Bessie Lawrence Program

Teens at Weizmann
Twenty students from across the United States participated in a summer science institute at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, including three from the Valley. The three local teens are Talia Khan, far left, Karen Guo, in the front row, second from left, and Ben Walker, in back, five from the right. Photo courtesy of Weizmann Institute

Three Valley teens recently returned from Israel, where they spent four weeks participating in the Weizmann Institute’s annual Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI).

“My experience was truly life-changing and eye-opening,” said Talia Khan, who graduated from Xavier College Preparatory this year and is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

“At Weizmann, I had the opportunity to make friends from all around the world, visit and learn about the amazing and historic state of Israel and participate in research that has influenced my ideas about what I want to do in the future.”

In her short time at Weizmann, Khan and her lab partner were awarded a prize for their research, which involved collecting environmental science data from Israel’s Yatir Forest.

“The fact that I was able to do real research that makes a difference is very important to me and really made this experience great,” she said.

Karen Guo, a 2016 graduate of Desert Vista High School and an incoming freshman at the California Institute of Technology, said that she expanded her lab skills and “learned about the nature of science research and curiosity as a whole.”

She said that one of the most rewarding aspects of the program was experiencing Israel for the first time. “The program was a series of new sights from Yad Vashem to the Old City of Jerusalem to the beautiful Negev Desert,” she said. “My favorite part of the program was the desert excursion where we spent a night under the stars and woke up at 5 a.m. every day for a new hike.”

Ben Walker, a recent graduate of Paradise Valley High School’s bioscience strand of its magnet program CREST (Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology), is attending Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College. In Israel, he worked in Weizmann’s Department of Biomolecular Sciences on a project that has applications for the production of biofuels.

These students were among 20 teens selected to participate. This program accepts only one in four applicants and provides full scholarships to all participants. This year’s American participants joined some 60 other young, future scientists from around the world in experiencing the challenges and rewards of working alongside top scientific researchers and learning about life in Israel.