He's just 18-years-old but Benjy Firester developed a way to predict the disease outbreak that caused the Irish potato famine and is responsible for billions of dollars in damages to agricultural crops.
"My model gives farmers the accurate tools to prevent the disease in an economic and eco-friendly way by telling them how it's going to spread to them - it tells them when and of what strain the disease will likely effect them and with that they can prepare themselves," Firester said.
For his ground-breaking mathematical model, the Upper East Side teen won the $250,000 first prize in one of the world's most prestigious young science awards — the Regeneron Science Talent Search.
He's a senior at Hunter College High School on East 93rd Street, one of 90 students in a prestigious program working with scientists on long-term research projects.
"We are teaching students to do something that we can't do, which is to discover something that nobody knows. And there is no formula for that, it's just a lot of individualized advising and support from the teachers," said Dr. Philip Jeffery, Science Department Chair at Hunter College High School.
Hunter is a publically funded school for gifted students long known for its humanities education. But Firester is the fourth Hunter student to win first prize in the 77-year-old Science Talent Search.
He submitted a 75-page application including essays and recommendations and spent two days being questioned by judges about science unrelated to his research.
Incredibly, three years ago, Benjy's sister, Kalia, won the $75,000 second prize while a student at Hunter.
"There's no prep for this. There is no way to prep for this. It's 18 years of prep," Firester said.
His teachers describe the work as PHD quality.
"It's not the type of skill set that you learn in high school. He acquired these skills largely on his own time. He had the motivation, and he is gifted by the ability to comprehend very advaned material just by reading what's out there," said Phil Frankel, Science Research Seminar teacher at Hunter College.
Benjy, who's also a concert pianist, isn't sure where he will attend college this fall. He's already been accepted to Harvard but says he's keeping his options open.