Weizmann Trip: A Thank You Letter to Our Donors

How do we thank you for providing this life altering experience?  We put this video together and have included some of our reflections.  We hope you enjoy seeing and reading about what this trip meant to each of us.

Most Sincerely,

Marcus, Aneesh, Darby, Hannah, Vanshika and Karen

Robotics Lab at Weizmann

Robotics Lab at Weizmann

Individual Reflections

Andrew Palmer, PGIA Science Educator, Diploma Programme Physics, Middle Years Programme Science

Dear Donors,

I sincerely thank you for your contribution toward the Peter Gruber International Academy’s visit to the Weizmann Institute of Science and for giving each participant the experience of a lifetime. In reading the students’ reflections, it is evident that they realize the wonderful gift that they received and are deeply grateful for the opportunity. I saw with my own eyes their excitement and wonder as they discovered science on their own in Weizmann’s Garden of Science, discussed momentous breakthroughs with leading scientists, and explored the history of Israel. In the following pages, I hope you can sense these emotions in their writing as they describe their experiences while in Israel; I wish only to share three small memories from my time shared with them during the trip.

One of my favorite memories from the entire trip was an Angular Momentum station in the center of the Clore Garden of Science. Aneesh was the first volunteer to wiggle back and forth without rotating at all to show Newton’s First Law of Motion, and was also the first to demonstrate the conservation of angular momentum: as Aneesh leaned back and received a gentle push, he started spinning ever so slowly on the platform until instructed to stand straight up, which caused his angular speed to increase and almost made him sick! After he was able to exit the platform and sit down, Marcus and Darby both seized the opportunity to experience angular momentum for themselves. This exploration and excitement of my students really made me cherish the vision of the Weizmann Institute and their approach to learning.

Waking up at 3:15am is never easy, but waking up at that time and climbing up the height of the Empire State Building is just crazy! Once we arrived, Marcus, Karen, and Darby immediately set off up the Snake Path with Mr. Williams and were some of the first people to reach the summit of Masada, while the rest of us maintained a more manageable pace up the winding trail. Hannah and Vanshika both required multiple stops and water breaks, and Aneesh set a steady pace that he could handle with his anemia. When Aneesh arrived at the top of the trail a half hour after everyone else, everyone was there to greet him; the sense of community and accomplishment among the group was palpable and overwhelming. That glow continued over the next few hours as we toured the ruins of King Herod’s palace and learned the gritty history of the zealot’s resistance against Roman rule one hundred years later.

My final memory that I will impart is that of our final moments in Jerusalem on the last day of our trip. After touring the City of David and trekking six hundred meters through Hezekiah’s aqueduct, reflecting and praying at the Western Wall, and seeing the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, our group weaved through tiny alleys crowded with market vendors to arrive at the Temple Mount just as prayers ended, unfortunately barring our entry into the courtyard. After taking in the sights from the gateway, we then decided to return to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we witnessed an evening ritual filled with song and prayer that much of the group participated in. The solemn wonder and awe of the event provided a fitting closure to such an amazing and eye-opening week.

I cannot thank you enough for helping our students experience such a beautiful part of our world. Their following testimonies are clear evidence that both their scientific and global outlook has forever changed.


Andrew Palmer

Darby, Grade 10

Studying at Weizmann was an amazing experience!  I learned that science is more than memorizing and learning cold, hard facts; science is the ability to question them, to analyze them, and to draw your own conclusions through observation and experimentation.  It was inspiring to witness brilliant scholars applying their science skills in real life and making monumental discoveries.  I loved learning about physics in the Garden of Science; we were able to gain new insight on laws of motion, waves, light refraction, and magnetism.   However, not only was the garden educational, but it was fun!  Who knew that you could learn about levers by jumping on swings, or learn about the laws of motion while spinning at 70 mph!   The garden reminded me that science has the potential to be educational and enjoyable.  I was very interested in learning about genetic mutations and protein modifications.  One of our instructors was able to use proteins, a tiny part in the human body, to predict the future of genetic diseases, traits, and mutations.  These new techniques and research have the potential to change the field of medicine, and we were fortunate enough to see them at their beginnings. We glimpsed into the minds of the greatest scientists on earth, and learned more about the world around us.  A generation of brilliant minds passed their valuable knowledge to us, and I hope that in the future we will be able to explore and analyze the natural world as well as they have at Weizmann.

