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Over 6,000 essays were written for this year’s contest, and ASHG received record-breaking entries from teachers in 47 states and 15 foreign countries, including Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Lithuania, and Nigeria. Asking students to discuss the impacts of the discovery of the structure of DNA and the sequencing of the first human genome engaged students in thinking about big picture ideas and the applications of scientific knowledge. Many thoughtful and well-written essays were submitted. Over 350 genetics experts from the ASHG membership participated in judging the essays. We thank them for their help.

Congratulations to the 2013 winners and thank you all for participating. Happy DNA Day!

2013 Essay Question

2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick and the 10th anniversary of the first sequencing of the human genome. Choose either of these breakthroughs and explain its broader impact on biotechnology, human health and disease, or our understanding of basic genetics, such as genetic variation or gene expression.

Justify your answer in detail and be sure to include one or more specific examples of broader impact. Use reliable references and citations to support your argument, for example, research published by experts in scientific journal articles and books.

2013 Contest Winners:

Click the names below to view essay excerpts.


Elan Filler


Grade 9 ($1,000)


Marie Kuhn

Palos Verdes High School


Ryan Sweeney


Grade 12 ($600)


Nicholas DiGiovanni

Naperville Central High School


Hannah Mayr


Grade 11 ($400)


Liza Gorkiewicz

Frankfurt International School

Honorable Mentions

Evangeline Chandran
River Hill High School
Teacher: Terri Bradford
Trinish Chatterjee
Richard Montgomery HS
Teacher: Jerry Turner
Claire Chen
Menlo School
Teacher: Todd Hardie
Sumit Dalsania
Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Teacher: Alexis Donoghue
Chloe Deshuesses
Carrboro High School
Teacher: Robin Bulleri
Brian Lue
The John Cooper School
Teacher: Holly Barlaam
David Qin
Lake Oswego High School
Teacher: Richard Rosenbaum
Jonathan Yu
Bergen County Academies
Teacher: Judith Pinto
Jingwen Zhang
Thomas Worthington High School
Teacher: Jodi Bacon
Emily Zhen
Naperville Central HS
Teacher: Nicholas DiGiovanni

View States & Countries Represented 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 three judges. Top-scoring essays have typically been scored by a dozen or more judges. 

Questions/Comments: Contact