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The Model: International Summer Science Institute at the Weizmann Institute, Reholt (ISSI)

In 1985, the first major Heidelberg delegation travelled to twin city Rehovot in Israel. One of the items on the program was a visit to the renowned Weizmann Institute of Science. The Institute is one of the leading multidisciplinary research institutions in the world.
At the end of the visit to the Institute’s lush green campus, Dr. Moshe Rishpon, Director of the Youth Department, offered the City of Heidelberg a place on the Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute program for a suitably gifted secondary-school graduate.

Aerial photo with the Garden of Science and the Youth Village (Photo: Jochen Reder)
Aerial photo with the Garden of Science and the Youth Village

The Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute /(ISSI for short) is a summer science camp for unusually gifted and motivated youngsters who have completed their secondary-school careers. Its aim is to awaken their enthusiasm for the sciences and for the prospect of working in research. Every summer, about 75 young high-school graduates from all over the world meet for a challenging science program. In the framework of the Summer School, these young people are introduced to scientific routines in genuine research labs, they take part in experiments run by research groups and at the end of their stay write a brief account of their “research findings” for publication in book form. Since 1985 there have been two places at ISSI reserved for Heidelberg secondary-school graduates. So far 78 school-leavers from Heidelberg have taken part in the ISSI.
The social program of the ISSI offers the young visitors weekend outings to other parts of Israel, including a trip to Jerusalem with a guided tour of the city and an excursion to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust commemoration centre. In the final week of their four-week stay, the students are invited to a Field School in the Negev desert dedicated mainly to the observation of biosystems and geological and climatological phenomena.
The central feature of the program is the encounter between young people from all over the world. Initially they were accommodated in straw huts on the Institute campus (four to each hut). Early in the morning they would set off for the laboratories and in the evenings they would meet up for sport, games and music. Since 1993 the young students have been put up in modern, comfortable bungalows in the Laub International Science Youth Village, a setting that facilitates encounters within the international group. In these surroundings, lasting friendships between people from all over the world have flourished. Once they have embarked on their scientific careers, research sojourns all over the world are a welcome opportunity to meet up again.

On the occasion of visits to Heidelberg by leading representatives of the Weizmann Institute, the question of how a high-profile scientific location like Heidelberg could devise a similar program was repeatedly broached. In 1996, the idea became reality and the initiative taken by the City of Heidelberg in conjunction with an advisory scientific council made up of scientists from EMBL, MPI and Heidelberg University succeeded in attracting the first youthful researchers to Heidelberg’s International Summer Science School. Initially, participation was restricted to Heidelberg’s twin cities and the young people were accommodated in the Gästehaus of EMBL.
Today, the brilliant idea adopted from the Weizmann Institute has burgeoned into a unique cooperative venture between the City Council and Heidelberg’s scientific institutions.

Further information about the International Summer Science Institute in Rehovot
Alumni des Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute
Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute