Abroad in Israel: The High-Tech Tel Aviv Dream

July 11th, 2018Undergraduate Student Life

By Amy Vogel ’20 After three great months living it up in Haifa at the Technion, I moved to Israel’s The-City-That-Never-Sleeps to live the modern-day high-tech Tel Aviv dream (well, for two months). Selfie on the beach during the sunset There’s a lot to be said about working at a startup in the Startup Nation… I’ll try to keep it concise! For two weeks now, I have been working at a company called Optibus, located in the center of Tel Aviv. Their product is an algorithm called Optibize, which elegantly and efficiently helps mass transit operators find optimal transportation and planning solutions. The inside of my office Have you ever sat at the bus stop outside 77 Mass Ave, waiting twenty minutes for the 1-bus to come, and then marveled at the inefficiency of the MBTA when three 1-buses go by, all in a row? Or, have you wondered how the Tech Shuttle drivers coordinate when and where they will take breaks, and how they coordinate those breaks so they’ll be in a convenient location? Maybe you don’t spend hours pondering these secrets of the transportation universe like I do, but nevertheless, strategic scheduling is absolutely crucial in operating a bus system. These are the type of problems that Optibus is helping transit providers solve, and it turns out that these operations are not a secret at all; their success just depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of the transit provider’s scheduling software. The view from my office In my [...]

By Amy Vogel ’20

After three great months living it up in Haifa at the Technion, I moved to Israel’s The-City-That-Never-Sleeps to live the modern-day high-tech Tel Aviv dream (well, for two months).

Selfie on the beach during the sunset

There’s a lot to be said about working at a startup in the Startup Nation… I’ll try to keep it concise!

For two weeks now, I have been working at a company called Optibus, located in the center of Tel Aviv. Their product is an algorithm called Optibize, which elegantly and efficiently helps mass transit operators find optimal transportation and planning solutions.

The inside of my office

Have you ever sat at the bus stop outside 77 Mass Ave, waiting twenty minutes for the 1-bus to come, and then marveled at the inefficiency of the MBTA when three 1-buses go by, all in a row? Or, have you wondered how the Tech Shuttle drivers coordinate when and where they will take breaks, and how they coordinate those breaks so they’ll be in a convenient location? Maybe you don’t spend hours pondering these secrets of the transportation universe like I do, but nevertheless, strategic scheduling is absolutely crucial in operating a bus system. These are the type of problems that Optibus is helping transit providers solve, and it turns out that these operations are not a secret at all; their success just depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of the transit provider’s scheduling software.

The view from my office

In my time here, I have already gotten acquainted with many different aspects of the company. During my first week, I mainly conducted market research in the school bus sector, examining the many ways that school buses differ from city buses, and looking at how Optibus could improve the school bus industry. This week, in addition to the market research, I have been helping with the company’s marketing by writing some blog posts that explain their technology. My first post (about NP-hard problems) will be up soon! In the coming weeks, as I get acquainted with the Optibus platform, I’m looking forward to exploring the more technical parts of the company as well.

When the work day is over, I take the bus back to my apartment, or sometimes I walk and stop for dinner along the way. Although I know some Hebrew, I am going to start Hebrew classes soon so that I’ll be able to communicate better in Israeli society. In the next seven weeks, I plan to explore Tel Aviv as much as possible. My apartment is only a fifteen minute walk from the beach, so I will be taking full advantage!

The Mediterranean Sea

After spending the Spring 2018 semester studying abroad at the Technion in Israel, Amy Vogel ’20 is spending the summer interning in Tel Aviv at Optibus, a company that helps mass transit operators find transportation and planning solutions. Her abroad experiences have been facilitated by MISTI MIT-Israel.

