After spending a month at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science with 67 fellow first-year university students from all over the world, Australians Chi Chi Zhao, Finn Lip and Nathan Teh recently returned, deeply inspired by what they had experienced on the International Summer Science Institute (ISSI) program.
Weizmann Australia awards Australian students with scholarships to participate in the program each year, and this year, they were supported by the Trawalla Foundation and private philanthropists.
Zhao, a PhB honours student at the Australian National University, summed up her Israel ISSI experience as “a once in a lifetime adventure”, in which she made memories that will “continue to shape the person I am, and inspire to be”.
“During the program, I was lucky enough to work under the mentorship of Dr Guy Nadel in Professor Rony Seger’s laboratory in Weizmann’s Department of Immunology and Regenerative Biology,” she said.
“Together with my amazing teammates from the USA and Poland, we worked on a cancer research project focusing on beta-like importins.
“Another incredible facet of the trip was being able to learn so much about Israel’s history, people, and culture.
“The [Negev] desert stay was probably my favourite … I also loved learning more about the different cultures and religions – from taking part in Shabbat dinners, and eating lunch with the Druze, to sipping coffee and tea with the Bedouin.
“I’d really encourage other students to apply for ISSI – it’s definitely an experience you’ll never forget.”
Lip, a University of Western Australia PhB honours student, said, “In many ways, my time at Weizmann not only reinforced my ambitions for the future, it introduced me to the fact that knowledge, and the opportunity to learn, is all around us.”
He said his leukaemia research-focused project during ISSI, guided by masters student at the Weizmann Institute, Alex Wainstein, “introduced me to some of the newest genomic sequencing and gene editing technologies, which were a privilege to use”.
Teh, who is studying biomedical engineering and medical science at the University of Sydney, said he feels grateful that he got to work in the Weizmann Institute’s Dr Michal Rivilin-Etzion neurobiology laboratory with mentor Dr Lea Ankri for his ISSI project.
“We explored a new mechanism in direction-selective ganglion cells, which required a lot of coding,” Teh said.
“This experience has really raised the bar for me, and my future actions will be guided by what happened in Israel.”
All three 2023 Australian ISSI program participants expressed gratitude for being selected for, and awarded, the scholarships, and thanked Weizmann Australia, the Trawalla Foundation and private donors for providing them with such an inspirational learning opportunity at a pivotal point in their ongoing university studies in science.