Researchers Take Top Honors in Essay Contest

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Two High School East students have been awarded top prizes in the American Society of Human Genetics National Essay Contest.
Jillian Pesce and Sanjana Eranki, who are part of the ThINK Science Research Program under the direction of HSE research coordinator Maria Zeitlin, submitted their essays for inclusion into the contest against more than 1,400 entries representing students in 44 states and 23 foreign countries. More than 250 geneticists from the ASHG membership volunteered to judge the students’ essays on the basis of scientific accuracy, creativity and writing quality.

This year’s topic required that the students not only learn important details about an adult-onset genetic condition, but to take a stance on the ASHG’s position that adolescents who may be at risk to these diseases should defer predictive, genetic testing during such delicate, formative years.

“I am thrilled that two of my students have been recognized by the American Society of Human Genetics,” said Ms. Zeitlin. “This contest had submissions from all over the world, and placing is a real testimonial to the caliber of excellence in this program. To prepare for writing, all of my students have to first conduct extensive background literature review to learn about the essay topic. It is an intensive amount of work, but the process is really important in teaching scientific writing.”

Both Jillian and Sanjana chose to write about Huntington’s disease, an inherited degenerative nerve condition emanating from a mutation of the HTT gene for the Huntingtin protein. Jillian will be awarded a $600 and Sanjana will receive $100. Ms. Zeitlin will receive three MiniOne Systems from the contest sponsor Embi Tec as well as $600 of additional equipment for the classroom to pursue research in genetic studies with her students.