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Sustainability

A new school for new challenges

A new school for new challenges

Harnessing a problem-oriented approach
Wide-scale observation, inter-field collaboration and outside-the-box thinking: these are the skills we’ll need to mitigate the effects of climate change and translate local approaches into global solutions. Enter Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and its new School of Sustainability and Climate Change (SSCC) — a hub for positive-impact research, with a focus on topics such as renewable resources, sustainable management and environmental policy.
Its inception was a natural step forward for a university that’s rightfully gained a reputation for its environmental, energy and sustainability research. Within its labs, researchers have tackled such challenges as freshwater scarcity and food security, developed advanced heating and cooling technologies and studied the effects of an increasingly hot climate on human health.
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These five decades of experience have now formed the backbone of the SSCC. The school pulls together knowledge and expertise from over 150 research labs, BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and departments including geography and environmental development, earth and environmental sciences and environmental engineering.
Climate leaders in the making
Having learned to thrive in the Negev Desert — with its sand dunes, cliff faces, deep canyons and sprawling desert flats — Ben-Gurion University is uniquely positioned to lead cutting-edge climate change research.
This is reflected in the SSCC — Israel’s first university to offer a program dedicated to the subject. It provides students with tools to develop and advance practical solutions to global challenges through a range of BAs and BScs in sustainability and environmental protection, as well as graduate programs.
With a firm gaze to the future, the school is focused on helping students flourish as entrepreneurs in sustainability and environmental development; researchers and academics; and experts in the public and private sectors. Fundamentally, all students will leave fully prepared to face 21st-century challenges.
International students are welcome to join in the efforts: the university’s Albert Katz International School teaches English-language courses that are relevant to the SSCC’s vision, such as ecology, management and evolution. The SSCC is working to offer full degree programs to English-speaking students in the near future.
A multidisciplinary mindset
Recognising that sustainability is a broad concept, the SSCC encourages collaboration between researchers of different fields across the university’s three campuses.
Its integrative curriculum reflects this framework: on one hand, students focus on engineering and life sciences; on the other, they cover topics such as philosophy, psychology and humanities. Combining these areas of knowledge gives them an interdisciplinary experience.
This unique approach aims to strengthen research carried out in fields such as water, food security, clean energy, environmental engineering, public health and social justice — areas where considering behavioural factors alongside technology, sciences and policy is essential to make an impact.
What’s more, the school creates synergy among researchers in the field and representatives from relevant industries, government and international organisations. The SSCC builds on Be’er-Sheva’s growing ecosystem and thriving innovation to connect with local and global industries, making it possible for the research taking place within its walls to be translated into real-world solutions.
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Pushing boundaries

Turning to the sun

Turning to the sun

Get inspired

Since its inception, the process of converting sunlight into electricity to create renewable solar energy has proved to be a game-changer in the growing battle against climate change. In its current form, solar energy is low-carbon and doesn’t generate any of the harmful emissions that have raged through our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. So far, so positive.
But there remains a lot of work to be done, and that’s where the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, on the university’s Sde Boker campus, comes into the picture. Dedicated to the field of renewable solar energy, the country’s national solar energy research institute focuses on finding ways to turn solar power into something practical, in a cheaper and more effective manner than we currently can. Overlooking the beautiful Wadi Zin, the Center is ideally located in the Negev desert to harness the high levels of sunshine the area receives.
Solar Panels
But there remains a lot of work to be done, and that’s where the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, on the university’s Sde Boker campus, comes into the picture. Dedicated to the field of renewable solar energy, the country’s national solar energy research institute focuses on finding ways to turn solar power into something practical, in a cheaper and more effective manner than we currently can. Overlooking the beautiful Wadi Zin, the Center is ideally located in the Negev desert to harness the high levels of sunshine the area receives.
At her lab in the center, Prof Iris Visoloy-Fisher — chair of the Alexandre Yersin Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics (YDSEEP) and faculty member of the university’s School for Sustainability and Climate Change — is studying ways to develop materials and devices for sustainable solar energy conversion and storage using low-cost processors. Unlike in many other labs, her scientific experiments make use of natural sunlight, which is multiplied and concentrated through a unique optic, giving a real-world authenticity to her research.
Her ultimate aim? To create a technology that produces clean electricity from sunlight that’s as cheap as electricity today — if not cheaper — and that can be available in every electrical outlet, in all homes, even at night or on a cloudy day.
Take action
For students keen to grasp the complexities and technological advances of the solar energy field, Ben-Gurion University’s Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies, also located on the Sde Boker Campus, has curated a two-year MSc program in environmental physics and solar energy. With scholarships available for outstanding applicants, the new degree — launched for the 2021/22 academic year — is unique in Israel in its scientific framework.
The program aims to train students in the physical aspects of environmental and natural resource studies — something that’s not always emphasized in courses that take a more multidisciplinary approach. It takes research tools from physical sciences (including physics, applied mathematics, chemistry, material science and engineering) and incorporates them into an environmental syllabus covering subjects such as climate science, global thermodynamics, solar energy and renewable energy.
The program includes thesis research as an essential part of its training, too, and aims to develop the students’ mental flexibility, enabling them to employ concepts from different fields.
Graduates will be equipped to carry out interdisciplinary environmental research. What’s more, they’ll have the tools to foster partnerships between physical and environmental sciences, building on a wider culture of collaboration that sees researchers cooperate with groups across Israel and beyond to improve efficiency and lower the price of new technologies.
The solution to climate issues has many faces; applying methodologies from the physical sciences to environmental research will be a powerful tool in addressing such challenges.