For a freshman seminar at the University of Pennsylvania, Boris Zinshteyn was assigned regular readings in the nation's premier scientific journal.
Little did he know that within a year, he would be publishing his own article in Science.
Zinshteyn is one of two lead authors of a paper published today on the ultra-complex subject of RNA editing - put simply, temporary changes in genetic instructions that enable genes to express multiple kinds of proteins.
Staff at the journal did not know who was the youngest author to be published, though one Maryland high schooler was published at 17, in 2002.
Still, at 19, Zinshteyn already is in select company. Many scientists go their whole careers without cracking the pages of Science.
"I was quite amazed," Zinshteyn said yesterday.
His family moved in 1989 to Northeast Philadelphia from Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union. His parents, both trained as engineers in their native land, encouraged him to pursue an early interest in science.
He won numerous awards at science fairs here. His father recalled a middle-school project involving fruit flies.
"They would fly away and get all over the house," said Yan Zinshteyn, who owns an automotive repair shop.
Boris Zinshteyn graduated from Central High School in 2005 and got a Penn scholarship that helps fund his research at the Wistar Institute. He works there 12 to 20 hours a week during the school year and full time in the summer.
His brother, Daniel, who is starting Penn in the fall, is also interested in science and works at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
In person, Boris Zinshteyn comes across as modest, and his father said the son tried "to keep a low profile."