Natalia Hajlasz, a 2017 Pittsburgh Allderdice graduate, recently completed four weeks of research at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. For the Harvard-bound budding scientist, the monthlong program was “amazing,” she said. “I really like the country and the people.”
Hajlasz was one of 19 teenagers from across the United States selected to participate in the Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI) at the Weizmann Institute, explained Kate Schmier, assistant director of marketing communications at the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science. “This prestigious program, which accepts only one in five applicants and provides full merit-based scholarships to all participants, affords students the opportunity to conduct research with world-renowned scientists in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science,” she added.
While most of the Americans were from the East Coast, student participants journeyed from as far away as “Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia and South Korea,” said Hajlasz.
“It was incredible how people can get together and get along very well and discuss differences between cultures and growing up in different countries,” explained the Pittsburgher on the diverse populace.
In total, nearly 80 international students participated in ISSI.
“It is an incredible science program,” said Hajlasz, not only because of the “immersive” work performed in the labs, but also because of the researcher-provided oversight. “People really want to work with the students. My mentor spent a lot of time talking about the resources, answering my questions about the research itself and about being a scientist and an Israeli.”
While Hajlasz plans on focusing on mathematics, and perhaps chemistry as well, when she begins Harvard this fall, her Weizmann work was related to electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR).
“It’s basically a method in which you can find radical species in samples and determine structural properties,” she said. “The research was primarily to explore certain techniques to determine better ways to study certain types of reactions.”
Opportunities such as these rest at the heart of the ISSI experience, said Lowell H. Lustig, executive director of leadership giving at the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science and a coordinator of Weizmann-related activities in the Pittsburgh area.
Because of ISSI, young adults such as Hajlasz are given “the opportunity to work in the laboratories of one of the world’s leading research centers. The students deepen their passion for science and broaden their world-view by experiencing life in Israel alongside an international group of peers.”
Hajlasz agreed: “We had a lot of culturally integrative experiences where they brought in people to talk about what is Israel. It definitely gave me a different perspective from what you usually hear.”
Though she is currently slated to spend time in Cambridge, Mass., Hajlasz is eager to reprise her recent journey.
“I really liked my time there. I would definitely like to go back.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.