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Northwestern and BGU sign Water MOU

Sep. 12, 2017

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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Northwestern University (NU) signed an agreement to collaborate on water research on Monday afternoon. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel participated in the signing as part of the Mayor’s Delegation to Israel, which seeks to advance partnerships between Chicago and Israel to solve global water challenges. 

“Chicago is home to more universities in America than any other city except for Boston. Almost all of the universities are represented in our delegation, bringing heads of their departments in water research,” Emanuel said at the opening of the WATEC 2017 conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning.
“We are bringing together the heartland of America with the Holy Land, we are bringing both the Mideast and the Midwest together and our view of abundance with your view of scarcity and hopefully something beautiful will come of that,” he declared.
The MOU was signed by BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi; Prof. Dan Blumberg, BGU’s Vice President and Dean for Research and Development; Prof. Aaron Packman of NU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Water Research and  Dr. Fruma Yehiely, NU associate vice president for research.
The signing follows in the footsteps of the successful ongoing collaboration between the University of Chicago and BGU. Mayor Emanuel was present as well during the signing of that agreement in 2013 at the Israeli President’s Residence.
“Four years ago between Ben-Gurion University and the University of Chicago, they started a joint project. We already have one commercial product out of that and numerous papers have been published,” Emanuel said at Israel’s largest international water conference and exhibition on Tuesday.
An interdisciplinary team from BGU’s world-renowned Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and the acclaimed Northwestern Center for Water Research will include hydrologists, soil scientists, geologists, chemists, microbiologists, and engineers. The result will be a unique scientific environment facilitating the investigation of environmental challenges and the joint development of solutions for water-related problems. The new MOU will focus on student exchanges, post-docs and new research projects.
“BGU is a longtime leader in water research,” said Prof. Dan Blumberg, “The Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research is an international hub focusing on the most urgent water-related needs of billions of people. We are pleased to be joining forces with Northwestern University following the success of the University of Chicago-BGU collaboration.”
“This partnership substantially increases opportunities for Northwestern faculty and students to collaborate with peers in Israel, and allows us to contribute to solutions faced by the Middle East and other arid regions,” says Prof. Aaron Packman, director of the Northwestern Center for Water Research. “This is an important step towards the vision of broader collaboration with Israel on water that was developed jointly by the Water Center and the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern​.”  
There have been ongoing contacts between NU and BGU over the last couple of years focusing on research and sustainable water management between Israel and the Palestinian Authority administration areas.
Four projects are already in plac​e:

  • *Sera Young (NU); Noam Weisbrod (BGU); and Hwong-wen Ma, National Taiwan University, will study “novel tools for the cross-cultural assessment of water insecurity and water interventions.” Prof. Noam Weisbrod directs the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.

  • *Kyoo Chul Park (NU); Neelesh Patankar(NU); and Jack Gilron (BGU), will study “next generation water treatment technology for brine management and decentralized water supply.”

  • *Neelesh Patankar (NU), Kyoo Chul Park (NU), and Naftali Lazarovitch (BGU) on water trapping for agriculture in arid lands.

  • *Shai Arnon (BGU), Rina Schumer (Desert Research Institute), and Aaron Packman (NU) on dynamics of mixtures of coarse and fine sediments, which is important for land stability, ecosystem degradation, and contamination risks for water reuse.  The project is funded by the NSF-BSF joint program in geosciences.
The University of Chicago-BGU collaboration, which has been running for four years, has had four successful joint research projects. The collaboration is led by Prof. Moshe Gottlieb from BGU and Prof. Matthew Tirrell from UC:

  • *Prof. Moti Herskowitz (BGU) and Prof. Steven Sibener (UC) led the team that developed a novel catalytic system for decomposition of industrial organic waste. Systematic investigations of catalytic wet oxidation processes yielded a catalyst and process development. A proof of concept was achieved and steps for commercialization are under way.

  • *Prof. Eilon Adar (BGU) and Prof. Reika Yokochi (UC) led the team that developed a unique hydrological water dating technique and instrumentation. A new more reliable dating of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer underneath the Negev desert and Sinai Peninsula achieved. Age ranges from 46,000 years in the Negev to 627,000 years down in the Rift Valley, enabling, for the first time, tracking of the downstream evolution of groundwater ages along the flow trajectories.  Steps for commercialization are being explored.

  • *Prof. Moshe Gottlieb (BGU) and Prof. Matthew Tirrell (UC) led the team that developed a new anti-biofouling coating for desalination membranes.

  • *​A novel method for marine cleanup of oil spills. Large scale experiments are to be carried out soon (University of Chicago scientist Dr. Seth Darling secured funds independently after the initial joint project). 

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