Thanks to a NIS 4 million government grant, in August Israel became the sixth country to host the prestigious Asian Science Camp
, comprised of 250 handpicked science students representing regions of Asia, Australia and Oceania.
Under the motto "Stand Higher, See Further, Think Deeper," the camp gives these 17- to 21-year-old future scientists access to Nobel laureates and other world-class scholars, and promotes international friendship and cooperation.
"After hearing top scientists on quite a wide range of scientific subjects, they might decide to go into those fields in the future and they might take the scientists as role models," says Dr. Zvi Paltiel of Israel Scitech Network, who organizes annual Israeli participation in the Asian Science Caps. "We encourage the scientists to speak about how they chose their careers and give advice and insights to the young students."
Taking place August 26-31 on the Edmond J. Safra Campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Asian Science Camp includes plenary sessions, round-table discussions, student-master dialogues, a creative poster competition, social events and touring.
Israeli notables among the 28 lecturers include Nobel laureate Robert Aumann speaking on "War and Peace," Alzheimer disease pharmacology pioneer Marta Weinstock-Rosin discussing "Adventures in Drug Discovery," Nobelist Aaron Ciechanover addressing "The Personalized Medicine Revolution: Are We Going to Cure all Diseases and at what Price?" and Israel Prize winner Howard Cedar explaining "The Footnotes of Life."
Three other Nobel Laureates also appear on the program: Prof. Yuan T. Lee, co-founder of the Asian Science Camp; Prof. Makoto Kobayashi, chairman of the ASC International Advisory Committee and Prof. Roger D. Kornberg from Stanford University in California.
Israel's delegation numbers 35 strong. Paltiel explains that participants aged 17 to 21 were selected by ORT Israel, the Hebrew University and Israel Scitech - a leading science and technology network of high schools and colleges - with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
It was a point of pride for Paltiel to get the camp hosted in his own country.
"I was in Mumbai for the camp two years ago, and thought, ‘Why not here in Israel?’ so I applied to the international advisory committee of seven or eight Asian Nobel laureates, and got their consent," he says.
While Egypt and Jordan chose not to participate, he adds, "we do have participation from Indonesia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is probably the largest Muslim country in the world. And we got a very positive response from Turkey. In fact, we've allocated larger quarters for the Turkish and Indonesian delegations."
Students also came from New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Myanmar, Nepal, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Turkmenistan.
Paltiel says the kids were in touch before meeting in Israel, using English as their universal common language. "One aspect of the camp is to encourage them to collaborate. For the poster competition, delegates from different countries were assigned to form teams and start preparing weeks ahead of time. They were intensively interacting via Facebook and email. That way, they got to know each other ahead of the program and continued their interaction through the camp."
Paltiel was eager for the Israeli students to meet their Asian Pacific peers, who may one day be among the top scientists in the world. "Science in these countries is really improving dramatically, and we'd like all the participants to know each other and possibly stay in contact, perhaps even collaborate in the future," he says.
Previous Asian Science Camps were held in Taiwan, Bali, Japan, India and Korea. The Israeli camp was funded jointly by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Israel and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.