This wasn’t your typical science fair win for Ward Melville High School senior Leo Li Takemaru.

Leo and his research partner, Poojan Pandya, a Half Hollow Hills High School West senior, earned first place in this year’s EU Contest for Young Scientists(EUCYS) international contest for their research on HIV.

The European competition, commissioned under the Science and Society Program, selects 154 young scientists aged between 14-to-20 worldwide. The goal of the contest is to promote ideals of cooperation and information exchange among young scientists, reads EUCYS’ website.

Leo and Poojan earned the top prize of 7,000 euros for their work on HIV proteins and how they can be used as part of anti-HIV therapies.

“Leo is emblematic of Ward Melville’s prestigious Science Research Program,” said Ward Melville High School principal, William Bernhard. “As his principal, I would like to congratulate him on this incredible international honor.”

The two were out of 154 young scientists aged between 14-to-20 to be selected to enter the top European competition.

“The student’s research explored the role of a specific protein in HIV budding and how that protein may be a viable target for potential antiviral therapeutics because it is not present in the majority of adult human organs,” said a Three Village School District spokesperson.

Leading up to the contest, the two high school students were mentored by Feng-Qian Li, an associate professor of research in the pharmacology department at Stony Brook University.

See below photo of Leo Li Takemaru (right) and his partner Poojan Pandya (left) being congratulated for their original science research.

Photo courtesy of the Three Village Central School District