Summertime. It’s when, according to the song at least, the living is easy. But for 20 ambitious teenagers this summer the time was right for undertaking post-graduate level research at one of the world’s leading scientific institutions – the Weizmann Institute.
They came from Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Russia and Spain to experience the thrill of inquiry in subjects as diverse as astrophysics, neurobiology, applied mathematics, immunology and computer science on the Davidson-World ORT Science Summer School.
“It was unbelievably amazing! I would do it again and again and again!” Viktoria Kuneva, student at the Lauder-ORT Jewish School in Sofia.
“I already wanted to study biochemistry at university but now I want to do it even more! I wish many people could do this – when you meet so many people and see so many things you become a completely different person.”
Viktoria teamed up with Daniele Sinigaglia, a student at the Jewish Community School in Milan, to prepare a report titled Structural Bioinformatics – Protein Structure Visualisation, Sequence Alignment and Evolution Study which they presented at the conclusion of the three-week-long Summer School.
“Every day when I woke up I was very excited to get back to the lab and work with Viktoria; she’s very smart,” said Daniele, who relished the opportunity to use an electron microscope and other advanced pieces of equipment.
“With the microscope you can see everything about the protein. I’d never studied biology like this before!” Daniele Sinigaglia, student at the Jewish Community School in Milan
Daniele aspires to be an informatics engineer and to design industrial robots but he relished the experience at Weizmann.
“When I started studying the subject I became very interested. My mentor helped me to understand it. This has really opened a whole new world for me,” he said.
All the participants were divided into research groups with their own topics to investigate. Each group presented a report, in English, on their methodology and results.
“It was great being in a team,” said Vladimir Markov from Sofia, who prepared a report titled Towards Generating Zebrafish with Fluorescent Protein Tagged Lymphatic Vessels for In Vivo Imaging with Igor Burmistrov, a student at ORT Mishpahteinu in Kazan, Russia, and Itay Bar-Mashiah, a student at World ORT-affiliated Meggido High School in Kibbutz Ein HaShofet.
“Whenever we had a problem it was easier to solve it between the three of us. It’s much better than being by yourself.”
But that feeling of togetherness extended beyond the laboratory.
“We became a family,” said Colegio Israelita de Mexico-ORT (CIM-ORT) student Arturo Polichuk.
In between preparing a report on Noise Analysis and Reduction – The Difficulties of Atomic Scale Measurements, Arturo and his team mates, Tommy Rosenblatt, from ORT Argentina, and Simone Piperno, from ORT Renzo Levi School in Rome, joined the many and varied tours and leisure activities laid on for the Summer School participants.
“While the primary goal of the Summer School is to expose students to the reality of advanced scientific research and concepts, we are also keen to make it an opportunity for participants to make friends from other countries and to develop so-called ‘soft skills’ which are so much in demand at universities and in industry – the ability to communicate, work in teams, problem solve, and forge relationships. The social side of the Summer School is crucial to doing that,” said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman.
It certainly worked for Lior Kestelbaum, a student at World ORT-affiliated Rogozin High School in Kiryat Ata.
“We made an awesome group – we really connected to each other,” Lior said.
Together with Abraham Levy, a student at Ibn Gabirol Jewish School in Madrid, and Ezequiel Saad, of ORT Argentina, Lior presented a reported on Computer Simulations to Study the Interaction Dynamics Between Protein and Peptide: the P53:MDM2 Case.
“Before the Summer School I was less focused but these three weeks made me really focus and made me sure of my direction,” he said. “I really enjoyed the science research and I think this is the life for me. I thought researchers would be stuck in the lab all the time and that wasn’t very appealing. But after meeting the scientists and the professor I realised they do amazing things. It’s not scary and it’s made me realise that I could do it, too.”