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Nicole Odzer of North Miami Beach, pictured on the left, conducting scientific research in Israel along with her lab partner, Xell Brunet.

Yale University freshman Nicole Odzer of North Miami Beach followed in her mother and sister’s footsteps when she conducted scientific research in Israel this summer.

Odzer, 18, spent four weeks at Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel for its annual Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI). She was one of 20 teenagers from the United States selected to participate in ISSI, which accepts only one in four applicants and provides full scholarships to all participants while affording them the opportunity to conduct research with world-renowned scientists in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science. The program’s American participants joined some 60 others from around the world.

Odzer, who graduated from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale last year, felt this program was an incredibly life-changing experience for her.

“Not only was the level of research so high and so amazing, but also all of the students involved and all the professors and researchers at the Weizmann Institute were all so amazing and incredible in their field and they’re really impressive people.”

Aside from expanding her lab skills, Odzer also broadened her worldview by befriending fellow participants from around the world.

“Since this was an international program, getting to know so many students from different countries was really such a unique experience that you don’t really get in other places.”

Being in Israel was also a huge part of the experience for Odzer.

“Being there for a month this summer was really amazing just to be able to see the culture there and to see different parts of Israel and to feel like I was really part of the country.”

Although Odzer felt a lot of Jewish pride while she was there, what she found interesting about the program was that it was secular.

“I would say probably more than half the students, I think, were not Jewish, which was actually so interesting for me because for the Jewish students who were there, we all felt kind of an inherent connection to the country of Israel while the other students didn't necessarily feel that same connection and it was really incredible to see my non-Jewish friends there also fall in love with the country and love being there the same way that we did.”

Odzer continued: “Everyone who was there had an absolutely incredible time and loved Israel and loved being there, so it gave me a lot of pride in my Jewish heritage and the State of Israel just because of how wonderful a place it is and how accepting and welcoming it is to everyone.”

Odzer’s older sister Jamie, who is now in college at Brown University, was part of the program two summers ago. Her mother, Dr. Shari-Lynn Odzer, also participated in 1983.

Following in her mother and sister’s footsteps made her feel “honored” and “proud.”

“My sister and my mother are both people who I look up to a lot and admire every day, so it made me very happy that I could share that experience with them.”

Shari-Lynn said: “When Nicole expressed interest in attending and was admitted, Jamie and I were both excited for her. It has been very special to have this shared experience with my daughters, and I know that ISSI will have a great impact on their interest in pursuing STEM careers.”