Bilal Siddiqui, 17, formed a deep interest in the latest developments of cancer treatments after his cousin was diagnosed with leukemia.
Siddiqui's project on cancer, Investigating Endogenous Expression 2, 3-dioxygenase in Metastic Melanoma, landed him as a 2012 Intel Semifinalist.
He was on a field trip at the DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring when he heard the news.
"I felt overwhelmed and my mind went numb," the Mepham High School senior said. "I was shocked, but it was a good kind of shocked."
Siddiqui looked at the tissues of patients with melanoma and found that the IDO gene, which is normally produced in humans to prevent an overactive immune system, caused the tumors of patients to grow, allowing the cancer to spread.
"We have to look into drugs that stop IDO from causing tumors to grow," he said.
Siddiqui also came in third in the International Intel Science and Engineering Fair in California for his research.
Dr. David Kommor, Mepham's science and research advisor of AP Biology, said he is proud of Siddiqui.
"He is one of the most passionate students that I have met," he said. "He is the real deal. He is so willing to help and has this wonderful curiosity."
Dr. Patrick Mannion, chair of the Mepham Science Department agreed.
"He is a great kid, a wonderful worker and a real credit to the school," he said.
When Siddiqui is not engrossed in his research, he is part of many honor societies and he works as a peer tutor for chemistry and math. He said that he will continue to study cancer and its developments and that he will major in biochemistry and medicine in college.
"The field of cancer is always evolving and there is always something new to learn," he said. "I am going to continue to look into this."