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Tony Pan in a research lab at the Weizmann Institute this past summer
Tony Pan in a research lab at the Weizmann Institute this past summer

Stepping Stone

Detroit philanthropists support budding scientists at Weizmann.

Kate Schmier Special to the Jewish News

While many of his peers spent the summer gearing up for college, Tony Pan of Grosse Pointe Farms traveled to Israel to work in a lab at one of the world’s foremost scientific research institutions.

Above: Tony Pan in a research lab at the Weizmann Institute this past summer.
Courtesy Tony Pan

Thanks to a scholarship from the Borman family of Bloomfield Hills, Pan was one of 19 American teens participating in the 50th annual Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI) at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, a global leader in scientific disciplines, from cancer to alternative energy to space exploration.

The ISSI program enables outstanding high school graduates to spend a month on the Weizmann campus conducting research with scientists. This year’s American delegation joined 54 others from 17 countries.

“It was the best summer I have ever had,” said Pan, who graduated from University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods and now is a freshman at the University of Michigan. “I am grateful for the skills I acquired through scientific research, the incredible journeys I took and the friendships I made.”

For Bloomfield Hills residents Julie and Eric Borman, Pan’s experience came as no surprise. Eric’s parents, Marlene and Paul Borman, who now reside in Boca Raton, are longtime supporters of the institute. Each summer since 1981, the family has sponsored an ISSI scholarship for the winner of the Science and Engineering Fair of Metro Detroit, which Pan earned this year.

The family’s relationship began in the early 1970s. “My parents saw Weizmann scientists doing research at a world-class level, showing that Israel could stand on a stage with anyone,” Eric explained.

Over the years, they have supported numerous Weizmann initiatives, including the establishment of the Paul and Marlene Borman Professorial Chair of Applied Mathematics for Professor Adi Shamir. In 2003, Shamir, a renowned cryptographer, won the Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize in the field of computing.

Eric developed his own connection when he attended ISSI in 1979. He fondly recalls sleeping in huts on campus and forming instant friendships. “I was exposed to a global group of highly talented people,” he said. “I have always had a scientific bent, and the program confirmed I knew where I was going.” He went on to study engineering and physics, before pursuing a career in manufacturing.

“Based on my experience, my parents wanted to give students of all faiths the chance to rub shoulders with the best in the world and experience Israel,” he added.

Last summer, Pan applied his computer programming skills to help improve optical imaging for surgeons. “The project introduced me to biomedical research, which I would like to continue in the future,” he said.

Beyond the lab, Pan explored Jerusalem, Haifa, the Judean and Negev deserts, the Dead Sea and more. “I learned so much about the diversity of Israel. Meanwhile, I saw how technology and scientific research eased tension in the region and improved people’s lives.

“I roomed with friends from Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands and Israel, and had a lab partner from Germany,” he said. “I was reminded through our conversations that science, music, sports, amongst many other things, do not have boundaries.”

Recalling his own experience in the program almost 40 years ago, Eric Borman said, “Weizmann lets you work with people who have the potential to change the world.”

Newsroom

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