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National DNA Day commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953. This year's DNA Day will be on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. We encouraged teachers and students around the world to celebrate by participating in the American Society of Human Genetics' (ASHG) 13th Annual DNA Day Essay Contest!

This contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. Essays are expected to be well-reasoned arguments indicative of a depth of understanding of the concepts related to the essay question. They are evaluated by ASHG members through three rounds of scoring.

If you have any questions, email DNA Day.
1st Place Winner:

$1,000 for student
$1,000 genetics materials grant

2nd Place Winner:

$600 for student
$600 genetics materials grant

3rd Place Winner:

$400 for student
$400 genetics materials grant

Honorable Mention: 10 student prizes of $100 each

2018 Question

Traditionally, genetic testing for diagnosis or risk of disease has been done in conjunction with medical professionals, such as genetic counselors. These professionals are experts not only in genetics, but also in counseling patients and family members about the benefits and potential harms of learning about a disease risk. Today, this traditional route is not the only option: direct-to-consumer genetic testing, offered by several companies, does not require a medical professional. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a process by which companies can provide predictive testing for certain disorders, in addition to common traits such as straight or wavy hair.

Do you think medical professionals should be required for all genetic testing, or should consumers have direct access to predictive genetic testing? In defending your answer, use at least one disorder to explore the implications of involving, and not involving, a medical professional such as a genetic counselor.

Who May Enter

Essays will be accepted from high school students (grades 9-12) in the U.S. and internationally.

How to Submit An Essay

  • A teacher or administrator must submit the essay and authenticate that submission is the original work of the student. Submitters will find the option to authenticate an essay on the submission page.
  • Parents may only submit the essays of home-schooled students.
  • Only one entry may be submitted for each student.
  • Each teacher may only submit six student essays per class, for up to three classes.
  • Essays must be submitted electronically through the ASHG submission site no later than 5:00 pm EST on March 9, 2018. Essays mailed, faxed, or emailed to the Society will NOT be accepted. Once submitted, essays cannot be changed or revised.

Essay Requirements

  • Essays must be the product of an individual student's work; group submissions are not permitted.
  • All essays must be written in English and are limited to 750 words, including in-text citations.
  • Essay titles are optional and will be counted towards the word limit.
  • Reference lists do not count toward the 750 word limit. Word count is best determined by Microsoft Word's count.
  • Essays must include at least one reference. References must be clearly documented with both in-text citations and in the references list (the reference list should be separately entered into the "References" section of the submission page). Students may use either APA or MLA style citations. There is no restriction on how many references students may use. However, please keep in mind that students should avoid having too many references, as we want to know the student's opinion on the question and not the opinion of the student's sources. Quality of references will be considered by judges when scoring.
    • Low quality sources = Wikipedia.
    • High quality sources = Research journals (for example, from PubMed)

Plagiarism

The text of student essays must be their own words unless quotations are explicitly noted. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If plagiarism is suspected during any point of the contest, ASHG's Citation and Attribution Review Board will examine the essay in question. Essays found to contain the uncited work of others will be disqualified and the student's teacher will be notified. Plagiarism.org gives a helpful explanation of what plagiarism is.

Prizes

Only classroom teachers are eligible for the equipment grant. Teachers of first-place winners from 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 are not eligible for equipment grants in 2018.

Judging Process

The contest consists of three rounds of evaluation. Each round of judges is made up of ASHG members. Round 1 essays will be judged solely on whether or not they are of high enough quality. The chosen essays will move on to Round 2 and eventually a selected group will move on to Round 3. Rounds 2 and 3 judges will use the rubric below. Each essay in Rounds 1 and 2 will be reviewed by at least 3 judges.

Follow the rubric below to help craft your essay. Judges use this rubric to evaluate every essay in the second and third rounds of judging.

  Points

Overall accuracy of the genetics content

0-6

Use of evidence in support of an argument/answer; essay well-focused on the question/topic selected

0-6

Writing quality (clear thesis, composition, grammar, syntax, spelling)

0-5

References and citations (quality and appropriateness)

0-3
   

Total points possible:

20

Please Note

Text from essays may be used for research purposes to identify misconceptions, misunderstandings, and areas of student interest in genetics. Student text may be published on the ASHG website, newsletter, or in other ASHG-supported publications.


Format

Does the 750 word count include images and their descriptions?
Yes

Are citations included in the word count?
In-text citations are included in the word count, but the reference list is not included.

Are headings/titles included in the word count?
Yes

Should everything be on one page or should references have a separate page?
You do not have to worry about keeping everything on one page because the reference list will be submitted in the “references” section of the submission site. Everything will be included on one page once the essay is submitted.

Is there a standard font or margin size preferred?
No. Once the essay is copied and pasted into the submission site, it will all have the same margins and font as all the other essays.

Submission/Participation

Can I submit my essay myself?
Only teachers, administrators, or parents who teach their home-schooled child can submit an essay. While we encourage your current science teacher to submit your essay for you, your English teacher, another science teacher, or any other teacher who helped you can submit your essay.

What does it mean that only teachers can submit essays?
This means students cannot submit their essay themselves and must ask a teacher to do it for them. This is to encourage students to work with their teacher when they write their essay.

How do I submit my essay if teachers cannot do it for me?
Try to find any other teacher who can submit for you. If this isn’t an option, please email us at dnaday@ashg.org.

Can my guidance counselor submit my essay for me?
Yes

Can I submit for my student who is currently studying abroad?
The student must be studying at the same school as the teacher who submits their essay.

Can I change information after I have submitted?
No, please make sure all information is correct before submitting because it will be final.

How does the teacher vouch for the originality of the student’s work?
You can find the authentication confirmation on the submission page.

How do I submit more essays?
Use the submission link in the confirmation email.

I submitted late. Will my essay still be judged?
All late submissions will not be judged.

Why isn’t the submission site working?
It may be your browser. Try Firefox or Chrome.
Email address is incorrect.
You haven’t filled in all the information required. ¬†

Where’s the confirmation email?
It may take some time for the email to get to you. If you haven’t received it by the end of the day, either check your junk mailbox or double check that the email address you provided is correct. If neither of those options work, email dnaday@ashg.org.

Judging

Where do I find the link to volunteer as a judge?
The link was sent in the initial judge recruiting email.

What’s the judging deadline?
All judging deadlines are included in the email that was sent to you.

Can I forward this judging email to a colleague?
Please ONLY forward the judging email to colleagues who are members of ASHG.

Winners’ Site

Will I be able to read the winning essays after the competition?
Normally, we make highlights from the essay available on the winners page.

Summarized below are some of the most common issues judges flag in reading submitted essays.

  1. Too much focus on details. A focus on details to the detriment of demonstrating a clear understanding of the big picture. Judges are much more forgiving of errors in details than errors in fundamental concepts and larger ideas.   
  2. Overstating. Sweeping and grandiose overstatements of the current/future state and/or utility of biotechnology or biomedical science. 
  3. Inaccuracy in technical language.
  4. Lack of in-text citations in general, or lack of citations for information that is not considered common knowledge.
  5. Using out-of-date references.  Scientific understandings change very rapidly, and references that are more than five years old are likely to espouse outdated ideas.
  6. Using too many quotes.  Although occasional use is warranted, too many quotes lead judges to think the author has no thoughts of their own.

Submission window will open in early January

Check out the links below for excerpts from past winners' essays!


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Essay Question Announcements • Submission Site Announcements • Deadline Reminders

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