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The Final Frontier

Ben Gurion University and its new pioneers seek to make the Negev bloom.

URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/education/article/the_final_frontier_20050722

Professor Ron Folman leads me down a few staircases of the science building of Ben Gurion University (BGU) in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva to show me his million-dollar, state-of-the-art nanotech laboratory. It feels like we're descending to some basement bomb shelter of an old Israeli building. Actually, we are. Very recently, the laboratory was a bomb shelter. And despite the double doors leading to a white, clean room with an air-pressurized system to keep the expensive equipment immaculate, there is still a feel of the makeshift here, in the wall coverings, in the tiled ceilings, in the fact that it was formerly a bomb shelter before Folman came along. "Building a lab was the condition for me to do my high-tech here," said Folman, a scientist in his 40s who is darkly handsome in a 1970s professorial way. Sometimes it's "frustrating," added the head of the Atom Chip Laboratory, to make do with a lab that's been improvised into a basement bomb shelter, "but in the big picture we're doing more than science. We're helping the Negev and making a difference. These are not just words for me."

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