Technion–Israel Institute of Technology |

From Rugby to Microscopy, From Milan to Haifa

When 27-year-old Sara Iacopetti initially came to Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, it was as part of a student-exchange program in collaboration with her home university. She ended up staying for her PhD as well

Ella Lavon, Promoted Content
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Sara Iacopetti on the Technion rugby team. Photo Technion PR
Sara Iacopetti on the Technion rugby teamCredit: Technion PR
Ella Lavon, Promoted Content
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Sara was a Master’s student at the University of Politecnico di Milano, where she studied Materials Science and Engineering. “I really just wanted to do research here and go back, but Prof. Emeritus Moshe Eizenberg, who mentored me, sent me a proposal to return to Israel to do a PhD; so, I did,” she explains. She had no problem coping with the distinctive Israeli personality, as “it’s similar to the Italian temperament. And the scenery here is great – you just leave the dorms and you’re right in a forest. It’s very different from Milan, which is very urban.”

Sara says that the Master’s degree studies in Italy focused more on the theoretical, without research, but in Israel, she was exposed to experimental research and labs equipped with top-notch instruments. She says, “I was very surprised that the students here, unlike those at the PoliMi, receive a lot of trust and responsibility. They are an important part of the research team.” She continues, “Although there is still a lot of focus on theory, which is essential when trying to develop complex applications, we are really developing practical processes for production transistors.”

Technion students taking a break at a cafeteriaCredit: Technion PR

As part of her doctoral research, Sara has become part of the Technion academic staff as a lecturer. For her research, she spends much of her time at Technion Electron Microscopy Center (MIKA) and at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute.

“The team is a family”

But Sara’s integration into Technion life did not stop in the classroom. In Italy, Sara enjoyed a successful career in rugby, traveling around the world and participating in international tournaments. Since coming to Technion, she has joined the women's rugby team, the Wild Boars. She noted that the Technion team produced top players in the Israeli National team, including the captain of the current Women’s National team. For the past three years, Sara has also been captain of the Haifa women’s team, and she has no doubt that rugby helps her in her studies. “I believe that sports are a necessary activity for preserving the mental health of students. Rugby, specifically, is a charming, very physical, yet not violent sport that gives me a lot of joy and motivation for studying as well. The team is a family and includes Christians, Jews and Muslims – students from various countries and backgrounds – and this is a great combination with a strong team spirit.” And no less important – on the Wild Boars team she met her current partner, Omri Afek.

So, what's next? “I intend to complete my doctorate and leave academics to work in industry. Also, the possibility of working in a start-up company intrigues me. In any case, I don’t intend to leave Israel, probably not for a long time.”

The Technion campus on Mount CarmelCredit: Technion PR

Technion researchers help fight Covid-19

Researchers in over 50 labs across the Technion campus are working 24/7 to meet the challenge of Covid-19. Their research includes early detection and diagnosis of the virus, development of a vaccine and therapies, and protective solutions for medical staff and care workers.

In late March, Technion announced one of the first personal protective equipment (PPE) developments for protecting medical teams from Covid-19. Comprised of a nanofiber sheet, the unique ‘Maya’ sticker can be easily adhered to a protective mask, significantly improving its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus. With an agreement now in place, mass production of the Maya sticker has begun in Israel, at Kibbutz Ein Harod.

The sticker was developed under the leadership of Prof. Eyal Zussman of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Technion, under the clinical guidance of Prof. Samer Srouji, the director of the Maxillofacial Surgery Department at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. Prof. Zussman, an expert on the development of nanometer fibers for various uses, mobilized his knowledge to create a sticker based on a nanofiber sheet to improve the protection capability of protective masks against the novel coronavirus. Due to its tiny size – 130 nanometers – the virus can penetrate a standard protective mask, where the pores between fibers are comparatively large, in the order of hundreds of microns. The nanoscale pores of the sticker prevent the virus from penetrating the mask, and the researchers incorporated biocides into the fiber sheet that neutralize trapped viruses within a few seconds.

Many more Technion breakthroughs pertinent to Covid-19 are showing great promise. Among them:

A saliva-based microscale diagnostic system (Prof. Moran Bercovici, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering)
A rapid testing kit for diagnosing the coronavirus (Prof. Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine)
A pooling method for accelerated testing of Covid-19 (Prof. Roy Kishony, Faculty of Biology)
A potential vaccine for Covid-19 based on a vaccine for shrimp (Prof. Avi Schroeder, Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering)
Trapping Covid-19 using existing nano-ghost technology (Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering)
Liquid Foam Therapy (LIFT) for acute respiratory distress syndrome (Prof. Josué Sznitman, Faculty of Biomedical Engineering)
Durable surface disinfectant (Prof. Yachin Cohen, Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering)
Analysis of antiviral disinfectants (Prof. Debbie Lindell and Prof. Oded Beja, Faculty of Biology)
Ointment for treating Covid-19 infections (Prof. Roee Amit, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering)

Academic Opportunities

Technion is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy. Coupled with the innate Israeli innovative spirit, these achievements have helped earn the country’s reputation as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Technion International offers students from around the world an opportunity to join academic programs, taught entirely in English:

BSc. Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical Engineering provides the foundational engineering infrastructure for all modern industry. A Mechanical Engineer is responsible for constructing creative solutions using scientific and technological innovations. From developing designs to building machines, Mechanical Engineers are essential to contributing to the advancement of humanity as well as its welfare.

BSc. Civil Engineering: Turn your designs into plans. Put your plans into action. It’s time to make an impact. Change the way your family, your friends, and your community moves, builds, and conserves. Civil Engineers are creators, problem-solvers, and pioneers. With population growth, urbanization growth, and growing environmental awareness, there is important work to be done and creative solutions to be developed by Civil Engineers.

Semester Study Abroad program in Engineering and Science: Technion’s semester study abroad program in engineering and science is designed to give international students a unique academic experience, as well as a chance to get to know Israel, the “Start-Up Nation.”

Summer Program in Entrepreneurship with a Professional Internship: Technion invites tech-minded students from around the world for an unforgettable summer experience at Israel’s acclaimed institute for science, technology, and applied research. Students will take courses, taught by the Technion’s renowned faculty, in Entrepreneurship and Innovation alongside international peers, while earning academic credits and interning at an Israeli engineering or start-up company.

For more information about programs at Technion International, visit: int.technion.ac.il