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Nearly 6,000 essays were written for this year’s contest, and ASHG received entries from teachers in 43 U.S. states, as well as from Bangladesh, Canada, China, Greece, India, Italy, Lithuania, and Turkey. The topic of gene regulation engaged students in a crucial genetics topic and yielded many insightful and well-written essays. Over 300 expert geneticists from the ASHG membership participated in judging the essays. We thank them for their help.


Congratulations to the 2012 winners and thank you all for participating.  Happy DNA Day!



2012 Essay Question:

Genes exert their influence on organisms by being turned on and off in precise ways and at precise times. Disease can result when problems arise during this process of “gene regulation.” The first processes of gene regulation to be discovered involved molecular ‘switches’ that regulate transcription at gene promoters. In the last 20 years, genomic research has uncovered many new types of gene regulation that earlier researchers would have never imagined. Genes can be regulated by repressors, activators, enhancers, epigenetic changes to chromatin, RNA interference, the environment, and other processes. Choose one of the gene regulation processes listed above and, using references to support your argument, explain why/how that regulatory process is critically important to ONE of the following:

  • early development

  • normal cell function

  • causation of disease or cell malfunction



2012 Contest Winners:

Click names below to view essay excerpts.



Nathan Swetlitz


Grade 11 ($1,000)



Robert Taylor


Chicagoland Jewish High School, Deerfield, IL


Press Release


Kevin Zhang


Grade 12 ($600)



Maria Simon

Hatboro-Horsham High School, Horsham, PA


Press Release


Girish Chandrasekar


Grade 10 ($400)



Nicholas DiGiovanni


Naperville Central High School, Naperville, IL


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Vivienne Chen
Montgomery Blair High School, MD
Teacher: Angelique Bosse



Kristen Datta
St. Paul Academy and Summit School, MN
Teacher: Tina Barsky



Gabrielle Ewall
Cold Spring Harbor High School, NY
Teacher: Jaak Raudsepp

Emily Kragel
Junius H. Rose High School, NC
Teacher: Jedediah Smith


Jason Lam
Stuyvesant High School, NY
Teacher: Maria Nedwidek



Lindsay Leigler
Tesoro High School, CA
Teacher: Megan Gray


Lucy Li
St. Paul Academy and Summit School, MN
Teacher: Tina Barsky

Brian Lue
The John Cooper School, TX
Teacher: Holly Barlaam



Tejas Sundaresan
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, NC
Teacher: Myra Halpin


Monica Woolley
Punahou School, HI
Teacher: Marguerite Ashford


View DNA Day 2012 Essay Contest Entries in a full screen map


About the Contest

The contest aims to challenge students to examine, question, and reflect on important ideas and issues related to human genetics. Competitive essays are expected to convey substantive, well-reasoned, and evidence-based arguments that demonstrate deep understanding.

Essays are evaluated through three rounds of judging, and every essay is read by a minimum of two judges. Top-scoring essays have typically been scored by a dozen or more judges.


Questions/Comments: Contact


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