrate to Jerusalem. The new graduates, she added, “embody his values and will hopefully act in the spirit of advancing both science and humanity in the way he envisioned.”