Trip to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel

My name is Piotr Lazarek and I’m a second-grade student of the secondary school “Filomata” in Gliwice. My passion for physics, informatics and new technologies has resulted in an innovative project; an autonomous vehicle which measures concentration of different elements inside soil. I dedicated two years of my hard work to designing and creating a prototype of the device. I’ve already posted an article about my work, so if you’re interested in learning more about it, please have a look

I had the great honor of presenting my project at the most prestigious competitions for young scientists both at national, European and worldwide level. One of the special awards I won was a study trip to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The Weizmann Institute is one of the best research institutions in the world and as a public university it offers degrees in natural and exact science. The trip was sponsored by the Israeli Ambassador in Poland, and it gave me opportunity not only to extend my knowledge for the further development of my project, but also to visit places of significant historical and cultural value. 

During the first day of my stay at the Institute, I visited the campus and met my supervisor, who showed me around the Department of Environmental Sciences. I was impressed by the laboratories equipped in top world devices and really excited about an opportunity to work there. 

Department of Environmental Sciences Lab

Laboratory Equipment

On the second day I met a PhD student who does research on the spreading of elements in sand, which is actually a simple model of soil. He offered me his help in carrying out an experiment aimed at the examination of aluminum ion absorption into the soil. I must admit to being a little anxious about the upcoming task, as chemistry isn’t my strength, but I decided to take the challenge and try my best. It took me a whole day to prepare 60 research samples, which appeared to be an incredibly tedious and labor-intensive occupation. 

Fortunately, after this grueling task, a prize was awaiting me. I could operate a mass spectrometer —a very technically advanced laboratory device—all by myself! It was an amazing experience! When the spectrometer finished testing the samples I was so excited that I immediately started data analysis. The next day, while continuing my work, I noticed that there was something wrong with the aluminum ion concentration: it was too high. After consulting a chemist, it appeared that I’d made a mistake at the beginning, adding too much salt to create solution. What a disaster! It was my fault, but I didn’t think it was a failure. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “It is not a failure if you enjoyed the process”.  I enjoyed it very much indeed, and what’s more, I learned a lot.

Figure 3. AI and Br Concentration over time 

A big advantage of the visit to Israel was not only extending my knowledge, but also getting to know young people from all over the world. While there I met a group of students from Russia, Canada, Brasil and the USA, all of whom were in their two month scientific internship at the Weizmann Institute. We spent a whole day together on a trip to the north of the country, and we had a lot of time to discuss our projects, learn some basic words in each other’s national languages and share different curiosities about our customs with one another. Our first stop was at the town of Rosh Hanikra, where we could admire outstanding coastal views and explore nearby caves. With the sun, blue sky, and crystal water, it was a perfect holiday! Afterward we spent some time in Acre, which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously-inhabited settlements on Earth.

I spent the last two days sightseeing. My friend and  I went to Jerusalem together, a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions. I must admit that the place really impressed me. We took a guided tour and learned lots of facts about the history of the town. I’m very happy I could visit places of religious heritage such as Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wall and feel their unique atmosphere. 

The next day we went to Jaffa where we had an opportunity to visit the old town and have some rest at a wonderful beach of Tel Aviv. 

The week spent in Israel was very eventful. I had opportunity to conduct scientific research, make new friends, visit lots of interesting places and have some rest at the seaside. I’m sure this week will be etch in my memory for a long time. 

Beautiful beach of Tel Aviv

View of Jaffa, Israel

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About the Author

Piotr Lazarek

Piotr Lazarek is an 18 year old Polish student, and creator of the ALISA, Autonomous Land Ion-Selective Analyser, science project. For over five years he has been interested in physics and modern technologies, and has received scholarships from the National Foundation for Talented Youths and the Polish High-Tech foundation. Piotr has also received numerous awards, including 1st place in the E(x)plory competition, 2nd place in the National Stage of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, as well as a finalist at the Intel ISEF international science fair. In recognition of his work, he has been named “Innovator of Tomorrow”. Piotr currently devotes his time to learning the basic elements of electronics, PCB design and microcontrollers programming.

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