Saline teenager wins national science competition and could help treat diseases

SALINE, Mich. (WXYZ) — A bright young mind from metro Detroit has won a national science competition in Washington.

He received $250,000 and his research could change our approach to modern medicine.

“I strongly believe that hard work is the most important thing,” said Neel Moudgal.

At only 17 years old, Moudgal aims to solve the most difficult problems of modern medicine.

“Right before COVID and during this first phase is when I started working on this project,” he said.

His love of science started young. He attributes his success to the encouragement he received from his parents, who are both scientists, and mentor Dr. Aaron Frank, whom he met at a STEM academy.

“I worked mostly independently under the mentorship of Dr. Frank. The fact that he believed in me at such a young age, agreed to work with me, gave me a project to work on,” Moudgal said.

Earlier this month, the Saline High School senior put it all on the line.

Competing in the Super Bowl of Science in Washington, known as the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search, 40 finalists were selected from 2,000 submitted projects.

In the end, Moudgal came in 1st place with a computer model that quickly and reliably predicts the structure of RNA molecules to diagnose and treat diseases like cancer.

“During this week, he underwent grueling interviews. His work has been watched very closely. I hope Neel continues to do world-class research,” said Maya Ajmera, CEO of the Society for Science.

Winning a quarter million dollar prize did not take away Moudgal’s humility, and he is grateful for his top-notch public school education at Saline High School.

“My school has been amazing – my counselor in particular,” Moudgal said.

He plans to use his $250,000 award for his education, including medical school. He doesn’t know where he’ll go to college, but is already taking advanced classes at the University of Michigan, and his GPA is impressive.

“It’s 4.0, 4.71 weighted,” Moudgal said.

Now in its 82nd edition, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition is once again inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“They solve the most attractive problems in the world – climate change, communicable diseases, artificial intelligence – as a tool,” Ajmera said.

Looking ahead, Moudgal plans to continue his love of quizzes, sports and giving back.

“I really hope that one day I will find another interested youngster and be that mentor for them,” Moudgal said.

Until then, he’s savoring his final months of high school while teaching us all a thing or two about success.

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