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The Weizmann Institute of Science will have a new president a year from now when Prof. Ilan Chet's term ends. The Rehovot institute's search committee nominated Prof. Daniel Zajfman, who will become the institute's 10th president upon the formal approval of the board of directors.
Zajfman, an expert in atomic physics, married and the father of two, was born in Belgium in 1959 and moved to Israel 20 years later. He received his BSc in 1983 and PhD in 1989 from the Technion in Haifa. He then completed post-doctoral research at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.
In 1991, he returned to the Weizmann Institute as a senior scientist in the particle physics department and promoted to full professor in 2003. Today, he serves as head of the physics services unit.
For the last four years, he has been an external member of the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and in 2005 was named a director of the German institute. In this capacity, he is currently overseeing a 4.5 million euro project to construct an ion storage ring that will work at a temperature approaching absolute zero.
His research focuses on the reaction dynamics of small molecules and how they influence the composition of the interstellar medium. He recreates the conditions of outer space in the laboratory using special devices called ion "traps" or "storage rings." In these devices, he is able to briefly store and measure the properties of small amounts of material, as little as a few hundred atomsâ€š under the extreme conditions, especially very low temperatures and low densities, of interstellar space. Some of his research has focused on how complex molecules are formed in outer space.
When making the announcement on Tuesday, the Weizmann Institute said Prof. Zajfman has invested much time and effort in community outreach to the public in general and youth in particular. One of his goals is to broaden interest in, and knowledge of, the advances taking place on the scientific front.