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Top HS techies unite at MIT for summer

Many of the most promising young scientists in the world--79 high school juniors from 33 states and 13 foreign countries--participated in the prestigious six-week Research Science Institute (RSI) program at MIT this summer.

MIT joined the U.S. Department of State and the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) in sponsoring RSI. The program is free and the competition for spaces is intense. This year's group included students from the Middle East, Africa, Indian, Asia and Europe.

Robert Persiko, chief of the youth programs division of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said: "The program promotes a key foreign policy objective under the Bureau's Partnerships for Learning initiative--to engage youth in the Arab and Islamic world in a dialogue with American youth to promote mutual understanding and respect."

"We are delighted with the strong participation of high school students from countries having a predominantly Muslim population. Such experiences build bridges of international understanding among future leaders in science and technology," said Joann DiGennaro, president of CEE.

From its inception in 1984, RSI's mission has been to nurture and encourage the best young scientists to become leaders in all fields of science and technology. There are more than 1,400 alumni worldwide.

RSI students go on to win two to four of the top 10 spots in the Intel Science Fair each year. Last year, Rickoids (as RSI students are called) took top honors in the two top science fairs--the Intel and Siemens'. Typically, two-thirds of the RSI class comes from the top 1 percent of American high school students.

Mentors for the students this summer included scientists, mathematicians and engineers from MIT, Harvard, industry and research institutions. After five weeks of full-time research, the students produced graduate level papers and made oral presentations on July 31 and Aug. 1 in Building E25.

Their research covered a range of topics, among them the thermodynamics of heat conductivity, the mathematics of chess, mathematical modeling of effective population size, analysis of results from the Chandra observatory, investigation of gravitational phenomena, and the design of novel power production methods for long-distance space flight.

Despite their cultural differences, the students adapted well to the rigorous program and worked well together.

"This experience goes beyond academics by allowing students from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to work and interact together in a highly rigorous and intense academic setting," said Suraiya Farukhi, executive director of public affairs for CEE. "This interaction is a key ingredient in promoting good will and understanding in the scientific community and elsewhere."

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