The Technion Community
How does the Technion win awards and attract international collaborators while continuing to innovate at breakneck speed? The answer lies in the Technion Community. This incredible group of researchers, donors and alumni push the boundaries of science and technology further than most dare to dream because they share a common purpose. With mutual respect and affection and an eye on the goal, the Technion Community is able to work together harmoniously to make the world a better place
Adi Hanuka : Featured Doctoral Student
Less than two years after earning her bachelor’s degree, Adi Hanuka had already created a medical device, published her first paper, was on an accelerated track towards a Technion doctorate, and had met former President Clinton. It’s a career path that she says is not particularly extraordinary.
“I have excelled because I do things I love; I do them with all of my heart,” she says. “When you do something you love, then there is no way it won’t be successful.”
The device, Eyelid Motion Monitor (EMM), is aimed at diagnosing disease based on eyelid movement. Just as an increased blink rate is often consistent with lying, the frequency of eye blinks and the time elapsed between one blink and the next can be indicative not only of eye disease, but of stress, autoimmune diseases like Grave’s disease, and even neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. “Eyelid motion provides us with meaningful information about the health status of a patient,” Adi explains.
In March 2014, the project prototype went into clinical trials at Israel’s Emek Medical Center.
While Adi continues to advance the EMM, she is focusing her doctoral studies in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering on Optical Medical Accelerators. Through theoretical research with Technion Professor Levi Schachter and experimental work with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, Adi aims to develop tiny optical radiation devices for targeted cancer treatment. “Existing devices operate on energy from big, expensive accelerators, and this radiation also damages healthy tissue. Our vision is to develop a compact accelerator (the size of a soda can) that would be relatively inexpensive, with a capacity for direct targeted radiation to the tumor site.” The size and cost would make the machines accessible to small clinics.
Born in Nesher, Israel, and the first in her family to pursue a college education, Adi graduated the Technion summa cum laude in 2013, participating in both the Chais Excellence Program and the Electrical Engineering Excellence Program. She served in the Intelligence Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, receiving an award for unique duty fulfillment as a commander, and the IDF Officers’ Course Award for Excellency.
As an undergraduate, she co-founded the program BeChen (Girls Meet at EE), to strengthen women’s sense of belonging to and confidence in engineering, in both academia and industry. “It is an open door for all kinds of problems that females share in a male-dominated field,” she says. Her efforts were recognized with The Ariane de Rothschild Women Doctoral Program scholarship, funded by The Rothschild Caesarea Foundation to promote the advancement of women in Israeli academia.
Adi has received numerous other awards, including the Technion Award for Excellence in Teaching (for student teaching), for three consecutive years. The EMM device made it to the top 20 teams in the Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge last year. And as exciting as it was for her to meet former President Clinton, when she was chosen to participate in the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, nothing prepared her for her latest honor.
Adi was chosen to represent Israel this past July at the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, a globally recognized forum in which Nobel Prize winners meet the next generation of leading scientists. Some 70 Nobel laureates were in attendance, including Technion Distinguished Professors Dan Shechtman and Aaron Ciechanover. “It was a life-changing experience,” she says. “I’ve been humbled by all the laureates and my fellow scientists. I’ve never been so excited about science, about my research, about my future.”
Janet Shatz Snyder : Featured ATS Leader
Janet Shatz Snyder was a young woman when her parents, Paul and Deane Shatz, first took her to the Technion. Visiting the Aerodynamics Laboratory, she watched in awe as the high-tech scientists used a hair dryer to create a simulated wind tunnel. “It was an unusual image,” she recalls, and one that stuck with her. “The Technion does so much with so little!”
In recent years, Janet has become a pillar of the American Technion Society (ATS) Washington, D.C. Region — following in the footsteps of her father, a Technion Guardian. Janet regularly hosts ATS events and board meetings, is a graduate of the ATS 21st Century Leadership Development Program, and serves on both the local and national Boards. Most recently, she has taken the initiative to head up the SciTech Scholarship Committee in Washington, D.C., with the aim of getting to know prospective students and enhancing the marketing of scholarships in the local community. She is also involved in the Training and Mentoring Working Group of the National Leadership Development Committee, where she is helping to create a “Technion 101” orientation guide for newcomers.
Janet says she became active in 2007, when her father took the helm as the Washington, D.C. Regional President. Her first mission, at her father’s directive, was to help him bring younger people into the chapter. “If we honor those who came before us through our actions and commitment, the Technion will continue to flourish and grow,” she says.
“Janet brings enormous energy and passion to everything she takes on for our ATS chapter. She applies her marketing skill and capacity for strategic thinking and planning to everything we do, to make sure it is purposeful,” says Sol Glasner, current President of the Washington, D.C. Region. “As the leader of our chapter’s SciTech recruitment activity, Janet laid out the broad objectives and calibrated every execution detail, in order to maximize the opportunity for positive outcomes.”
