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April 20th, 2006
Bridging the Divide in the Holy Land
"This will be the first Palestinian nanotech lab," says Mukhles Sowwan, peering into a dark, empty room at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. Making this a reality will be no mean feat. Sowwan, a physicist, needs about $1 million to equip a state-of-the-art laboratory for the kind of science he wants to do, and he can't look to the university for help.
Sowwan, 31, has something that few other Palestinians have: an Israeli research partner. Ever since doing a postdoc in the lab of Danny Porath, a physicist at Hebrew University in West Jerusalem, Sowwan and Porath have teamed up to coax biological molecules to assemble into circuitry and memory devices far smaller than present technology allows. Beyond the promise of breakthroughs, however, what makes the collaboration tick, says Porath, is that "we are first of all good friends." This rare fraternity amid one of the world's ugliest conflicts is helping Sowwan realize his dream of bringing nanoscience to the West Bank.
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