A Summer of Discovery for Budding Scientists from Around the World

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By Erica Zeitlin

REHOVOT, Israel - July 14, 1998 - Where can a budding scientist fresh out of a Singapore high school conduct experiments in English under the guidance of renowned Israeli researchers? At Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, that's where. Eighteen-year-old Kao Shih Ling is one of 71 students from around the world participating in a unique summer program organized by the Weizmann Institute's Youth Activities Section. The month-long science program - the 30th Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute, which runs from July 1 to 31 - attracts top science students each year.

With a special interest in neurodegenerative diseases, Shih Ling was invited to attend the program this summer by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. But ask Shih Ling what impresses her most about the experience so far, and the answer's not the outstanding faculty or the high-tech laboratories. It's the diversity of the students that she is studying with. "This program gives me the chance to meet people from all over," Shih Ling explains, "and in Israel, a country that already has such a rich history and culture."

Many of the students are winners of national science competitions in their home countries, such as the prestigious Westinghouse Science Talent Search, held in the United States. Others, such as Mark Evan Abraham, have other scientific achievements under their belts. Abraham will soon be counted among the ranks of published scientists, having authored a paper on the microanalysis of indoor aerosols that will soon appear in an international science journal.

He says that the Summer Science Institute offers him the chance to brush up on scientific topics to which he hasn't had much exposure, like molecular genetics. So far, however, he is slightly disoriented. "I just graduated two weeks ago," the Syracuse, New York, native says. "I have to keep remembering that I'm not still in high school."

The roster of participants in the program reads almost like a United Nations assembly, with representatives from 16 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and Yugoslavia.

The students live in the Laub International Science Youth Village on the grassy Weizmann Institute grounds, where they trade stories and chat between lectures and laboratory work.

The program, directed by Laura Liebman-Alperson, also provides the students with the opportunity to tour Israel on several organized field trips around the country.

Diverse as their backgrounds may be, there's one thing all the program's students have in common: they have discovered that in scientific research, maintaining curiosity and openness is key.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.