McGill-Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Summer Program in Human Rights
Canadian and Israeli law students participating in the McGill-Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Summer Program in Human Rights.

Innovation through collaboration

When the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, it was the culmination of years of collaboration between research centres and universities from around the world – a dramatic illustration of the value of pooling resources and talent. Thousands of heads were clearly much better than one.

That spirit of cooperation is powering research being done today at McGill. Philanthropic giving has allowed the University to establish major strategic collaborations with international leaders – building partnerships like those being made by the Brain@McGill initiative, which received support from McGill Chancellor H. Arnold Steinberg, BCom’54, LLD’00, and Professor Emeritus Blema Steinberg, BA’55, PhD’61.

Established in 2009, the Brain@McGill is an international research network that brings together hundreds of neuroscience experts and students from McGill’s academic departments, hospitals and research groups with hundreds more from three of the world’s leading centres for neuroscience: the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the Neuroscience Center of Zurich.

With seed money provided for joint pilot projects in brain research, investigators are able to conduct preliminary work that strengthens their ability to receive significant funding from outside granting agencies for full-scale projects. Researchers also benefit from the ability to draw data from a much wider and more diverse population base.

Dr. Claudio Cuello, Chair of the Brain@McGill, sees important progress coming from the initiative. “The collaboration has accelerated the pace of discoveries in areas of shared expertise, including brain imaging, stroke and dementia, by allowing partners to maximize research dollars and the impact of the research they conduct,” he says.

Another initiative that is having an international impact is the McGill-Hebrew University Summer Program in Human Rights, created in part through a donation from The Hon. E. Leo Kolber, BA’49, BCL’52. The intensive five-course program allows McGill students to spend three weeks in Jerusalem and participate in a program that combines theoretical studies with international cultural exchange.

Norman Zavalkoff, BCom’57, is also creating knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic. His gift of $500,000 promotes academic exchange between Canada and Israel, by funding research and travel between McGill, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Sarah Lee, MSc’10, the first recipient of a Norman Zavalkoff Family Foundation Travel Fund for Water Resources Management, interned at the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research of Ben-Gurion University, where she studied the role of desalinization in Israel’s water management strategy.

“I conducted in-depth interviews with water authority personnel, academics, environmentalists, and other key decision-makers,” says Lee, who readily acknowledges her experience would not have been possible without “robust financial aid,” provided in part through the generosity of donors.