ASHG2015 logo

This year ASHG received submissions from students in 37 states and 16 foreign countries, including Turkey, Taiwan, Macadonia, and Ghana. Asking students to focus on the evolving definition of a gene engaged them in deeper thinking about our current understanding of the human genome and the future of genetics. Many thoughtful and well-written essays were submitted. We would also like to thank the more than 500 genetics experts from the ASHG membership who participated in judging the essays.

Congratulations to the 2015 winners and thank you all for participating. Happy DNA Day!

2015 Essay Question

In 1969, Jonathan Beckwith, James Shapiro, and Lawrence Eron isolated the first gene, the Lac Z gene from E.coli.  At that time, genes were thought to be discrete, contiguous segments of DNA that coded for functional protein products. Using our current understanding of how the human genome is structured and regulated, and what products it can produce, choose a phenomenon (a molecular process, structure, or product, not a disease) that expands on the traditional definition of a gene. Explain the phenomenon and provide three specific examples of it in the human genome

2015 Contest Winners:

Click the names below to view essay excerpts.

David Yang


Grade 11 ($1,000)

Teacher: Judith Pinto

Bergen County Academies

Hackensack, NJ


Sagan Ghim


Grade 11 ($600)

Teacher: Tammy Martin & Richard Rosenbaum

OHSU PSI Program; Wilson High School

Portland, OR


Brian Lue


Grade 11 ($400)

Teacher: Martina Davies

The John Cooper School

The Woodlands, TX


Jacob Mueller


Grade 11 ($400)

Teacher: Jessica Graham

McNary High School

Keizer, OR


Honorable Mentions

Daria Beatini
Bergen County Academies
Hackensack, NJ
Teacher: Judith Pinto
Jennifer Chen
Winston Churchill High School
Potomac, MD
Teacher: Anat Schwartz
Arthur Dennis
Bergen County Academies
Hackensack, NJ
Teacher: Judith Pinto
Alex Dent
James Madison Memorial High School
Madison, WI
Teacher: Cindy Kellor
Thomas Ferrante
Bergen County Academies
Hackensack, NJ
Teacher: Judith Pinto
Isabella Li
East Chapel Hill High School
Chapel Hill, NC
Teacher: Patricia Berge
Rick Li
Naperville Central High School
Naperville, IL
Teacher: Nicholas DiGiovanni
Sarah Link
Eureka High School
Eureka, MO
Teacher: Lindsay Mueller
Paul Slaughter
James Madison Memorial High School
Madison, WI
Teacher: Cindy Kellor
Dennis Yatunin
Stuyvesant High School
New York, NY
Teacher: Maria Nedwidek-Moore

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