I have always been adamant about seizing opportunities and exploring as much of the world as possible.   In order to become well-rounded, open-minded individuals, we must learn about other cultures, and embrace the wonderful traits that make them unique.  Visiting Jerusalem was a deeply moving experience for me.  I am a dedicated Christian, and I have always wanted to see the place where my religion came into existence.  Walking the same paths as the prophets and kings of old was an incredible spiritual journey for me.  One of the most striking memories from this trip was touching and praying at the Western Wall.  In that moment, people of all faiths, all backgrounds, and all races came together to worship their god.  In that one moment, the whole world was at peace, and we were all one.  We celebrated our heritage and rejoiced that against all odds, we were able to push forward and pass on beliefs that would endure for millennia.  Climbing in Masada was a very powerful experience as well; it was my favorite part of our trip.  We saw where hundreds of Jews were martyred, and got a glimpse of their ancient inventions and ways of life through touring the ruins.  The sunrise was breathtaking; it was worth every step of the way.  Beautiful splashes of pink and orange lined the horizon, and the sun rose from the Dead Sea like a pearl of light.  It was a beautiful moment in which I was able to feel the joy of completing a difficult task, and I could appreciate the exquisite marvels of the natural world.

Thank you so much for supporting us in our journey.  I have learned so much, and am infinitely grateful for your contribution.  This was the journey of a lifetime.  I learned so much about science, other culture, and ultimately, myself.  Seeing Israel has given me a more spiritual, open-minded view of the world, and I feel that these experiences have positively influenced me as a person.  I will carry these memories with me for the rest of my life.  I am incredibly grateful; thank you.

Karen, Grade 9

I would like to share my experience at the Weizmann Institute with you through the closing meeting. In this meeting there were clip art cards spread across a table; we were asked to choose some of these cards to either describe our experience at Weizmann or something that happened there. Although I chose many cards, there is only one that I wish to share with you: my final card. It was the silhouette of a man - and in his head, there were gears. I said during this closing meeting, that my favorite part of this trip to Weizmann was seeing, or more accurately, taking a peek into the thoughts and theory and ideas of a dozen different scientists. Just to see a tiny part of how their brains work made the whole trip worth it.

As for Israel, I would like to share with you a quote from our Mr. Michael Bornn, our Head of School, which he shared with me in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher while we stood and looked at a bowl – no a caldron or vat, really, of melted wax. There were candles sticking out at all angles, adding more wax to the vat as they melted. As we stood there staring at this vat a few feet from where Jesus was prepared for burial, he said to us "You are not just little people who don't matter. You all can do great things."  This trip really made those words sink in; better yet, it has made me believe them. I hope with all my heart that you let them sink in and you carry them with you wherever you go; more than that, I hope you believe them as much as I do.

Aneesh, Grade 11

After the whole trip, I think it was a phenomenal experience to look back on. We began activities the morning after we arrived, quickly delving into what the Weizmann Institute had to offer; the Clore Garden of Science was our first stop. Here we saw real life applications and examples of where and how science is being used, alongside various applications to real life. I think that by using these physical structures, which are fun to use, they spark interest in science and explain how things work the way they do and why. By doing this, that interest could turn into a profession and help further the ever-expanding knowledge of the world around us. We met with a couple scientists shortly after who were dealing with the study of neurobiology, this was of particular interest to me as I am studying biology and the brain is a very interesting organ. These experiments researched how animals learn, as well as the things that happen when the brains are modified. The methods used and the topic of studying showed that there are no real limits to where you can go with what you want to study, as long as the scientist believes it worth pursuing. The wave-particle duality was also a topic of interest, as I found it fascinating that something could be partially a particle and partially a wave, and yet both. The more you think about it, the crazier it seems to get, so I’ve learned to accept that knowledge and move on. We then moved over to condensed matter and talking about vortices, and also used liquid nitrogen, which was fun. We learned that by using these vortices we can take an object and keep it in place, such as a magnet floating above where it’s attracted to rather than sticking to it. After that, I got a little more hands on with the substance [liquid nitrogen] and I put gases in it; I broke stuff with it; I made Ice cream and made my hand really cold - good thing I was wearing gloves! I found this fun to do and interesting to play with as I’ve only seen the substance in TV shows and movies, never really being near it, much less using it.

