Neil Mehta was busy at work in the lab one day last summer when he stumbled across "some cool data." That discovery, of a correlation between a gene mutation and the presence of schizophrenia, set him on a quest for more information.
Now, the Jericho High School senior is convinced his future is in neuroscience. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," Mehta, 17, said of hours spent in a lab at Stony Brook University -- and the payoff, a shot at a national prize. "It's a phenomenal feeling."
His university mentors, David Talmage and Lorna Role, all but left him alone to discover findings, he said, calling it the best way to learn.
"I can't imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't done research in high school," he said. "You just grew as a person, and it just made me a more wholesome person."
Serena McCalla, the district's science research coordinator, said of Talmage and Role: "They let students fail sometimes, and not all adults do that. That's important, because we have to allow students to learn from their mistakes."