Israel to host ‘genius camp’ for aspiring scientists

Israel to host ‘genius camp’ for aspiring scientists

Some of the top young minds from 22 countries in Asia will hear from Nobel winners and top science lecturers, as they get to know the ‘start-up nation’

Countries participating in this year's Asian Science Camp, to take place in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Countries participating in this year's Asian Science Camp, to take place in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Some 250 of Asia’s top scientific minds will be gathering in Jerusalem at the end of the month for one of the most prestigious youth science gatherings ever held in Israel — the Asian Science Camp, which, besides hosting promising young scientists from across the continent, will feature talks and workshops led by at least five Nobel Prize winners.

This will be the sixth ASC, a project developed by two Nobel Prize winners from Taiwan and South Korea. Students from high schools and colleges in 22 countries will be attending. Israel will supply the biggest contingent of young minds, with 35 students from around the country, followed by China with 34 participants, India with 33, and Japan with 24. Delegations from Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Georgia, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Myanmar will also be participating.

ASC, set to open on August 26, is modeled on an annual meeting between young science researchers and Nobel laureates that takes place annually in Lindau, Germany. The format for ASC includes lectures and discussion for students by Nobel winners and top scientists in a variety of fields, including biology, physics, genetics, mathematics, space travel, and much more. Students will also be treated to trips showing off Israel’s sights, as well as excursions to university labs, high-tech companies, and social events. The five-day meeting will take place on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus. While participants were not required to submit a project or paper in order to win a spot at the event — they went through an extensive interviewing and vetting process instead — the event will feature a creative poster competition.

So far, at least five Nobel Prize winners in the sciences have confirmed their attendance at ASC. Two of them — Robert J. Aumann (economics) and Aaron Ciechanover (chemistry) — are Israelis; the others include Japan’s Makoto Kobayashi (physics), Roger Kornberg (chemistry) of the U.S., and Yuan T. Lee (chemistry) from Taiwan. Organizers said that “surprise” visits from other Nobel laureates were likely. And, the entire event will be presided over by yet another Nobel winner — President Shimon Peres, who will give a speech welcoming participants.

Also speaking and holding discussions will be at least 30 top Israeli lecturers and professors, among them several winners of top awards, such as the Wolf Science Awards, Fields Mathematics Medals, and Turing Awards for theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

Israeli scientists young and old are understandably excited over ASC taking place here — as is the Foreign Ministry, which, a spokesperson said, sees Israel’s hosting of the event as “an important project, one that was one of our top goals for 2012, a special year in which Israel is emphasizing its relations with Asian countries.” According to Ministry sources, a diplomatic “surprise” is likely at the event as well; scheduled to attend are delegations from at least two countries with which Israel does not currently have diplomatic relations (but not Iran and Pakistan, the sources said, as those two countries announced that they would not attend).

The Ministry said that it had been working for months to ensure that Israel could sponsor the event, but that organizers showed a great deal of interest in holding ASC in Israel; many people in Asia, the Ministry said in a statement, are curious about Israel’s successes in high-tech and science, and are interested in getting to know more about what makes Israel “tick.”

Co-sponsoring the event with the Foreign Ministry are the Hebrew University and the ORT school network. Dr. Zvi Paltiel of ORT, a physicist who is managing the Israeli delegation, said that Israel’s hosting of ASC is “not only a great opportunity to enable the scientists of the future to experience Israel, but also to introduce the cream of our young scientists to an important international conference. I hope that the camp,” said Paltiel, “which coincides with the beginning of the school year, will be an inspiration for the field of scientific education.”

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