In general I think this trip has broadened my horizons in the field of science, keeping me open to new things and keeping me excited about further knowledge to come. I am studying biology as one of my DP courses and this trip has showed me what is done and what is possible with that basis of knowledge. By also showcasing other areas science, such as physics, which is a class that I am not taking in my DP course, I have learned to keep my mind open to everything. I wasn’t exactly profusely interested, but by seeing all these applications and knowledge that is being found, I have grown to have some interest in it which will help later on in college or maybe even my life. Towards the end of our trip, scientists in the US detected that gravity is in fact a wave, which relates to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which was almost 100 years ago, and according to the wave-particle duality, if it’s a wave there must be some kind of particle also; we’ll just have to wait and see. 

The second portion of this trip was geared more towards a cultural experience of Israel rather than a science trip; we hiked Masada, visited Jerusalem, swam in the Dead Sea, and camped in a Bedouin tent made of blankets on a mountain. When listed like this it doesn’t seem like much, but I experienced a whole new world by doing these activities. I could see the different religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - all in one place, worshipping and learning the cultural history behind the city. Hiking Masada was a difficult task and as much as I would like to say that I would have rather taken a tram up to the top, I think the hike made it more of a genuine experience rather than “Eh, I guess Masada is pretty” to more of an appreciation for the architecture and drive of King Herod in order to build a castle on top of that mountain.

I look forward to more students being able to take this trip as it certainly has been a life-changing experience for me. I hope those that come after me have as much of an enriching experience as I have had in the couple of days while I was here in this country.

Vanshika, Grade 10

During the scientific aspect of our expedition to Israel, we were introduced to many different aspects of science at the Weizmann Institute of Science. My love for biology was enhanced through our first session when we visited a lab researching zebra fish’s behavior patterns and dopamine levels. The lesson inspired to me research further about zebra fish, outside of what was taught. The part I enjoyed most was the night when we created ice cream with liquid nitrogen after learning the basics of physics, such as the rates of temperature change and how frequencies affect everything around us. This lesson had the best visuals and liquid nitrogen surprisingly creates very good ice cream! I found robotics to be the most interesting because I have never explored the technological area of science before (coding, programming, etc.) simply because I didn’t think I could do it. However, the lesson taught me not to doubt myself and take every opportunity because even though I thought that I couldn’t do it, I performed the tasks well.

The cultural aspect of the trip was extremely eye-opening. Israeli culture is relatively similar to Indian, with respect to the conservancy and certain customs that the population must uphold. Hiking Masada was an extremely difficult task, but now it is off of my bucket list. I would not do that again, but I am glad to say that I did. This is also how I feel toward swimming in the Dead Sea, which was fun in general; however, consuming the salt in the water was not. I was able to implement my knowledge on the history of Israel during our short and concise tour of Jerusalem. This journey has thoroughly broadened my horizons, both scientifically and culturally. While being introduced to new customs and science, I found deeper meanings for both. Science isn’t simply knowledge, though knowledge is a poignant part of it; it is the ability to apply what knowledge you have and to solve questions that have never been asked before. Curiosity is the origin of all breakthroughs in science, because if scientists weren’t curious, they wouldn’t ask these excellent questions.

