Mort Zuckerman Announces Transformative Program in STEM Fields

Tel Aviv University will be a partner in the US-Israel program for building up joint scientific and technological leadership
26 January 2016
From left: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Weizmann Institute of Science President Daniel Zajfman, Hebrew University President Menahem Ben-Sasson, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Technion President Peretz Lavie, and Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter Photo: Jeff Weiner

American business leader and philanthropist Mortimer B. Zuckerman announced the launch of the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program, a transformative initiative designed to support future generations of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math in the United States and Israel and, over time, foster greater collaboration between two of the world’s most advanced scientific research centers.


Unveiled at a VIP event in New York, attended by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nobel Prize laureates, and leaders from business, technology, politics, academia and the arts, the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program will be a game-changer for scientific collaboration between the United States and Israel. The Program intends to provide over $100 million in scholarships and related educational activities to benefit participating scholars and universities.


The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program will give the highest-achieving American post-doctoral researchers and graduate students the ability to collaborate with leading researchers at Israel’s top research institutions – Tel Aviv University; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Technion–Israel Institute of Technology; and the Weizmann Institute of Science – which are among the world’s most advanced. By providing American graduate students and post-doctoral researchers with exposure to Israel’s renowned cutting-edge research and startup culture, the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program will raise a generation of academic, scientific and industry leaders in the United States infused with a unique spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.


The program will simultaneously bolster Israeli research institutions as world-leading centers for cutting edge research by providing Israeli institutions access to large-scale funding needed to develop top-tier research labs, projects and programs.


"We are pleased and grateful to have Mort Zuckerman as a partner in advancing two top national priorities in Israel – reversing brain drain and deepening the Israeli-American friendship. With the help of this new fund, Israel and the United States will forge a shared tomorrow of scientific and technological excellence," said Prof. Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University.


The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program will help strengthen the US-Israel partnership as Zuckerman Scholars return to the United States after building long-lasting relationships based on mutual collaboration. Israeli academic leaders returning to research institutions in Israel will similarly advance the overarching collaborative effort in science between the two nations as they continue to build bridges with their American colleagues.


“At a time when collaboration is essential to advanced scientific research, this program gives the next generations of leading American and Israeli academics the ability to work together on cutting edge research in ways that stand to benefit their fields for years to come,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “The result will help transform not just the work of the scholars involved, but the way the United States and Israel approach collaboration and cooperation across the sciences.”


“Mort’s friendship is demonstrated yet again through this important initiative,” said Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in a special video message. “Together with the Technion, The Weizmann Institute, The Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, this project will help bring back home some of Israel’s most brilliant sons and daughters, allow them to advance their own careers here and in so doing contribute to Israel’s growing scientific excellence. It will also enable some of America’s brightest young scientists to conduct their research in Israel."


In his speech at the event, Governor Cuomo said, “New York and Israel share a deep and unparalleled connection – and the Zuckerman Scholars Program is a prime example of how we can keep that relationship strong today and in the future. By helping some of America’s best and brightest students work and learn alongside leading researchers in Israel, this program gives us a new model for cooperation and partnership that will ultimately better society as a whole. This is a great way to strengthen the bond between Israel and the Empire State, and I applaud Mort Zuckerman for launching this program today.”


The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program will be supported by funding from Mr. Zuckerman’s foundation, and the first class of Zuckerman Scholars will begin in the 2016–2017 academic year. The foundation’s long-term intent is to ensure that the Zuckerman Scholars and the program’s related educational activities continue in perpetuity. In the next twenty years alone, the program intends to provide over $100 million in scholarships and related educational activities that will benefit not only the participating scholars and universities, but the general public as well.


Additional information on the program, including how to apply, is available through the program’s website at


International leaders in science, academia, politics, diplomacy, culture and arts have also expressed their support for the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program:


Nobel Prize Laureates

"It is both a pleasure and an honor to join in celebrating the creation of the Zuckerman Scholars Program supporting an American-Israeli Program in science and mathematics”, said Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Richard Axel. “This Program embodies what the world truly needs, the freedom to pursue knowledge. Indeed, freedom of inquiry at times of global discord can be fragile and our society depends upon its universities to provide a dialogue. The Zuckerman Scholars Program will nurture a free and open dialogue between young scholars from the two nations in the pursuit of new ideas."


“Collaboration and cooperation are as essential to modern science as the tools we use,” said Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Eric Kandel. “The Zuckerman Scholars Program, with its focus on international collaboration, will allow researchers from the very best research institutions in the world to join forces in carrying out the most imaginative, bold and forward-thinking research collaborations.”


“This program will give leading young scientists from the US a chance to take their research to the next level by giving them access to some of the world’s most advanced laboratories, cutting edge projects and brilliant scientists in Israel,” said Nobel Prize Laureate, Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover. “It’s an incredibly exciting moment for scientific research in both countries.”


“The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program is aimed at providing an excellent response to key issues in concurrent science, as it will open new collaborating paths between American and Israeli young researchers attempting to shed light on basic issues in modern science. It is expected to put strong foundations for the creation of a community based on unique scientific interactions between leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, emphasizing freedom of minds and courage in scientific attitude, essential to progress concurrent science to higher levels of excellence. Naturally, I feel extremely honored and privileged to participate in the celebration of the creation of the Zuckerman Scholars,” said Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Ada E. Yonath.


