2012 DNA Day Essay Contest Winners

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

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.

2012 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 Winners

1st Place: Nathan Swetlitz, Grade 11
Teacher: Robert Taylor
School: Chicagoland Jewish High School
Location: Deerfield, IL

2nd Place: Kevin Zhang, Grade 12
Teacher: Maria Simon
School: Hatboro-Horsham High School
Location: Horsham, PA

3rd Place: Girish Chandrasekar, Grade 10
Teacher: Nicholas DiGiovanni
School: Naperville Central High School
Location: Naperville, IL

Honorable Mentions

Vivienne Chen
Montgomery Blair High School
Silver Spring, MD
Teacher: Angelique Bosse
Lindsay Leigler
Tesoro High School
Orange County, CA
Teacher: Megan Gray
Kristen Datta
St. Paul Academy and Summit School
St. Paul, MN
Teacher: Tina Barsky
Lucy Li
St. Paul Academy and Summit School
St. Paul, MN
Teacher: Tina Barsky
Gabrielle Ewall
Cold Spring Harbor High School
Huntington, NY
Teacher: Jaak Raudsepp
Brian Lue
The John Cooper School
Woodlands, TX
Teacher: Holly Barlaam
Emily Kragel
Junius H. Rose High School
Greeneville, NC
Teacher: Jedediah Smith
Tejas Sundaresan
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
Durham, NC
Teacher: Myra Halpin
Jason Lam
Stuyvesant High School
New York City, NY
Teacher: Maria Nedwidek
Monica Woolley
Punahou School
Honolulu, HI
Teacher: Marguerite Ashford

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 dnaday@ashg.org

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