Meet the Female Deans Making History at the Technion

The Technion has been a magnet for trailblazing women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields since it first opened its doors in 1924. That inaugural class of just 17 students included one woman, who came to the Technion to study architecture and civil engineering at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing higher education.

The ranks of Technion women have grown significantly since 1924. Thanks to the concerted efforts of Professor Shimon Marom, executive vice president for academic affairs, about 40% of all appointments relating to promotions and tenure for academic staff are women. The number of undergraduate female students at the Technion has also increased to 42%. And shortly after becoming the Technion president in 2019, Professor Uri Sivan, along with Professor Ayellet Tal, his advisor for Advancing Women in Science and Engineering, established a committee to increase the representation of women in senior faculty and other influential roles.

In 2022, the Technion reached another milestone for gender equality: a record seven deans are women. The achievement is a landmark in the ongoing effort to expand diversity on campus. President Sivan noted, “The achievement of seven female deans all gaining tenure at the same time is especially impressive considering the relatively small number of women in the engineering, science, and exact science professions. The Technion hopes these deans will serve as a model for young women aspiring to careers in these fields.”

Professor Ayelet Fishman, dean of students, is head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Applied Biocatalysis in the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering. As dean of students, she oversees the well-being and personal advancement of all Technion students. Prof. Fishman has conducted extensive research on protein alternatives that do not rely on animal sources. For example, she developed a vegan gel that can be used to create chocolate pudding that has the same texture as milk-based pudding and is healthier than existing soy puddings.

Professor Stavit Alon-Shalev, dean of Continuing Education and External Studies, is a professor in the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the director of the Genetic Institute of Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel. Prof. Alon-Shalev focuses on using nanotechnology to decipher the genetic bases of inherited diseases. She has served on numerous national committees guiding the use of medical genetics in Israel, including the Committee for Rare Diseases of the Ministry of Health.

Professor Marcelle Machluf, dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering*, has received international accolades for her cutting-edge cancer and drug delivery research. She was named Lady Globes’ “Woman of the Year” in 2018, and her work has been included in the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology’s list of “Israel’s 60 Most Impactful Developments.” She is perhaps best known for her work in tissue regeneration as well as her targeted drug delivery system called Nano-Ghosts, which uses stem cells to home in on tumors, unleashing their therapeutic load at the cancer site.

Professor Gitti Frey, dean of the Faculty of Material Sciences and Engineering, has been with the Faculty of Material Sciences and Engineering since 2002 and is affiliated with the Grand Technion Energy Program. In her research, Prof. Frey studies how to assemble organic and inorganic materials into optoelectronically functional systems that are integrated into products such as LEDs or solar cells. She has been internationally recognized for her research work and has been lauded numerous times by the Technion for excellence in teaching and research.

Professor Idit Keidar, dean of the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, studies computer engineering with a focus on distributed systems such as cloud storage, where files of millions of users are stored in a network of tens of thousands of machines. She has collaborated with industrial partners (including IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo, and VAST Data) on designing and building distributed systems. Yet she is particularly keen on understanding the theoretical foundations that can improve the practice. Prof. Keidar is also an accomplished prose writer whose short story recently won second place in a creative writing contest for scientists.

Professor Yael Mandel-Gutfreund, dean of the Faculty of Biology, is the past president of the Israeli Society for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and an internationally celebrated expert in systems biology. Prof. Mandel-Gutfreund studies DNA and RNA binding proteins, which has led to the development of novel drug targets. She has also studied how viral infections can impact gene expression in placental and embryonic cells to understand how these infections can impact pregnancy.

Professor Tali Tal, dean of the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, leads the faculty’s science and environmental education research group. Her research focuses on learning science in informal settings, inquiry-based learning, environmental education, and learning with socioscientific issues. Prof. Tal served as the president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, and was the chair of the Ministry of Education Professional Committee of Environmental Sciences.

Speaking recently to female students at the Technion, Prof. Fishman said:

“I believe anytime you are given an opportunity you have to take it. Women can do anything — but we must be determined.”

These seven women — respected leaders in their field who are globally recognized for their contributions to society — are proof positive that determination pays off

*Editor’s note: Prof. Machluf’s tenure as dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering concluded at the end of the 2022 academic year. Another female researcher — Professor Sima Yaron — has been named as her successor.

Pictured above (l-r): Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Prof. Yael Mandel-Gutfreund, Prof. Ayelet Fishman, Prof. Tali Tal, Prof. Idit Keidar, and Prof. Gitti Frey; not pictured: Prof. Stavit Alon-Shalev