Politics & Diplomacy

“The bonds of friendship between Israel and America are broad and deep, and today -- through his support for the Zuckerman Scholars Program in STEM Leadership -- Mort is weaving yet another vital thread in that relationship,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. “Mort Zuckerman understands that developing the minds of the next generation in fields like science, technology, engineering and math will serve only to advance knowledge, prosperity and friendship in both America and Israel. I congratulate Mr. Zuckerman on the launch of such a groundbreaking and important program.”


"The Zuckerman Scholars Program will help foster collaboration among leading academics and researchers from the United States and Israel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Senator Kristen Gillibrand. “This exciting program will work to advance United States-Israeli cooperation in scientific research and innovation at the highest levels for years to come."


Business & Innovation

“I applaud the creation of the Zuckerman Scholars Program,” said Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and Former CEO of Google. “This significant gift will increase innovation in research and development across all STEM categories. In addition, the personal connections that result from this collaboration will advance development in-progress and expand the reach of the research globally, benefiting all of us.”


“Zuckerman Scholars will reinforce and expand relationships between New York and Israel,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “The program will match the resources of our city’s thriving innovation economy and great research institutions with those of the ‘start-up nation,’ yielding tremendous benefits for both.”


Research, Science & Academia

“Mort Zuckerman has been a crucial supporter of scientific and medical research for decades,” said President of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Craig Thompson. “With this program, he’s creating more than just a funding project but a framework for helping develop the brightest young researchers into the leading scientific minds of the next generation.”

"Expanding opportunities for talented researchers to collaborate with one another will lead to discovery and innovation that can shape the lives of people around the world,” said Drew Faust, President, Harvard University. “The Zuckerman Scholars Program is a boon for the global academic community-and a gift to humanity at a time of great possibility for scientific achievement."

"When talented researchers collaborate across institutions, borders, and disciplines, the result is exponentially beneficial to all of us," said John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University. "This program is grounded in that premise and offers a model for successful international academic partnerships."

“Science is the only language with no borders or limits; it belongs to all. The new Zuckerman initiative will strengthen connections between two important academic communities, North America and Israel, at a critical juncture – that where a new generation of scientists begin their careers, who will develop with roots firmly planted in the best institutions in both regions and will continue throughout their careers as catalysts for collaboration, enriching both Israeli and North American science and advancing knowledge for the benefit of humanity,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


“At Columbia we know first-hand the breadth of Mort Zuckerman's intellectual and civic vision through his generous support for a community of great scholars on our campus exploring the fundamental workings of mind, brain and behavior,” said Columbia University President, Lee C. Bollinger. “We admire him all the more for his pioneering new commitment to future generations of leaders across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics working in partnership with our great peer institutions in Israel. And we're especially proud that he has enlisted our Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists among those helping him guide the Zuckerman Scholars.”


“We thank Mort Zuckerman for his bold new vision empowering graduates of this program to become leaders in their respective fields while serving as role models for future candidates to join the program. The best research is collaborative in nature, and in order to be the trailblazers in rapidly changing fields, it is vital to maintain strong networks with scholars abroad, particularly those in North America. The new program will not only help improving scientific research at its highest level, but will also serve as a new and important pillar supporting the foundation on which the ties between Israel and the United States will continue to prosper,” said Prof. Peretz Lavie, President of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.


"We are pleased and grateful to have Mort Zuckerman as a partner in advancing two top national priorities in Israel -- reversing brain drain and deepening the Israeli-American friendship. With the help of this new fund, Israel and the United States will forge a shared tomorrow of scientific and technological excellence," said Prof. Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University.


“The Zuckerman Leadership Program is truly visionary in that it will create important links between North American and Israeli science by investing in new scientists at key moments in their careers—the postdoc years—as they establish their global network and begin their research careers. In a terrific synergy, Israeli science and these visiting scientists will nourish one another, and in the process strengthen Israel’s role as a world hub of science and technology. We expect that the relationships that will be built within this framework will generate life-long collaborations that will advance many areas of science. The Weizmann Institute of Science, a world leader in basic research, is looking forward to this new partnership and we are deeply grateful for the friendship and support of Mr. Mort Zuckerman. We look forward to witnessing the success of this program in the years to come, and the great science that will spring forth from it,” says Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.


"With this program, Mort Zuckerman is once again demonstrating that the path to progress, peace and prosperity lies in bringing together the great minds to tackle the most difficult problems" said Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus Harvard Law School. "The Zuckerman Scholars Program will be a boon not just to Israeli-American academic partnership but to innumerable scientific fields and the millions of people around the world who will benefit from their discoveries and advances. "The program is also a welcome affirmation of the spirit of openness, excellence and tolerance that Israeli universities and research institutions embody."


The Zuckerman Scholars Program will initiate with the two main tracks: (1) the Postdoctoral Scholars Program, which is open to highest-achieving postdoctoral researchers from the United States to pursue research at leading Israeli research institutions; and (2) Zuckerman Faculty Scholars, which is designed to support Israeli academic leaders by fostering world-class labs, programs and projects at the Israeli institutions.



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