Avi Cohen, 2017 RSI scholar

Cohen Attends Prestigious Research Institute

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Thursday August 17, 2017

Each summer, 80 of the world’s most accomplished high school students are selected to attend the Research Science Institute (RSI) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for six weeks. Avi Cohen, a senior this fall at South Burlington High School (SBHS), just returned from this prestigious academic research program, and said, “My favorite aspect of the institute was the coexistence of intensive research with a collaborative and community-based culture within the RSI and MIT communities.”

Offered by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), RSI, in its 34th year, is an intensive program that gives students the opportunity to conduct original, cutting-edge science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research in state-of-the-art university laboratories, hospitals, and corporate research facilities in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students are selected by CEE’s committee of professional educators and RSI alumni based on high school records, personal essays, standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, research experience, potential for leadership, and honors and awards in math and science.

This is not the first time Cohen has been recognized. He won the bronze medal at the 2016 International Genius Olympiad in the category of science and also competed at the International Science and Engineering Fair based on his research at the University of Vermont (UVM) on alternative irrigation systems. In addition, Cohen did microbiology research at UVM over the past year.

The RSI annual summer program consists of one week of theoretical classroom work, followed by four-and-a-half weeks of high-level research under the mentorship of leading scientists, engineers, and researchers in the students’ respective areas of interest. Cohen and other RSI scholars also learned about the careers, achievements, and challenges of STEM through presentations and dialogue in RSI’s Distinguished Guest Lecture Series. Cohen says, “One of the most notable lectures of the RSI’s Distinguished Guest Lecture Series came from Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics after his team realized Bose-Einstein condensation.”

Having recently returned from the 2017 RSI, which ran June 25 to August 5, Cohen will not have long until he is back in the classroom at SBHS. He notes enjoying his physics class with SBHS teacher Phil Surks, because “the subject integrates mathematics into the physical world.”

Cohen, who, for clarification, adds, “I would say that I am actually more interested in engineering because it is the intersection between theoretical sciences and problem solving,” can now be counted among the select scholars who have attended the institute. According to CEE, RSI students regularly go to the nation’s top-tier universities and notable RSI alumni include 11 Rhodes Scholars, 15 Marshall Scholars, and a MacArthur Fellow. According to CEE President Joann P. DiGennaro, “RSI has more than 2,500 successful alumni with a STEM career retention rate of 80 percent.”