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MIT Great Barrier Reef Initiative: Magnetic Island

July 9th, 2018Fieldwork, MIT Great Barrier Reef Initiative

By: Sierra Rosenzweig '20 The locals say magnetic island got its name because Captain Cook’s compass went on the fritz as he approached the island, making him wonder if the island had a magnetic effect that could disrupt a compass (He really just had a broken compass). I think Magnetic is a more fitting name for the island because all the rocks on the island seem to stick together. When there is one rock, there tends to be a second rock and a third rock balanced on top, seemingly placed there by magic. While it can be unnerving to walk beside the stacks of 30-foot boulders, because they look like they could fall with the slightest gust of wind, the rocks make an excellent spot for rock climbing. I got to experience the climbing there on a long-weekend trip visiting some of the local scientists. Bouldering on one of Magnetic Island’s many beaches. The soft sand breaks falls. Another joy of staying on an island with few residents is the untouched wilderness and abundance of animals. I got the chance to hike the length of the island and saw an echidna for the first time, along with koalas and a host of different types of birds and lizards. The uninhabited forests on the island allow for humans who are careful to venture in the woods and observe the animals in their natural habitat. This is advantageous for the many scientists who live on the island and want to observe the [...]

By: Sierra Rosenzweig ’20

The locals say magnetic island got its name because Captain Cook’s compass went on the fritz as he approached the island, making him wonder if the island had a magnetic effect that could disrupt a compass (He really just had a broken compass). I think Magnetic is a more fitting name for the island because all the rocks on the island seem to stick together. When there is one rock, there tends to be a second rock and a third rock balanced on top, seemingly placed there by magic. While it can be unnerving to walk beside the stacks of 30-foot boulders, because they look like they could fall with the slightest gust of wind, the rocks make an excellent spot for rock climbing. I got to experience the climbing there on a long-weekend trip visiting some of the local scientists.

Bouldering on one of Magnetic Island’s many beaches. The soft sand breaks falls.

Another joy of staying on an island with few residents is the untouched wilderness and abundance of animals. I got the chance to hike the length of the island and saw an echidna for the first time, along with koalas and a host of different types of birds and lizards. The uninhabited forests on the island allow for humans who are careful to venture in the woods and observe the animals in their natural habitat. This is advantageous for the many scientists who live on the island and want to observe the animals in their natural setting, getting to know each specie’s quirks and mannerisms, before doing in-depth studies.

The closeness to the forest allows for many close animal encounters, like this Kookaburra

A skink visits me at a house on the edge of the woods

The best part of the Magnetic Island experience for me was the raw beauty of the location. I would wake up every day in my tent to the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore. As I spent more and more time with the locals, I began to pick up on their ways of life: eating vegemite, walking barefoot, and even dreading hair.

I dig for pipi clams on the beach with fresh dreads

The sun and the sound of the ocean fill my tent on Magnetic in the morning


The spectacular view from Magnetic is one of a kind

Sierra Rosenzweig ’20 is spending the summer in Australia and New Zealand and participating in a new research and engineering project in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University on the Great Barrier Reef. 

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Graduate student Janelle Heslop was one of twenty students to be elected into the Switzer Fellowship Network. The Switzer Fellowship Program is a one-year fellowship for accomplished graduate students in New England and California with career aspirations directed toward environmental improvement. Read more here.

July 6th, 20182018 News in Brief

Graduate student Janelle Heslop was one of twenty students to be elected into the Switzer Fellowship Network. The Switzer Fellowship Program is a one-year fellowship for accomplished graduate students in New England and California with career aspirations directed toward environmental improvement. Read more here.

Graduate student Janelle Heslop was one of twenty students to be elected into the Switzer Fellowship Network. The Switzer Fellowship Program is a one-year fellowship for accomplished graduate students in New England and California with career aspirations directed toward environmental improvement. Read more here.

