Summer of science for international super students


15 August 2008 Summer of science for international super students Eighteen young students from 10 countries are enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime to conduct research at the Weizmann Institute of Science as part of World ORTs Raya Cowan International Science Summer School. This, the second such Summer School has brought 10 boys and eight girls to Rehovot, Israel from Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, Panama, Russia and Ukraine, as well as from the length and breadth of the Jewish State. It is the culmination of a four-month-long selection process comprising taking tests, undergoing interviews via video-conference and extensive preparatory reading on a range of research projects. Ive never worked with high school kids before, said Boaz Rubenstein, a PhD student in the Weizmanns Particle Physics Department, who is one of the researchers participating in the Summer School. Its really enjoyable I love seeing their motivation, it motivates me. And, while its challenging, its also a great help because by having to explain what were doing in a detailed way I am forced to re-examine and, if necessary, re-evaluate my own understanding of what were doing, of my findings and my theories. And its clear from the feedback that Ive had from the kids that they think its a wonderful opportunity to be here doing what were doing. The teenagers were super students who had excelled in various scientific fields, said World ORT Research and Development Coordinator Dr Yakov Ronkin. They were carefully selected from schools involved in World ORT programmes because of their academic achievements and maturity, Dr Ronkin said. This three-week Summer School in one of the worlds leading centres of science gives them an opportunity to experience life as a research scientist. It was such a pleasure to talk to so many bright students as part of the selection process Im only sorry that we could not have given them all a place in the Summer School. Participants are divided into groups of twos and threes, each one involved in a research project of their choice. Research topics range from examining the dynamics of mitogen-activated protein kinases (responsible for cell responses to certain growth factors) in individual human cells to radiation detection with thick gas electron multiplier to the deceptively simple sounding investigation of why crickets chirp together. Andre Sterenberg Frankenthal, 17, attends the ORT school in Rio de Janeiro and hopes the additional technical qualifications his school allows him to gain will take him to Harvard to study electronics. Im really loving the Summer School, Andre said. Were looking into the density of plasma in a magnetic field, something which could be useful in reducing energy costs. The labs are so well equipped, the research is stimulating, the structure is well prepared and the people are great. Its more than I could ever have expected everythings excellent. Linor Avraham, 17, from Kiryat Ata is unusual amongst Israeli high school students because she is taking three science subjects at matriculation level rather than the customary maximum of two. Being involved in this advanced research reinforces my goal to join the IDF medical corps and, eventually, to be a brain surgeon, Linor said. She has joined the team checking the genetic link between pancreatic beta cells and embryonic stem cells, a line of inquiry that could one day result in helping diabetics produce their own insulin. Another member of that team is Ida Halman, from Panama, who, at 15, is the youngest participant. It is Idas first time in Israel and she spent the week before the Summer School touring the country with her parents. I like studying science but my ambition is to study business at the University of Pennsylvania, which has the worlds best business studies degree, Ida said. Business is a way of opening doors to many different types of career. Perhaps I will be able to combine my knowledge of science with business one day. In addition to the research, participants spend time each afternoon learning about the latest scientific issues, from trends in transplantation medicine to developments in computer technology and climate change. The students are also taken on tours of interesting sites within the Weizmann Institute and have the chance to relax thanks to a specially prepared programme of social activities from swimming and movies to exploring Israeli culture and history with visits to Jerusalem, Caesarea and the Golan Heights. At the end of the Summer School each individual will prepare a detailed written research report, as well as verbally impart their findings to the rest of the participants in the form of a colorful Powerpoint presentation. They will also prepare a report on their activities and present it to their peers at school. In this way they are serving as ambassadors for scientific excellence, Dr Ronkin said. We hope that they will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.