ASHG Announces 2021 Winners of International DNA Day Essay Contest

Published: April 23, 2021, 12:45 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time

Media Contact: Krystal Foster 631.946.0740,

ASHG Announces 2021 Winners of International DNA Day Essay Contest
Contest Addressed the Impact of Population Representation on Genomic Findings

Rockville, Md. – As part of its celebration of National DNA Day, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) announced today the winners of its 2021 DNA Day Essay Contest, which encourages high school students and teachers worldwide to learn about human genetics concepts and apply them to current scientific and societal issues. This is the first time in the 15-year history of the contest that there are three international finalists. ASHG awarded first place to Lea Andrew, a senior at Guildford High School in Guildford, United Kingdom; second place to Alyssa Wang, a senior at William Lyon Mackenzie C. I. in Toronto, Canada; and third place to Kyla Cuesta, a sophomore at St Robert CHS in Thornhill, Canada.

ASHG received essays from nearly 1,000 students from 40 U.S. states and 30 non-U.S. countries. Nearly 300 ASHG members evaluated the results for accuracy, creativity, and writing. Since 2006, the Society has led the contest annually and seeks to spark excitement and learning among the next generation of genetics professionals and foster greater genetic literacy among the general public.

This year, students were asked to discuss how the high representation of individuals of European ancestry in human genetics and genomics studies impacts genomic findings and if the data and results could still be useful for studies in other populations. Additionally, students were asked to discuss whether inclusion of more diverse populations in genetic and genomic studies holds a potential to benefit future genetic research and improve human health.

“ASHG’s vision is that people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research. Greater diversity in research leads to improved disease prediction and treatment for everyone, especially individuals of under-represented populations,” says Maurice Godfrey, PhD, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska and chair of ASHG’s Public Education and Awareness Committee. “The 2021 question gave students the opportunity to discover how alike we all are at a genetic level while also appreciating how the small percentage that does differ can hold important clues about our traits and health. We are thrilled to have three international finalists in this year’s contest, showcasing global interest in these important topics.”

National DNA Day, celebrated annually on April 25, commemorates the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure in 1953 and the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, two key milestones in genetics. ASHG has planned additional events through the month of April.

ASHG will award monetary prizes to winning students as well as grants for genetics laboratory equipment to eligible teachers. Andrew will receive a $1,000 prize. Wang will receive a $600 prize. Cuesta will receive a $400 prize.

Honorable mentions were awarded to 12 students, each of whom will receive a $100 monetary prize. The recipients of honorable mentions, listed alphabetically by last name, are:

  • Jadesola Akinbi, a junior at Governor’s School at Innovation Park in Manassas, VA
  • Matthew Aldrich, a junior at HM Jackson High School in Mill Creek, WA
  • Jonathan Chung, a junior at Smithtown High School East in St. James, NY
  • Jose Gabriel Cruz, a sophomore at Philippine Science High School – CALABARZON Region Campus in Batangas City, Philippines
  • Kevin Lei, a junior at PSI Program in Portland, OR
  • Kshemaahna Nagi, a freshman in Kolkata, India
  • Daniel Nazeri, a sophomore at South Windsor High School in South Windsor, CT
  • Alison Ryan, a junior at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, NY
  • Derek Ryan, a freshman at Rye Neck High School in Mamaroneck, NY
  • Anjana Shriram, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, CA
  • Analiese Smith, a junior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD
  • Maria Yampolsky, a senior at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute in North York, Canada

For details on the 2021 contest winners, including photos and the winning essays, see:

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About the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), founded in 1948, is the primary professional membership organization for human genetics specialists worldwide. The Society’s nearly 8,000 members include researchers, academicians, clinicians, laboratory practice professionals, genetic counselors, nurses, and others who have a special interest in the field of human genetics. The Society serves scientists, health professionals, and the public by providing forums to: (1) share research results through the ASHG Annual Meeting and in The American Journal of Human Genetics; (2) advance genetic research by advocating for research support; (3) educate current and future genetics professionals, health care providers, advocates, policymakers, educators, students, and the public about all aspects of human genetics; and (4) promote genetic services and support responsible social and scientific policies. For more information, visit:

6120 Executive Blvd, Suite 500 | Rockville, MD 20852 | 301.634.7300 | |
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