In the latest of our series of guest blogs, we ask some of this summer’s Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI) students to reflect on their experiences such as taking part in research on the campus in Rehovot, exploring Israel and most importantly forming friendships that will last a lifetime. Charlene Chau, who attended Sevenoaks School is the first of our 2016 ISSI bloggers.
ISSI Experience Reflections by Charlene Chau
ISSI, where do I even begin? When I first heard of this programme from previous ISSI alumni (who came back to our school to tell us more about this trip), I was already really excited about the prospect of visiting Israel. I've previously heard a lot about Israel, mainly negative news such as political conflicts. Therefore, it came as no surprise when my parents were a little bit reluctant to let me go. I still remembered my dad saying "We'll decide if you actually get in."
After preparing very seriously for interview, I was fortunate enough to get in. Time passed. I finished my IB exams and I found myself in Rehovot, surrounded by 79 extremely cool teenagers from all over the globe. It is impossible to describe all the amazing activities and people on this trip, so I will choose some of the most memorable ones.
Firstly, my experiences in the laboratory at the immunology department. I had a fantastic opportunity to investigate more about T cells, especially a transcription factor known as AIRE. From different experiments, we tried to delineate the role of DNA damage on AIRE function.
My partner and I got to learn more about how to carry out different procedures, such as qPCR, electrophoresis, western blot, instead of just learning about them in textbooks. We even got to gown-up to see live mice for our project!
Another hugely memorable experience is definitely the desert excursion in our last week. Despite being told to wake up early in the morning at 4.30 for hiking (so that we can avoid the hot sun), the views were breath-taking. With the sun rising in the background, seeing the ground lit up with radiance and magnificence, I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am to be here on this trip. I had the opportunity to climb a 750 metres high mountain in Masada, which was my favourite hike thus far. When I was climbing it, the winding path of stairs made me want to give up. I nearly thought I was going to pass out at one point, because the combination of heat and stairs (in which one stair was up to my waist) was unbearable.
However, with the support of my friends, we hiked up together with clenched teeth and were able to witness the stunning views on the mountain top, a place where King Herod once stood. Apart from the hikes, we also got to get a taste of what it was like to live in a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a communistic way of living, and listening to the different kibbutz talking about their community was definitely an eye-opening experience. It was also interesting to see how the communities use their surroundings to their advantage. Many developed ground-breaking technology, including highly efficient solar panels to generate electricity, as well as growing nutritious algae.
If you are a hiking enthusiast, an animal lover (especially cats, as there is a surprisingly large number of cats on the Weizmann campus), a hummus lover, a young budding scientist who ponders and wonders what can make the world a better place, this trip is definitely for you.
However, this trip is also fitting for budding astronomers (the Israeli night sky is extremely beautiful. You can see the scorpion, the milky way, the stellar dust etc. with your own naked eyes). Yet, even if you don't fit in any of the above descriptions, I would also strongly encourage you to participate, because it is an amazing experience, where you get to form everlasting friendships and where you get to kindle the scientific passion inside you.
Published: August 16, 2016
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