The second in our series of guest ISSI blogs comes from Yee Kwan Law. He attended Tonbridge School and has accepted a place at University College, Oxford to study Biochemistry.
ISSI Experience Reflections by Yee Kwan Law
You’d think that after the completion of tiresome university applications and exams, the last thing that anyone would have wanted was to pack a month-long science programme into their holidays. I hope to convince you otherwise.
It all started for me at the beginning of Year 12. I was hoping to participate in the safe-cracking competition at the Weizmann Institute if our team did well enough in the UK competition, but unfortunately I was away when team selection took place. However, all was not lost, as a full year later a physics teacher at school, who had remembered my eagerness, told me about a summer school at the very same venue.
Naturally I jumped at the opportunity! The Institute, after all, was where Professor Ada Yonath co-discovered the structure of the ribosome, which set off discoveries that would be fundamental in alleviating antimicrobial resistance. Also as the only Institute that features in the top 10 venues for innovation outside the US, this was a perfect opportunity for me to visit a country that I would have had little reason to venture into otherwise.
So, after a fairly smooth run of A-levels that had ended mere days before, a bleary-eyed me met the rest of the UK team at Luton Airport, early in the morning and I eventually found myself arriving at the Main Gate to the Weizmann campus.
I’ll admit I felt a foreboding sense of déjà vu - a sense that this summer camp would be so similar to the ones that had come before, but I was wrong. The availability of facilities, including the Clore Garden of Science, the gymnasium and the particle accelerator, all of which I would pass by on a daily basis intrigued me. With restaurants in Rehovot being so nearby, and my American (Josh, Rashad) and Korean (Yoochan) roommates bonding with me immediately, I was exceptionally happy in this self-sustaining oasis.
My lab partner, Tzippora, and I met David, our mentor for our science project. David’s PhD which is being supervised by Professor Lea Eisenbach, a pioneer of cryoimmunotherapy, involves the usage of TCR affinity maturation for cancer immunotherapy. Our role was to assist him in doing some preparatory work for his project. For those interested, our project included standard biochemical techniques such as transfection, transduction and working with tissue culture, which would allow the ‘knock-in’ of mutated receptors into a cell-line. We could also inform David of the specific volume of ‘viral soup’ required for subsequent parts of his PhD thesis based on our results after multiple serial dilutions.
That’s probably enough science for this entry, as we realistically only spent half the time doing scientific work. The rest was spent outside, including weekend trips into the Galilee, Haifa, the Old City of Jerusalem, and our desert expedition in the Negev which involved occasionally sleeping outside and stargazing while we took shifts to halt foxes getting into our sleeping area. We plunged into the Dead and Red Seas; climbed up the stairs to the ‘client King’ Herod’s fortress, Masada, before moving down again through the Roman Path; and conquered the exceptionally tiring Ein Akev trail as well as the descent of HaMakhtesh HaKatan (in English, a ‘small crater’, one of only 7 craters globally formed by purely geological erosion). We were awestruck by the amazing symmetry of the Haifa Gardens and spiritually enlightened whilst visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. We all satisfied our shopping whims in the markets, including a bit of bargaining, and of course enjoyed frequent night trips to Tel Aviv.
And so I leave you with this: I came here for the science, but I left with so much more, including blooming friendships and lifelong memories. For anyone who is even remotely interested in the sciences, please consider applying for the 50th ISSI next year (which, apparently, will be even more spectacular than the years before); and for those who are successful, savour each and every moment of your time there because the heart-wrenching farewells will be there sooner than you know it.
Published: August 29, 2017
Learn more about how to participate in science education programmes in the UK and at the Weizmann InstituteFind out More
By leaving a gift to Weizmann UK in your will you can enable scientists at the Weizmann Institute to continue their ground breaking research.Find out More
Weizmann UK provides funding to the Weizmann Institute of Science in very large part thanks to the support and vision of our extraordinary donors. Find out more about why our donors support us and the impact their generous gifts have.Find out More