Entries from December 2006 ↓

UC Irvine professor is “sexy geek”

UCI often makes headlines in local media like The Orange County Register, but it rarely shows up on international news outlets. That’s why I’m always surprised when I see articles mentioning UCI, such as a recent BBC News piece on the water cycle in Africa that included quotes from UCI’s Jay Famiglietti.

Even more surprising was the news that UCI placed ninth in Wired’s geek beauty contest. 124 people voted Hans Keirstead, anatomy and neurobiology professor at UCI, the “Sexiest Geek for 2006.”

Hans Keirstead

So does this mean our rankings will go up next year?

Could you finish a Ph.D. in six months?

Sawsan Salameh has been dreaming of getting a doctorate since the age of sixteen. Now 29, her dream has been placed on hold because none of the universities in her native Palestine offers a Ph.D. program in theoretical chemistry, her chosen subject. Studying abroad wasn’t an option, for she comes from a traditional Muslim family and believes traveling abroad alone is improper. Making matters worse, her father recently passed away, leaving Sawsan to provide for her mother and younger sister.

Suddenly, luck changed for Sawsan. She applied to Hebrew University in East Jerusalem, just a short drive from her home in the West Bank, and not only did she gain acceptance, she received a full scholarship. She hopes to use her future degree to launch a career as a chemistry professor.

Only one obstacle remains: the Israeli checkpoint at the East Jerusalem border. Protected by barbed wire and machine guns, it blocks Sawsan from even setting foot on the university’s campus. Obtaining a permit for entry is possible—fourteen Palestinian students are currently enrolled in Israeli universities—but Sawsan’s application was denied eight times. (The government of Israel has become much tighter with permits since the Hamas takeover of Palestine in March.)

With help from the human rights group Gisha, Sawsan appealed to Israel’s High Court of Justice. After a month of delays and hearings, Sawsan’s dream was finally about to come true! The court overruled the government and approved a permit that would allow her to attend school in Israel…for six months.

Sawsan Salameh

Sawsan Salameh
Photograph © BBC News

The idea that anyone could complete a doctoral degree in six months is ludicrous. To put this in perspective, consider that in the United States, earning a Ph.D. in the sciences requires about seven years of post-Bachelor’s study. Sawsan’s six-month permit, which the High Court apparently considers a gift, is as good as none.

The Israeli authorities haven’t commented publicly on this case, so one can only imagine what they were thinking.