Source: The Island Now
Elmont Memorial High School Senior Harold Ekeh was among 43 Long Island students to rank as Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists on Wednesday.
Ekeh, who was chosen among 1,800 entries from 41 states, will compete with 300 semi-finalists nationwide for monetary prizes, including three first-place awards of $150,000 each.
“It was such a surprise to me,” Ekeh said.
Ekeh, who was awarded $1,000, said he expects to hear if he will rank as a finalist on Jan. 21. Finalists will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. from March 5-11, where they will compete for more than $1 million in awards, according to the Intel Science Talent Search website.
Ekeh’s project, titled “The role of PARP-1 in MeHg-induced dopaminergic dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA depletion” deals with the effects toxins on the brain, he said.
Through his research, Ekeh discovered certain toxins can cause degradation of motor skills and lead to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, he said.
He said his grandmother, who started suffering from Alzheimer’s when he was 11 years old, was his reason for researching his project.
“If there is any way I can work to prevent this I want to,” Ekeh said.
Ekeh, who said he wants to attend Harvard University for neurosurgery, conducted his research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.
“I sent in 100 e-mails to different researches,” he said. “I heard back by about the 80th.”
Ekeh, who was born in Nigeria, said he moved to Queens when he was eight years old. He attending school there until he eventually moved to Elmont to take advantage of the school’s programs.
“I had to double up on everything once I moved here,” he said. “I had a lot of catching up to do.”
Ekeh said the school he attended in Queens did not provide him with the opportunity to pursue the science classes he needed.
“Part of the reason we moved here was because my parents wanted me to have the best opportunity,” he said.
John Capozzi, principal of Elmont High School, said Ekeh is a well-respected role-model for the high school.
“No one is more determined than Harold,” he said. “He really represents Elmont Memorial High School.”