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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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Students get chance to work with scientists

Tags: Jewish learning
Canadian students, from left, Selin Jessa, Janelle Tam, Sarah Salzman, Sarah Rogers, Tyler Bennett, Healey Shulman and David Lasry show their colours at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

MONTREAL — Three Montreal high school and CEGEP students, who spent a month in Israel working with renowned scientists in laboratories this summer, have returned ecstatic about the experience.

They were among seven high-achieving young Canadians, selected for the 45th Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI) at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. They attended lectures and worked alongside professors. Each year, approximately 75 participants from around the world are chosen for the program, and the Canadians are sponsored by Weizmann Canada, a fundraising organization for this post-graduate university.

Conducted entirely in English, the ISSI offers high school and junior college students the opportunity to learn about such topics as robotics, gene therapy and brain research, areas in which Israel excels. The students themselves are encouraged to lead seminars on subjects of their choosing.

After three weeks in the classroom and labs, the students decamped to a field school near the Dead Sea where they studied Israel’s ecosystem and wildlife up close, as well as hiked through areas of historical and archeological interest.

“The ISSI program provides the perfect combination of hands-on, in-lab experience, with travelling across the beautiful country of Israel and getting the chance to meet some awesome, bright and talented students from around the world,” said Sarah Salzman, who entered Grade 12 at Lower Canada College this fall.

“My lab work was very interesting, and I think it is quite unique for a student my age to have such exposure to a topic like neuroscience. Not only was I learning science in the lab and from lectures, I was even learning from discussions with my peers.”

Her favourite part of the touring was Eilat and the desert. Meeting and making friends with the other participants was what really made the program memorable, she said.

Salzman had previous international experience. She volunteered on community service projects in Peru and South Africa.

The other two Montrealers were David Lasry, a Herzliah High School graduate who is starting his first year in honours science at Dawson College; and Sarah Rogers, who graduated from Royal West Academy in 2012 and is beginning her second year at Marianopolis College.

Both have impressive backgrounds. Lasry represented Canada at the Australian National Youth Science Forum in January, and Rogers, a member of the Silver Key Club at Marianopolis, is planning a trip with her classmates to Central America to help build a clinic.

“This has been the best summer of my life,” said Lasry. “The science was eye-opening, the weather was beautiful and the friends I made are incredible people. You can be sure I will encourage all my friends to apply next year.”

Rogers said she is grateful for the sponsorship and for the chance to be “surrounded by brilliant minds and huge hearts.”

All agreed they worked hard and benefited from the mentoring of the scientists they met.

The program, they say, reinforced their love of science, and has made them even more passionate about it.

The Canadian students’ participation is fully subsidized by Canadian donors.

For more information, contact Jan Goldenberg at Weizmann Canada: 514-342-0777 or

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