It is winter vacation time in Brazil but the ORT Institute of Technology in Rio de Janeiro was full of students, parents and teachers eager to meet visiting Nobel Prize laureate Professor Dan Shechtman. Professor Shechtman, who is Chairman of World ORT’s Academic Advisory Council, and his wife, Tzipora, Professor of Counselling and Human Development at Haifa University, spent an evening at the school as part of their five-day stay in the city, which was organised by ORT Brazil.
And they spent their last day touring ORT Brazil’s pioneering Experimental Centre for Environmental Education, which is set amid 850,000 square metres of forests, rivers and lakes in Petropolis, 70 kilometres from Rio.
“I was very impressed with the facilities, teachers and students at ORT Brazil,”? Professor Shechtman said. “World ORT is internationally recognised for the excellence of its schools and ORT Brazil can be proud to offer the World ORT standard of quality.”?
ORT Brazil National Director Hugo Malajovich said the Shechtmans had captured the hearts of local people with their warmth, charisma and scientific talent.
“He looked around our biotechnology and science laboratories, watched experiments, talked to students and teachers; it was very good,”? said Mr Malajovich. “His visit opened a whole new dimension for our kids; they were fascinated and asked him many questions. He urged the children to find something they like, to become expert in it, and to always be the best. If they did that, he said, their future would be bright “ﾓ and this applied to any field, whether science or art.”?
Professor Shechtman, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery that atoms in rigid crystals could be packed together in ways which did not confirm to the two states previously recognised for solid matter “ﾓ crystalline, where atoms are arranged in rigid rows, and amorphous, with no particular order. For five years the scientific establishment refused to accept his experimental evidence of what are now known as quasicrystals.
He shared the story in his lecture at the ORT Institute of Technology, which is officially ranked as one of the best schools in the country, and also in a lecture at Rio’s Federal University. While in the city, Professor Shechtman, who teaches at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, also met fellow Academic Advisory Council member Emeritus Professor Moyses Nussenzveig, ORT Brazil Chairman Armando Klabin, Rio de Janeiro State’s Science and Technology Secretary, Luiz Edmundo Costa Leite, Brazilian Academy of Sciences President Jacob Palis, and Israel’s Consul, Osias Wurman, among others.
“Having Professor Shechtman as the Chairman of the Academic Advisory Council is a huge privilege for us and an inspiration for all of us not only at ORT in Brazil but in every ORT school around the world,”? said Mr Malajovich, who accompanied Professor Shechtman throughout his stay.
The Academic Advisory Council is an international group of prominent scholars who monitor educational trends and help to determine World ORT’s educational strategy. Former chairmen include the Oxford philosopher and historian of ideas Sir Isaiah Berlin, biophysicist Professor Ephraim Katzir (who had earlier been Israel’s fourth president), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev.
“The Academic Advisory Council is a critical component of World ORT’s long term strategic planning and we are profoundly grateful that Professor Shechtman, whose commitment to scientific inquiry is matched only by his determination to improve education, has joined the long line of illustrious individuals who have chaired it,”? said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer, adding that he was not surprised by Professor Shechtman’s praise for the ORT school in Rio de Janeiro. “It is an exemplary school in every way.”?
Professor Shechtman’s involvement with World ORT stretches back several years: in 2009 he was already playing a central role in making the organisation’s Mada-Na project a reality in Israel.
Mada-Na is a ring of five interactive exhibitions, each of which cover a field of science “ﾓ electricity and magnetism, mechanics, waves, optics, and liquids and gases “ﾓ and which travel between the host towns of Kiryat Yam, Nesher, Tirat HaCarmel, Misgav and Ma’ale Yosef.
“He effectively became the project’s steering committee, checked the displays for accuracy and accessibility, and attended each of the openings,”? said Dr Osnat Dagan, Pedagogical Manager for World ORT’s operations in Israel
When Mada-Na launched in 2009, Professor Shechtman said: “I think that the educational concept is good and that the build-up of the displays is very nice and neat. Hopefully this project will motivate students into becoming young scientists instead of lawyers and dentists.”?