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ONE-MA3 2018: Venaria Reale

July 6th, 2018Fieldwork, ONE-MA3 2018

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21 After a free day yesterday, the ONE-MA^3 group reunited in Turin this morning. We headed down to Venaria Reale. Venaria Reale is home to a 17th century complex comprising the Palace of Venaria, many beautiful gardens, and a restoration lab. The Palace of Venaria Venaria Reale was originally a Baroque inspired royal complex, similar to the Palace of Versailles. Eventually, the complex fell under French Influence during the expansion of Napoleon. Eventually it was abandoned and left to decay; that is until 1999 when a group of interdisciplinary researchers was brought together as part of Europe’s biggest restoration project of the time. Our very own Professor Masic was the only chemist on the restoration team and played a crucial role in restoring the grounds. The job of the team was to collect, process, document, manage, coordinate, and analyze the grounds. Professor Masic spoke of a particular façade he restored. He also explained some difficulties the team faced during the restoration. Specifically, the team was unsure of the original color of the façade and therefore unsure of how to properly restore it. Through an interdisciplinary collaboration, an unexpected archeological discovery, and some good ole XRF, the team discovered the façade was originally white and properly restored it. We then listened to some additional lectures from faculty at the restoration center. Elisa Rosso, the director of the restoration center spoke about culturally heritage and conservation, while Marie Claire Canepa, a restorer at the facility, spoke of the restoration [...]

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21

After a free day yesterday, the ONE-MA^3 group reunited in Turin this morning. We headed down to Venaria Reale. Venaria Reale is home to a 17th century complex comprising the Palace of Venaria, many beautiful gardens, and a restoration lab.

The Palace of Venaria

Venaria Reale was originally a Baroque inspired royal complex, similar to the Palace of Versailles. Eventually, the complex fell under French Influence during the expansion of Napoleon. Eventually it was abandoned and left to decay; that is until 1999 when a group of interdisciplinary researchers was brought together as part of Europe’s biggest restoration project of the time.

Our very own Professor Masic was the only chemist on the restoration team and played a crucial role in restoring the grounds. The job of the team was to collect, process, document, manage, coordinate, and analyze the grounds. Professor Masic spoke of a particular façade he restored. He also explained some difficulties the team faced during the restoration. Specifically, the team was unsure of the original color of the façade and therefore unsure of how to properly restore it. Through an interdisciplinary collaboration, an unexpected archeological discovery, and some good ole XRF, the team discovered the façade was originally white and properly restored it.

We then listened to some additional lectures from faculty at the restoration center. Elisa Rosso, the director of the restoration center spoke about culturally heritage and conservation, while Marie Claire Canepa, a restorer at the facility, spoke of the restoration of stuccos at the Chapel of Sant’Uberto in Venaria Reale.

After a tour of the restoration labs, we were given free rein to wander the beautiful palace and gardens.

                                                        One of the best parts of the grounds was this quaint building filled with a variety of games and unique musical instruments.

Some members of the group playing a racing game inside.

A main hallway of the palace

One of the beautiful garden walkways at the palace

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ONE-MA3 2018: A Day Off in Rome

July 5th, 2018Fieldwork, ONE-MA3 2018

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21 After several hectic but enjoyable days of fieldwork, the group was given a much needed off day. Part of the group went ahead to Turin, while part of the group stayed behind in Rome. I was among those who stayed behind in Rome and I really appreciated the chance to explore the city and continue to be immersed in the culture of Italy. Despite studying both the Italian culture and language for six years in middle school and high school, I am continuously amazed by my experience in Italy. So far, the most striking difference has been the meals. Colazione, or breakfast, in Italy typically takes place at a bar, which is roughly equivalent to an American café. Many Italians eat their breakfast, which consists simply of a pastry and a cup of coffee, standing at the counter of the bar, in less than ten minutes.  While breakfast is small in Italy, pranzo, or lunch, typically consists of many plates and, as the One MA^3 group slowly learned, two hours of eating. Oh, and of course, gelato is an essential part of every day. Some of my favorite gelato of the trip. This cone came from a shop near the beach in Sabaudia. Even though I learned these things in school, and refreshed my knowledge by watching Italian television for the past few months, it has been an entirely different experience watching the culture come to life in front of me. It has also been incredible to [...]

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21

After several hectic but enjoyable days of fieldwork, the group was given a much needed off day. Part of the group went ahead to Turin, while part of the group stayed behind in Rome. I was among those who stayed behind in Rome and I really appreciated the chance to explore the city and continue to be immersed in the culture of Italy.

Despite studying both the Italian culture and language for six years in middle school and high school, I am continuously amazed by my experience in Italy.

