December 16, 2018

Israeli Technion Students Share Knowledge with L.A.

A couple of students from the Israeli Technion visited Los Angeles from Feb. 26-28 to share their knowledge about Israel’s tech startup culture.

Roni Hillel is studying environmental engineering and working toward her Ph.D. in environmental quality sciences. She is currently researching water and wind flows to help ameliorate pollution from areas that are surrounded by mountains.

“Winds on mountain slopes – or the actual microclimates – are actually determined by the slopes themselves of the mountains, so how steep or not steep these slopes are,” Hillel told the Journal. “As of today, there is not much physical understanding of these types of slopes.”

Hillel is modeling these slopes in a lab through a water tank, heating and other methods to simulate the climate itself on these particular slopes.

“We’re trying to get the best picture that we can to generate a model to be able to determine these little microclimates in the region and eventually to be able to predict how to drive pollution out of areas like that, urban areas,” Hillel said.

Hillel predicts that by the end of her Ph.D. program – which is expected to February 20 – her research will have advanced to the point where technology can be developed that can exterminate pollution from these areas while keeping the natural environment intact. However, it’s too early to get an idea of what exactly this kind of technology would look like.

“We don’t understand 100% the physical phenomena that’s occurring in nature, but right now we are trying to understand it as much as we can,” Hillel said. “The initial phase would be able to predict weather predictions better, to able to predict climate change better than we do today, because weather predictions today are only 33% accurate, and they’re proud of that, and they’re only based on statistics. So if we add a little bit of physical background into it, we can get much more accurate weather predictions.”

Hillel added, “Ultimately, driving pollution areas or urban areas like that, that would be the next step. But we’re not there yet.”

When it comes to environmental technology as a whole, Israel is ahead of the curve, as evident by numerous Israelis using solar power to heat their water and the use of desalination to obtain drinking water. Hillel suggested that the latter would be useful for California to embrace given the state’s prior droughts.

“It works amazing in Israel,” Hillel said. “Most of the water that’s supplied in Israel is actually from desalination plants and we even export water to countries around us Israel. It’s great technology, it’s always progressing because it has such a high demand and the water prices are dropping as technology advances.”

The other student, Moran Lazar, is studying behavioral sciences and management at The Technion’s William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. Her focus is on the kind of relationships among team members that cause startups to thrive and fail. Lazar cited a startup that provided imaging for apartment furniture as an example, as they were on the verge of receiving seed funding when the two founders ended their partnership over a business disagreement. Consequently, the startup failed.

“If I’m the best in technology, I would look for the best in marketing, the best in finance, the best in operations, and I would also look for partners that I trust, that I can build a strong connection and trustful connection with, so both the interpersonal connection and expertise and resource seeking are important,” Lazar told the Journal.

Lazar credited the Technion for how they “support women in academia” and provide “fertile ground for young researchers like Roni and I to become the best in Israel.”

Robert Rothschild, the Technion’s Director for Leadership Giving of Western Region, told the Journal that students like Hillel and Lazar sharing their Technion experience “makes them truly connect to the importance of the fellowships.”

“The qualities of these two women and others like them who are exceptional, and that this is what the Technion produces is great for Israel, it’s great for Technion, it’s great for all of us,” Rothschild said. “As far as I’m concerned, they are the gift that we provide all of our donors when they come every year because this is the future of Israel, and that’s the purpose of their trip.”