DIX HILLS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — They’re still in high school, but the research of three teen girls on Long Island has them headed to the prestigious Siemen’s Science Competition Finals.

Their work could lead to lifesaving treatment for several serious illnesses.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the girls were greeted with applause and admiration from classmates. The young scientists are now looked at like rock stars as they walk the halls of Half Hollow Hills High School.

“The whole school is proud of them. I heard the announcement here this morning, everyone knows it, it’s so crazy and exciting,” Maya Zakarin said.

The talented teen trio cut a congratulatory cake to share with their class. The celebration followed months of research that led to a eureka moment about the previously unknown role of a protein crucial for cell reproduction.

“It was just one day in the lab and we were looking under the microscope and we saw something, and it was like ‘wow, we’ve never seen this before,” Arooba Ahmed said.

Jillian Parker said their breakthrough dovetails with emerging research about malfunctioning proteins.

“Proteins are necessary for almost every process in your body, and often they get over-expressed or under-expressed, and when they are not the right amount, something could go wrong in your body,” she said.

Their instructor said if the protein’s role in cell division can be controlled it could lead to better medical treatments.

“It’s possible then this has applications for things like schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s and ALS,” academic research director Michael Lake said.

The group of junior girls is one of six teams from across the country who will compete for the top prize of $100,000. Win or lose, they all plan to pursue careers in science and medicine.

“I like science because there are always an infinite amount of possibilities, and I’m always curious about the world around me,” Jiachen Lee said.

Their combined curiosity will lead them before the Siemen’s judges in Washington D.D. on December 4, and hopefully prevail.

The budding scientists will already share a $6,000 scholarship for being chosen as finalists.