Marcus, Grade 12

Marcus and Aneesh

Marcus and Aneesh

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! This trip surpassed all of my expectations of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the country of Israel itself. What an unforgettable, phenomenal experience! My cohorts and I were able to have one of the best exposures to state-of-the-art, frontline scientific technology and witness its advancement in the world, all while exploring ancient history in an area which is the fundamental foundation of three prominent world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Where do I start at the Weizmann Institute of Science? Should I describe the wonders of the Clore Garden of Science: a unique outdoor, interactive science museum that brings people of all ages closer together to explore science and all of its fascinating aspects? We had the esteemed pleasure to experience the Clore Garden of Science. We learned about wave behavior through the wave pool and on the trampoluna, I had the chance to experience an elliptical orbit from having the same escape velocity needed to orbit Earth’s moon. Or should I discuss the interactive, hands-on lectures on submicron physics using a Superconductivity QUantum Interference Device (SQUID)? Or should I describe the feelings felt from having a personal interaction with a world-renowned chemist who created a highly effective drug (Copaxone) to combat multiple sclerosis and is presently and positively on the track to discover a cure for influenza, no joke. After speaking with Dr. Ruth Arnon, I realized that there are intimately important careers and jobs that exist in many fields of science, especially concerning Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and I had no idea that these jobs ever existed.

And where should I start with the historic country of Israel and its deeply embedded religious culture: the Masada Desert National Park, a palatial fortress of the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans and a symbol of humanity’s continuous struggle for freedom from oppression, a magnificent sight for all eyes from all corners of the Earth? I am not able to describe the beauty of Masada with enough words. All I can say is that it is a stunning yet isolated fortress of peaceful solitude: a beacon of vitality shining out in an arid desert. Or Jerusalem, with the city of David, the holy city, the capital of an ancient kingdom that is believed by many to be the birthplace of three widely-followed religions. Roaming underground through the aqueduct built by King Hezekiah was a singular experience of anticipation and adventure. Imagine walking through a narrow, but long cave of water up to your knees, with no light but what you carry with you, like an ancient, secret passage. Pretty cool!

Endless opportunity, boundless history, limitless knowledge, and infinite motivation to become a world contributor in the scientific field: these plus more, are what I took away from this exceptional trip. What I have described to you is only a taste of what I experienced. Nonetheless, travelling to Israel was a mind-blowing and eye-opening opportunity! I sincerely thank you for making this trip possible for me and my peers and I hope to visit Israel once more with my family.

Hannah, Grade 10

This past week I have had the opportunity to visit Israel and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. During the two and half days that we toured the Institute, I got to experience so many things that have enlightened me to all the amazing science around us and also narrow down my career path in the field of science. One of my most meaningful experiences was when my peers and I got to tour a scientific lab that was being conducted using Zebra Fish. With these fish, the scientist that we met was studying behavioral patterns and endorphins, which even relates to and can be implemented with humans. I also really enjoyed learning about studies that were being conducted using mice to test and study serious afflictions, such as Alzheimer’s and different strains of cancer. We also had the opportunity to experiment with liquid nitrogen and even made ice cream, which was a fun break from the intensity of the course. However, I have to say that meeting Dr. Ruth Arnon, an amazing immunologist, was my favorite experience. It was inspiring to be able to listen to her immense knowledge in the field and her development of a new, efficient drug that will be used to combat influenza worldwide. All in all, I was not only able to tour the vast, highly innovative and advanced Weizmann Institute, but was exposed to new science advancements that could be released years from now, which is mind-blowing.

I also absolutely loved the experience of Israel itself. Together, we were able to visit Rehovot, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, as well as Masada, En Gedi Nature Reserve, and swim in the Dead Sea. Before this trip, I had never been out of the country, and never in my life been exposed to such rich culture, ancient architecture, and history. One of my favorite experiences was when we camped overnight at an oasis in the desert and then hiked to the top of Masada to see the sunrise and tour the ruins of King Herod’s palace. The architecture and history was astounding and beautiful. In general, I also really loved the city of Jerusalem. It was amazing to think how some of the architecture had been there for more than 3,000 years. My most meaningful experience in Israel was visiting The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus Christ died for our sins. The church was breathtaking; even though the architecture was thousands of years old, it was the most beautiful thing I have seen in my entire life. We were given the freedom during our visit to walk around, pray, write notes, and admire our surroundings. Leaving Israel, I feel much closer with G-d, and just more confident in my intelligence and in life in general. During this trip, not only was I inspired to pursue a career in science, but to continue traveling the world as much as I can. Traveling to Israel was life-altering and I am so appreciative to have the opportunity.

Thank you for making this trip a reality!