ICE | The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer | Issue 6
6 The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer Issue 6 · July 2020 · Av 5780 Chemistry for peace Chemistry provides hope for peace and understanding in one of the most troubled regions of the world: the Middle East. Imagine walking into a room and encountering several round tables, each with 10 scientists from countries or regions whose governments are hostile to one another, and those scientists are discussing potential scientific collaborations with civility and friendship. At one table, for example, were representatives from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan. Where else in the world can that happen? As one participant said, “Only at the Malta conferences.” Every 2 years since 2003, the Malta conferences have provided an opportunity “to identify unique opportunities for collaboration to meet the scientific and technological challenges of the region.” The Malta IX Conference, which was held at the end of 2019 under the theme “Frontiers of Science: Innovation, Research, and Education in the Middle East,” was no different. The event gathered together scientists, entrepreneurs, postdocs, and students from 15 countries or regions from the Middle East, plus Morocco and Pakistan. These scientists participated in talks and workshops with several Nobel laureates to seek solutions to problems beyond geopolitics that this part of the world faces. To date, more than 700 Middle Eastern scientists and 16 Nobel laureates are in the Malta conferences network. A challenge that has been a constant since the Malta conferences were launched is securing visas for participants. Although the preparations for the event started 2 years in advance, several participants from Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Gaza, Palestine, and Pakistan had still not received their visas 48 h before the conference was set to start. With the help of the Maltese minister for education and employment — and the organizers, who endured many sleepless nights — the authorities at the last minute agreed to issue visas to the scientists upon their landing in Malta. Malta IX had a makeover. Organizers implemented a new structure for the workshops to create more meaningful change for the region so that the issues of water scarcity, air pollution, environmental degradation, and more can be addressed more effectively. All the workshops were interactive and cochaired by a chemist and an entrepreneur to promote new ideas and pave the way for new startups. The Middle Eastern participants presented their research in a guided poster session, which preceded the workshops. The topics included medicinal chemistry; Guest Editorial This is a guest editorial by Zafra Lerman Zafra Lerman Zafra Lerman is the President of the Malta Conferences Foundation, which has been using science as a bridge to peace in the Middle East since 2001 by initiating cross-border collaborations on issues including environment, water, science education, chemistry and nuclear security, energy, and climate change. Prof. Lerman holds a BS.c. and MS.c in chemistry from the Technion and Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science. She conducted research on isotope effects at Cornell and Northwestern Universities in the US, and the ETH, Switzerland. She founded and was head of the Science Institute at Columbia College Chicago where she developed an innovative approach of teaching science using art, music, dance, and drama, which proved to be successful with underprivileged students around the globe. From 1986-2011, she chaired the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights for ACS and is the vice-chair of the Board of the Committee of Concerned scientists, working tirelessly on human rights around the world. She received over 40 international awards for her work, including the Presidential Award fromPresident Clinton (1999); Royal Society of Chemistry, England, Education Award (2005); CRDF Global George Brown Award for International Scientific Cooperation (2007); AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy (2015); the Andrei Sakharov Award from the American Physical Society; the Peace and Justice Award from the UN NOVUS summit (2016); IUPAC Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering Award (2017). She was honored three times by the US Congress with speeches about her work in 2002, 2004, and 2013.