Sunday I traveled by train & bus to Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, outside of Tel Aviv to give a talk about my research at the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. The mission of the center, which is to get researchers from different fields speaking to each other and working together, is even evident in the architecture of the building. It was built around an open 7 story atrium and each floor that rings the open space has offices on a theme, so my talk was on the “Development” floor. On one spot on each floor, there is a glass-walled, bulge of a room, that juts out slightly into the atrium. These spaces are meant for gathering people together to share ideas, and since they are glass-walled & each floor is a ring, then these spaces are visible to everyone. You can just look out across the atrium into the conference room, see if anyone is gathered there, and join the conversation. It is an amazing concept, although, in reality, it took a few years for people to get used to the idea of inter-disciplinary work. Projects are now getting underway. So different from CUNY where people are scattered across campuses with only the remotest possibility of meeting one another.

I went there in the first place because I met a researcher, Roni Geva, when I was here for the sleep workshop in May, and it seemed like there might be some connection with our work that we wanted to explore. Even though she is a clinical psychologist, studying at-risk babies, and I’m an experimental psychologist, studying typically developing babies, we are both interested in attention, among other things. I had a great visit with her students and met some other faculty there and I’ll be going back in December to see if we can get something going. At the very least, I had some insights about a data-coding problem she was having, so even if we don’t start anything new, I can consult on an existing project.

A digression: On the train down there, I was working on my laptop and the man sitting next to me was asking me about the software I was using. He ended up asking me why I was in Israel, where I was from, wished me luck, etc. Later one of the students gave me a ride from Ramat Gan back to Tel Aviv so I could skip the bus ride. She and her boyfriend were writing down suggestions for where we should visit while we are here. I know the stereotype of the brusque Israeli, but once personal relationships are established – even if its just a fleeting moment on public transportation – people are so warm. I was reading about one of the American reality shows that had been adopted for Israeli television, can’t remember which one, but one where contestants are judged on their cooking and kicked off each week. And the meanspirited-ness of the American version did not fly here. Its such a small country that everyone is someone’s cousin or friend-of-a-friend. It becomes part of the culture to look out for one another. Indeed – the mother of the student who gave me the ride to the train, worked with Anat, my colleague at U. Haifa, when she was a student. “Any friend of my mother’s former advisor is a friend of mine.”