So far, the most striking difference has been the meals. Colazione, or breakfast, in Italy typically takes place at a bar, which is roughly equivalent to an American café. Many Italians eat their breakfast, which consists simply of a pastry and a cup of coffee, standing at the counter of the bar, in less than ten minutes.  While breakfast is small in Italy, pranzo, or lunch, typically consists of many plates and, as the One MA^3 group slowly learned, two hours of eating.

Oh, and of course, gelato is an essential part of every day.

Some of my favorite gelato of the trip. This cone came from a shop near the beach in Sabaudia.

Even though I learned these things in school, and refreshed my knowledge by watching Italian television for the past few months, it has been an entirely different experience watching the culture come to life in front of me. It has also been incredible to hear Italian spoken in its natural dialect. It turns out my pronunciation needs more work than I thought!

Even though it was an off day, we were still immersed in restoration during our visit to the Coliseum, perhaps Rome’s most famous monument. Construction of the coliseum began in AD 72 under the emperor Vespasian and finished in AD 80, although further alterations were made by different emperors. Fun fact: during the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V considered turning the coliseum into a wool factory. Obviously, this didn’t pan out.

Restoration of the monument began in 2011 and was funded by a private corporation. During the time, restorers had to address many of the questions we have been discussing on this trip. Some of these questions include dealing with biological agents, and balancing modern day tourism and history.

The coliseum

Sam appreciating the coliseum

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ONE-MA3 2018: Royal Roots of Torino

July 5th, 2018Fieldwork, ONE-MA3 2018

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21 Our Friday in Turin started at the Valentino Palace, a complex rich with history and the current home of the ‘Politecnico di Torino’. The view from the second story of Valentino Palace Founded in 1859, The Polytechnic University of Turin is the oldest technical university in Italy. The university offers courses in engineering, architecture, and industrial design. In the morning, we listened to two lectures from faculty members of the university. The first was entitled ‘Torino. Urban history of a Cultural City’ and was given by Mauro Volpiano. The presentation touched upon the history of the 2,000 year old city we are currently residing in. Turin had many different identities throughout history. Twice in its existence it was a capital city: once for the dukedom of Savoy in 1563 and then a second time for Italy after the country’s unification in 1861. After the capital of Italy was moved in 1863, Turin was forced to reinvent itself as an industrial city and it became the primary manufacturer of Fiats. Our second lecture was given by Chiara Devotion and touched upon the residences of the royal house of Savoy. She discussed the Corona di Delizie, which is a crown shaped geographical region of palaces, gardens, and hunting grounds connected with the royal House of Savoy. This includes Venaria Reale, which we visited yesterday. After a thorough tour of the rooms of the Valentine Palace and a lunch break, we moved on to the Church of San Lorenzo [...]

By Samantha D’Alonzo ’21

Our Friday in Turin started at the Valentino Palace, a complex rich with history and the current home of the ‘Politecnico di Torino’.

The view from the second story of Valentino Palace

Founded in 1859, The Polytechnic University of Turin is the oldest technical university in Italy. The university offers courses in engineering, architecture, and industrial design.

In the morning, we listened to two lectures from faculty members of the university. The first was entitled ‘Torino. Urban history of a Cultural City’ and was given by Mauro Volpiano. The presentation touched upon the history of the 2,000 year old city we are currently residing in.

Turin had many different identities throughout history. Twice in its existence it was a capital city: once for the dukedom of Savoy in 1563 and then a second time for Italy after the country’s unification in 1861. After the capital of Italy was moved in 1863, Turin was forced to reinvent itself as an industrial city and it became the primary manufacturer of Fiats.

Our second lecture was given by Chiara Devotion and touched upon the residences of the royal house of Savoy. She discussed the Corona di Delizie, which is a crown shaped geographical region of palaces, gardens, and hunting grounds connected with the royal House of Savoy. This includes Venaria Reale, which we visited yesterday.

After a thorough tour of the rooms of the Valentine Palace and a lunch break, we moved on to the Church of San Lorenzo and the Palace Madama. Both were filled with beautiful baroque architecture.

The dome in The Church of San Lorenzo

A restorer working on removing fake gold paint in the Church of San Lorenzo. The fake gold paint was a result of an uninformed, poor restoration years ago.

Admir appreciating Palace Madama

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