Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Excitment and Disappointments

This morning we met with Eyal, the renovations supervisor. We learned that tomorrow we the electricity board will be connected, and that following that it will a take a week to test all the systems, repair minor issues, and then declare the lab ready for work. We already started to setup the steps needed to move all the equipment to the new lab, and set a date for end of the move.

Later in the morning, we learned that some of our neighboring labs were upset due to the planned disruption in electricity (to connect our board the next level of electricity boards has to be turned off). Turns out that a two-week long experiment will be ruined if the electricity will be cut. We learned to our surprise that although the move was coordinated it was done with a two day warning and that the affected labs didn't hear about it until one day ahead.

Consequently, the planned connection was delayed. The electricity contractor was booked in advanced, and so the next date that he could do it is in two weeks (June 8th). And so, due to poor coordination between the relevant parties, the project is delayed by a bit more than two weeks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Electric Board

The last missing item to finish the first half of the renovations is the electricity board. After we waited for it for two weeks it arrived Sunday at noon.

Before its arrival, the electricity people setup the main cord that will feed the board.

Once it arrived, it was put into place and secured.

Now the hard work of wiring started. For two days they worked to move the wires in to the board and connect them.

The thick bunch of green electricity wires that lead to that corner of the room was slowly organized.

In the end all of them were tacked in and secured inside.

As a minor bonus we got an impressive sunset on Sunday evening.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hard decisions: Lighting fixtures

Today the electricity people showed to install the lighting fixtures in the lab. I was urgently called to make a decision where I want them to be installed. The issue is that the original plan ignored the fact that there is going to be a storage cabinet along the inner wall, and so had the lights overlapping with the cabinet.

I showed up to find 5 workers idling waiting for the decision to be made. The new furniture was covered with plastic wraps to protect for the reminder of the work. After some discussions we decided it is best to see how things look. Very quickly two ceiling pieces were cut

and then had the fixtures installed in them.

We looked at the ceiling with the two offset fixtures for a while

Finally, we decided that the one closer to the central beam is better (you have to imagine a cabinet below the ceiling on the left).

The next question was how to position the fixtures on the other side of the beam. Whether to go for a symmetric setting or mirror the offset of the other half.

After another test, I decided to go with the straight-down-the-middle approach for this side. You can see in the picture the red fire safety lights and the fresh air inlets.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I have been writing a lot about the renovations in the lab. In fact, one reader commented that he thought all we do right now is watch the workers go about building the lab. Although this is not precise, and there is a lot of experimental activity, the renovations are something that takes attention and also makes easily observable progress.

Since I last wrote about the renovations, many things have happened.

The electricity people finished laying down the fixtures all along the walls. We had our own hot water system installed.

A carpenter came with his crew and installed covers over the A/C units

and a new door.

In parallel, another worker installed a state of the art fire alarm system.

On Tuesday a cleaning crew came in and removed all the waste and the dust.

It is instructive to compare to an image I took from a similar angle at the beginning of the work

And finally, on Wednesday the lab furniture crew arrived. I got an excited text message from Ayelet that they are here and came over. The the corridors outside the lab were full of hardware and cabinets.

In a very intense effort by a large team they started assembling the benches, the hood, and the sink.

Few hours later the bench tops were being secured in place.

This morning we came over and the shelves were being installed.

We were curious whether the desks were specious enough. So we took a computer and a chair and tested the desk.

Ayelet decreed that this was a success. Later toward mid-day, the workers finished with the furniture and moved to connect the electricity cables.

Now we are almost done with the first phase of renovations. The missing parts are the light fixtures, and the main electricity board.

A Moment of Naches

"Naches" is Yiddish for parental joy & pride (נחת in Hebrew).

Yoseph Barash, a graduate of my lab who is now a postdoc in Toronto (with Brendan Frey and Ben Benclowe) is the lead author of article in Nature. Moreover, his work made big splash with as the main item on the cover.

(From Nature)

If you want to get the layman's explanation, Nature provides a nice coverage. It seems that this result will get a lot of attention both in the media and in science. For example, see report in the Science Daily.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

Most people here did not hear about Cinco de Mayo, but still we had a celebration - today was the Faculty Day of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

As part of the tradition of the event students show off their research in a poster competition. For some reason every year this event is in weather that is slightly too hot. The faculty set up a big tent to shield from the sun. This is nice, but as the tent is blue, everyone inside has an Avatar-like tint. Although I came in a bit late due to a meeting at the School of Medicine, the place we full of people, faculty and students. It was nice to get a chance to see what other research groups are doing.

As is our own private tradition, my group was well represented. In fact, close to half of the CS posers were ours.

 (Ruty explains her most recent work to Shai Shalev-Swartz)

We had a fun visitor - Inbar passed by to show off the latest toy and encourage the poster presenter.

For some reason Tal finished his poster rather late into the event. To keep people on the edge, his poster was constructed in stage, with interesting delays to enhance the curiosity.

Another tradition we have is winning one of the poster prizes.  Tal's tactics did not win the judges' attention. Instead, using good science and nice explanations, Noa brought in the prize (2nd overall in the all faculty). Horay Noa!


(A potential judge examining Noa's poster)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

50 Years' Celebration

No, I am not fifty, yet. This year is the 50th year jubilee of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. As part of the celebration they held this week a conference in "Frontiers in Biomedical Research". The list of distinguished speakers included Ada Yonath, Mary-Claire King, and many others.

I had to rush from one thing to the next this week, but managed to get to hear (the end of) Ada Yonth's talk, and these by Matthias Mann, Leroy Hood, and Eric Lander.

Eric gave another talk on Weizmann on Tuesday and I encouraged all my students (and my mother) to go hear him, as he one of the better promoters of the biological revolution in genetics and genomics. In both venues the hall was too small for the audience. At the Weizmann people were sitting in the stairways, below the stage, and some on the stage. Definitely and impressive turn out.