Science as a ‘creative outlet’ for HAFTR alum


A 2019 Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School graduate experienced what aspiring scientists might call the experience of a lifetime this past summer. 

Woodmere resident Miriam Kopyto was chosen by the world renowned Weizmann Institute of Science to take part, alongside 55 other teenagers from across the world, in the institution’s annual Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute in Rehovot, Israel

Kopyto was in Israel for four weeks from the end of June to the end of July. She conducted research with professional scientists in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science. “This was the first time I was exposed to cancer research and I learned an incredible amount about the immune system and the mechanisms of cancer,” Kopyto said. “It was interesting and meaningful for me to take part in the foundation of pharmaceutical research.”

Jeffrey Sussman, vice president of marketing communications and public affairs at the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute highlighted how the students benefited from the overseas experience. “As young, future scientists, students learned firsthand what it is like to work at a premier research institution,” he said. “Many are exposed to new fields of study that influence the course of their academic and professional careers.”

Along with the lab work, Kopyto said she enjoyed interacting with fellow teens from across the globe. “Each day, I learned from my friends about their country, cultures and their unique views on specific interests,” she said. “My lab partner was from Poland and we had interesting conversations about the politics within Poland.”

Kopyto said her interest in science began in the first grade. “I would do science experiments with my sisters as we would play and study insects in our backyard,” she said. “I always thought that doing experiments was a great creative outlet for me.”

Her HAFTR High lab partner for a majority of experiments was longtime friend Amanda Schorr. “Miriam is a natural-born scientist,” said Schorr, who attends Hofstra University. “Aside from excelling in all her science classes, she thinks intuitively like a scientist outside of the classroom. She’s extremely bright, full of ideas and is also very good at finding creative solutions to complicated problems.”

Pairing the girls appears to be a good idea. “In high school, we did experiments involving antibiotic resistance, carcinogenic properties of air particulate matter, and finally some more advanced genetics experiments,” Schorr said. “We won an award at the Long Island Science Congress in 2015 for our antibiotic preheat, and then again in 2017 for our genetics experiment.”

Kopyto started college at Yale University in late August. She does not have to declare a major until her sophomore year but is leaning towards either molecular cellular and developmental biology or molecular biochemistry and biophysics.  

“I can really explore what I want to study and what my passions are,” she said, referring to Yale’s “academic flexibility.” “The academic culture here is very supportive as opposed to competitive. I think honest learning and curiosity is a result of the supportive culture that the Yale community creates.”