Jeanette Tse was dazed when she flipped open her science book at age 10 and spotted the picture of a genetically-engineered plant.

“I thought it was the most amazing thing ever,” she says. “I’d never seen something so out of the ordinary. That man could manipulate nature and create such a glowing plant was astonishing to me. Even as a child, I had some idea of the implications of being able to manipulate the genetic code.”

It was then, she says, that she decided to one day study biology, and now, the 20-year-old junior from Ashburn, Va., plans to devote her life to conducting medical research in genetic diseases.

During the summers, Tse has worked in labs at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Aside from her classes, she also participates in an undergraduate research project led by Biology Professor Leonard Guarente, who is examining the molecular basis of aging. In addition, she teaches reading and math at a bilingual school in Cambridge, plays violin, and tutors Chinese adults to earn American citizenship.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Tse says that her scholarship has already changed her life — mostly because it has given her the opportunity to study with world-class students and faculty.

“To interact with distinguished faculty who are making big discoveries and who are advancing the frontiers of research is one of the most amazing opportunities in the world.

“And I am so motivated by my peers,” she says. “MIT students will someday discover the cures to diseases, build rockets for NASA, and win Nobel prizes. It’s pretty amazing to have the chance to be here. I’ll tell you, being the recipient of someone’s generosity really makes you grateful.”