New Worlds: Jerusalem’s natural science library lends out more than books

At the beginning of the academic year, the library purchased iPads for reading articles, electronic books from its collections.

APPLE’S NEWEST iPad 370 (photo credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
(photo credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
In 2009, the natural sciences library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was one of the first in the country to lend laptops to faculty and students.
Today, it is offering them iPads on loan.
At the beginning of the academic year, the library purchased iPads for making it possible to read articles and electronic books from the library’s collections.
So far it has bought 10 of the digital devices for students as a pilot program; the library has thus become the first in the country to lend students iPads.
Michal Hai-Atias, the director of the Harman Library for Natural Sciences, said that “we take care to keep our fingers on the pulse of technology and provide our readers with the most advanced equipment to support teaching and research in the faculty.”
“The new service will make maximum accessibility possible at any time and in any place. We are happy to offer this quality service first to students of mathematics and the natural sciences and all who come to the library.”
SLOWING DOWN DNA WITH LIGHT Ultra-fast, low-cost sequencing of DNA would revolutionize healthcare and biomedical research, sparking major advances in drug development, preventive medicine and personalized medicine. By gaining access to the entire sequence of an individual’s genome, a doctor could determine the probability that he’ll develop a specific genetic disease or tolerate selected medications.
In pursuit of that goal, Prof. Amit Meller has spent much of the past decade spearheading a method that uses solid state nanopores – two-to-five-nanometer- wide holes in silicon chips – that read DNA strands as they pass through to optically sequence DNA molecules.
Now Meller and a team of researchers at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Boston University have discovered a simple way to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and speed of the method, making it an even more viable option for DNA sequencing or characterization of small proteins, such as ubiquitin, in their native folded state.
Publishing findings in Nature Nanotechnology, the team demonstrated that focusing a low-power, commercially available green laser on a nanopore increases current near walls of the pore, which is immersed in salt water. As the current increases, it sweeps the salt water along with it in the opposite direction of incoming samples. The onrushing water, in turn, acts as a brake, slowing down the passage of DNA through the pore. As a result, the nanoscale sensors can get a higher-resolution read of the DNA as it crosses the pore, and identify small proteins that could not previously be detected.
Meller explained: “The light-induced surface charge modulation phenomenon that we describe in this paper can be used to instantly switch on and off the ‘brakes’ acting on individual biopolymers, such as DNA or proteins sliding through the nanopores. This critically enhances the sensing resolution of solid-state nanopores and can be easily integrated in future nanopore-based DNA sequencing and protein detection technologies.
“Slowing down DNA is essential to DNA or RNA sequencing with nanopores, so that nanoscale sensors can make the right call on what’s passing through.”
NEW JCT PRESIDENT Prof. Chaim Sukenik, former dean of Bar-Ilan University’s faculty of exact sciences and director of the Minerva Center for Nanoscale Particles and Films, has become president of the growing Jerusalem College of Technology. At the Ramat Gan university, the US-born scientist who came on aliya with his family in 1995 was responsible for a research system of 400 people and 30 labs working in the fields of physics, chemistry, engineering and life sciences.
He replaces as JCT president Prof. Noah Dana-Picard, a leading Frenchborn mathematician who ran the college for the past four years. Dana-Picard is not leaving JCT, which combines Torah studies with engineering and other hi-tech fields for men and women (on separate Jerusalem campuses). A chair in mathematics, Torah and education has been established where Dana- Picard and students will investigate this integrated subject. The chair was inaugurated recently on campus in memory of his parents, both of them French lawyers.