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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 names below to view essay excerpts.


David Yang


Grade 11 ($1,000)



Judith Pinto


Bergen County Academies

Hackensack, NJ


Sagan Ghim


Grade 10 ($600)



Tammy Martin & Richard Rosenbaum

OHSU PSI Program; Wilson High School

Portland, OR

Brian Lue


Grade 12 ($400)



Martina Davies


The John Cooper School

The Woodlands, TX


Jacob Mueller


Grade 12 ($400)



Jessica Graham

McNary High School

Keizer, OR


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


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