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Monday, November 24, 2014

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Geek meets chic for young professionals

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W League co-chairs, from left, Neal Dlin, Dustin Koffler and Corbin Seligman

TORONTO — As young professionals mingled in a room with the periodic table of elements lining the wall, alcoholic drinks were served in science beakers by servers wearing lab coats.

The atmosphere showed that science was more chic than geek at the official Geek Chic launch party of the W League, Weizmann Canada’s young professionals’ division, in downtown Toronto on Sept. 27.

“Lots of people don’t know much about the Weizmann Institute,” said W League co-chair, Corbin Seligman, 24. “So we wanted to not only raise funds but also raise awareness so in the future they could become the base support of Weizmann Canada, and have fun doing it.”

His family has been involved with Weizmann Canada for a long time, he said, and about a year ago, Marni Brinder Byk, its development manager at the time (now on leave), brought up the idea of having a young professionals division.

“We wanted to get the new generation involved,” she said. “Unfortunately, Weizmann is the best kept secret.”

That’s why the W League was created.

“It’s the start of something much bigger in the way of supporting Israel and science, in a way people never knew they could,” said Neal Dlin, a co-chair of the W League.

The league’s name dates back to the original Weizmann League, founded in the 1960s. Many original members are still ardent supporters.

The event was designed to prove that science can be cool, Seligman explained.

More than 200 people filled the room. Green-haired waiters wearing wide-rimmed glasses and lab coats handed out drinks, with candy filling beakers on every table, and enough 3D glasses to go around. The crowd participated in live science experiments, with some holding beakers filled with pink bubbly gasses spilling out.

But the co-chairs said they hoped to achieve more than just a party. “We wanted to bring more charity into the event,” Dlin said.

They did this by handing out bracelets with the name of one of the areas of research that the institute focuses on: cancer research, education, technology, our planet and health and medicine. Large posters around the room explained recent achievements in those fields.

“The ‘doctor in a cell,’ the world’s smallest computer, may someday diagnose illnesses and even administer treatments in the human body,” was one achievement listed under technology.

Funds raised from the event will go toward supporting mental health. “We said to the young people: what interests you, how do you see yourself being involved? And they chose to focus on mental health, all while showing that to be a geek is to be chic” Brinder Byk said.  One of the young professionals at the event said he wanted to give back to Weizmann Canada.

Davin Young and his physics classmates at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy’s Kimel Family Education Centre in Vaughan won physics competitions in both grades 11 and 12, which sent their teams to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

“This event made me realize that not a lot of people know what it is or what the Weizmann is doing,” said Young, 23, now a research and development engineer at inMotive. “They have the most interesting discoveries, I just love what the Weizmann is doing.”

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