Amit Mizrahi, a senior at International Academy High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan shares his summer experience as a student at the Technion’s international science and technology program — SciTech. The rigorous research program satisfied his “inner-geek” — he works after school as a software developer at a startup company and on various software projects. He also connected to his heritage: Amit’s mother, father and other family members earned their degrees from the Technion.
In Judaism there is a phrase, “L’dor Va’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” In this sense, Judaism is a faith that is based strongly on roots, history and tradition. While many Jews have found their roots by visiting Eastern Europe or looking through old family documents, I have connected to my past in a different, perhaps unconventional way – by doing research at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology.
The Technion runs in my blood. My grandfather is a Professor Emeritus there, while my mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt and uncle all hold degrees from the university. Throughout my life I have heard countless intriguing stories about the research conducted there and its impact on Israel’s hi-tech economy. Until this summer, the Technion was an idea, a distant place that I could only visualize.
My perspective changed after I heard about the SciTech summer science program for high school students. I decided that a worthwhile and memorable way to spend my summer was to fly to Israel and do research at the institution that is so inextricably tied to my family’s history. The program was the perfect opportunity to experience a taste of science, Israeli culture and the college lifestyle.
From the moment I set foot on campus, I knew that I had made the right choice. First of all, I was amazed by the Technion’s faculty and facilities. It was immediately apparent to me that the Technion is at the core of Israeli innovation and ingenuity. In the SciTech program itself, I was surrounded by a diverse group of 42 brilliant young scientists from countries across the globe – not only Israelis and Americans, but also Jewish and non-Jewish students hailing from Australia, Spain, the UK, Serbia, South Korea and other places. As I befriended these people, I was awash with new cultures, worldviews and perspectives.
The combined intellect of the program’s participants was astounding. Whenever we were together in a group setting, the ideas and creativity seemed to radiate throughout the room. It was clear that I was surrounded by future scientists, engineers and leaders. Each person, as part of a small team, was working on an interesting and sophisticated project from one of many various disciplines, which included chemical engineering, medicine, biomedical engineering, mathematics, and mechanical engineering.
My project was in the field of computer science and dealt with exploring novel applications for an algorithm that matched kidney donors to recipients, among other things. I worked with two colleagues and a faculty mentor, and together we engineered an implementation and application of the algorithm from scratch. The project was a fascinating introduction to the world of theoretical computer science. As a team, we forged a special bond that was strengthened by writing and testing code for 8 hours a day.
Outside of the labs, there was plenty of time to share meaningful experiences with the other participants in the program. One of the most enjoyable parts of the program for me was walking around the Technion campus with my newfound friends, visiting buildings in which my family members had studied, dined, and lived several decades ago. We also engaged in outlandish social activities that brought us all closer together as a group. Soon enough, we became inseparable.
The program was not only confined to the Technion campus. To supplement our experiences and give the non-Israelis a glimpse of Israel, we traveled across the northern half of Israel. We spent free days touring the ancient city of Akko, staying in a kibbutz near the Kinneret, and relaxing on the beach at Rosh Hanikra. Thankfully, the program’s coordinators were able to keep us safe despite the conflict taking place in the southern part of Israel at that time.
After returning home from SciTech, I took some time to reflect upon my experiences amidst the preparations for my senior year of high school. As I packed and organized my school supplies, I recalled all of the memorable experiences and connections that had resulted from this program. I believe that the friendships that I had made and the knowledge that I had gained at SciTech did not end with the final goodbyes at the closing ceremony. Although all of us are now in different parts of the world, the tight bonds between us will likely remain. Not only had I found my roots at the Technion, but I had also planted seeds for the future.