Applications to the Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute close on Wednesday 1 February 2017. If you are in Year 13 and want to spend an unforgettable month working as part of a research team alongside leading scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, apply now.
But don't just take our word for it. Here is the latest in our series of ISSI Guest Blogs from 2016 participant Adam Steinberg who went to Yavneh College and is now studing Physics at Oxford.
Adam Steinberg's ISSI Experience
The Summer of 2016 was the best of my life. Why? Because I was fortunate enough to spend the month of July at the Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. What made it such a fantastic experience? For me, it comes down to three things: the projects, the programme, and the people.
The range of projects spanned every scientific discipline, from maths to biology, and everything in between. Each project was undertaken in a group of two or three, with a mentor from the Institute’s research staff. My partner was Henri Schmidt, a German from Heidelberg, with a passion for physics and computing: this came in handy for our project, which related directly to both!
For our project, we worked to find out how efficiently the ATLAS detector can detect particles at the Large Hadron Collider. (This name may be familiar from news stories about the Higgs Boson, which was detected at the facility.) By doing this, we can more accurately assess what occurred in an ‘event’, allowing scientists to analyse hitherto unexplored phenomena.
To deduce the detector efficiency, Henri and I had to learn a programming language called ‘ROOT’. Fortunately, our mentor – Dr Zvi Citron – was an excellent teacher, guiding us through. We used this tool to investigate a ridiculously large number of events (around 36 million collisions, producing something like 1.8 billion particles!) In the end, after several ups and downs, we found the detector efficiency was around 76%, a number which can now be used to make corrections when performing further work.
Of course, we didn’t spend all our time in the office, typing away at our computers. During our free time, people would gather in social areas – such as the clubhouse, provided by the Institute – or go out to Rehovot or Tel Aviv. Often, there were events organised for us, both during the day and in the evening. Some of these were scientific talks, on such varied topics as medical ethics, quantum computing, or the mathematics of bubbles. Other times, we made ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, enjoyed the musical talents of Tal Kravitz, or toured some of the amazing facilities of the Institute.
And that was just during the week! Every weekend, we went to a different part of Israel. Memorable trips include lunch in a Druze village – followed by dancing to live music – visiting the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and buying spices, halva, and other such goodies in various markets. This was a good chance to relax at the end of a hectic week, but nothing could compare to the last week.
During our final week in Israel, we travelled south, exploring some of the deserts that make up more than 60% of the country. After a visit to the Dead Sea, we spent our first night sleeping under the stars at the foot of Masada: I’ll never forget looking around just before falling asleep: first to the hilltop fort we were due to climb, and then to my fellow participants, who I knew would support each other on the journey up. And the next morning, seeing everyone walking up Masada, I couldn’t help but smile – just three weeks prior, we were all strangers, and now it was as if we’d known each other for years, walking and talking as old friends.
We later travelled to Sde Boker, where we stayed for a couple of days. There, we hunted for scorpions, attended talks, and became accustomed to the desert. In particular, I started to get used to the beauty of the area: waking up every morning and looking out to the Zin Basin, which we would eventually hike through, was a truly special experience. And, after leaving Sde Boker, we stayed briefly at Kibbutz Ketora, and closed of our desert experience with a yacht party in Eilat.
There’s so much more I could say about those days in the sun, but there’s one thing I really want to talk about: the hiking. Most mornings, we woke up bright and early, packed our bags – without a hat, sunscreen, and a slightly ludicrous amount of water, you weren’t going anywhere – and went off on a hike. I admit, this may not sound like such a good thing, but each one was an incredible group bonding experience, in some of the most beautiful surroundings this world has to offer – an experience I would not give up for anything.
And so, I come to talk about what I believe was the most magnificent aspect of the month: the people. Honestly, it’s difficult to write about the people on ISSI. Not because of some issue with them – rather, everybody was just so great, I’m unsure I can do them justice! The first, and perhaps least relevant thing, is that everyone was highly intelligent. I say least relevant, because this in no way defined anybody – rather, it was just another facet of a far more interesting, and amazing, person.
One of the selection criteria for the programme is ‘will this person be a good fit for the group’, and I believe it clearly worked! The greatest testament to this is that we are all still in contact, and people frequently send pictures of meetups, both within their own country, and internationally. Over the course of the month, I came to know – and to love – the humour of the Americans, the kindness of the Mexicans, the fierce loyalty of the Catalonians, the approachability of the Swiss, the thoughtfulness of the Germans, the slightly weird slang of the Australians… So, so much I wish I could say of everyone, but there just aren’t words good enough!
So that was, in a nutshell, my experience on ISSI 2016. It was the most amazing month of my life, and I truly hope that any able to apply do so. My life has been changed forever, and I could not be more grateful to the Weizmann Institute for giving us all such a wonderful opportunity.
It was the best.
We were the best.
ISSI is the best.
Published: January 18, 2017
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