Growing up in St. Louis (the family moved to D.C. in 1987), Janet was made aware of the world around her by her mother, Deane, who was involved with the World Affairs Council there. “My mom would open her doors to Iranian pilots (McDonnell Douglas is based in St. Louis), Vietnamese teachers and students from all over the world,” she says. Janet and her husband, Dan, have continued to serve as hosts, opening their home in Bethesda to guests from all over, including Israeli students.
Janet is pursuing a master’s degree in art history from Towson University (outside of Baltimore), and already holds an M.B.A. from George Washington University. She spent the bulk of her professional career at Fannie Mae, where she created the nationwide trading desk for mortgage-backed securities and headed up the company’s marketing. She managed the business as she does her ATS outreach — building relationships one person at a time. “I take the one-on-one marketing approach,” which she credits the ATS for having mastered.
Retired from her career, Janet is now focused on giving back. “My involvement is inspired by my father,” she says. In addition to his many gifts as a Technion Guardian, which include passionate support for Israeli veterans and student soldiers, among other projects, Paul is a past President and Chairman of the D.C. Region, a former member of the ATS National Board of Directors and an Honorary Life Member of the Technion Board of Governors.
As her father did with her, she involves her children — Glenn, Libby and Brook — in the ATS, and urges others to do the same. “When you’re a second-generation supporter, the ATS is with you from the time you are young and it’s in your DNA,” she says. “It’s not something you discover. It’s who you are.”
Jonathan Sohnis : Featured Alumnus
Most philanthropists make their money before giving it away, but Jonathan Sohnis did it the other way around. Jonathan started supporting the Technion through the American Technion Society (ATS) while he was still building his business, and became a Technion Guardian by the age of 40 — one of the youngest in the organization’s history. “It was risky, but I felt it was important. Maybe it drove me to make sure I would succeed,” he says.
A Technion graduate (’79), Jonathan says his rigorous training in math and physics gave him a leg up on his competitors when he co-founded Altronix with fellow Technion Guardian Alan Forman in 1983. The Brooklyn-based high-tech company, which designs and manufactures electronics for video surveillance, security and other fire life/safety applications, became immensely successful, enabling him and his wife Edna to support the Technion and Israel.
“The Technion has always been essential in building Israel’s sophisticated defense and high-tech economy,” he says. “If you build the economy, Israel becomes stronger as a nation.”
Jonathan grew up in a Zionistic family, where his father spoke of the Technion’s excellence. So one week before graduating high school, Jonathan phoned the ATS and asked: “How do I go about applying to the Technion?” A week later, speaking no Hebrew other than the traditional prayers, he was on his way to Israel. After studying in the Technion preparatory program for three months, he took his entrance exams — in Hebrew — and was accepted into the electrical engineering faculty, among the most challenging at the university.
“It was a serious program,” he says of student life at the time. “But if you’re ideologically motivated, everything else is inconsequential.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree, he thought: “Israel’s industries were sparsely privatized, which limited opportunities. I can do more for Israel if I apply my technical abilities and sense of entrepreneurship in the U.S. to start a company, and build the financial engine necessary to support Israel and the Technion.” Not long after launching his business, he found his way to the ATS Manhattan office. He saw a need, and stepped in. Fundraising efforts were inefficient because its fundraising resource application program and the wide area computer network system on which it ran weren’t up to par. Drawing from his technological background, Jonathan helped upgrade the system; then he kept on working.
“Through the support of my colleagues at the Technion and ATS, I was able to bring forth new projects. The success of these initiatives flowed from this synergism,” he says.
He was President of the New York Metropolitan Region from 1999-2001. Currently, he is a member of the National Board of Directors and a member of several committees, including Technology, which he led for at least a decade, and Grants, which he co-chairs. He serves the Technion Board of Governors on its Academic Advisory Committee. He was also involved with the Technion’s proposal to build a center for nanotechnology, and has since served on the International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute.
Jonathan attended the Technion on scholarship, and in 1990 made his first gift — the Jonathan Sohnis Scholarship Fund. His only request of the recipients is that they read a letter he wrote at the establishment of the fund, asking them to consider giving as their future financial status enables. In the early 2000s, he established the Sohnis Chair in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, the Sohnis Family Laboratory for Cardio Electro-Physiology and Regenerative Medicine, and with his close friend and business partner, created the Sohnis and Forman Families Center of Excellence for Stem Cell and Tissue Regeneration Research. Later on, Jonathan supported the Edna and Jonathan Sohnis Promising Scientists Programs, among other projects.
“When people succeed in the financial sense that the world interprets as successful, there is a moral obligation to understand that we are but a vehicle to manage this good fortune for better causes,” he says.
Jonathan and Edna, who is Israeli, raised three daughters speaking only Hebrew at home in NY. For his service and contributions to the Technion, Jonathan was recognized with a Technion Honorary Fellowship and an Honorary Doctorate, and was named a Distinguished Fellow of the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering.