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Smithtown Central School District
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HSE ThINK discovery science students win at essay contest

April 25, 2023

“One Humanity, Many Genomes.” What does that phrase mean to you? The American Society of Human Genetics celebrated its 75th anniversary with posting that essay prompt for students to answer.

Three High School East students answered so well that one student took first place and two others received honorable mentions!

Jennifer Zhong, a senior in the East Research Program, won 1st place with a $1000 award. Dylan Shen, a junior, and Gabriel Finger, a sophomore, earned Honorable Mentions and will each receive $100 for their winning essays.

East Research Coordinator Ms. Zeitlin was thrilled with the results!

 “It is such an honor to have three students place and with Jennifer winning 1st place!" Ms. Zeitlin said.

"She is an eloquent writer and a wonderful experimentalist. The whole package. Students have to write four or five drafts, each time adding knowledge they learned from reading scientific journals. It is an arduous task, but the knowledge is so worthwhile. Many weekends were spent reading essays to provide feedback for students to delve more deeply into the Pierian Spring of knowledge.”

Dr. Stephanie O’Brien, Science Department Director, lauded all of the student winners. “Congratulations to these exceptional young researchers who have demonstrated their ability to

reflect and scientifically communicate genetic concepts on a worldwide stage. What an exciting achievement for Jennifer Zhong, one of the top research seniors, to end her high school research career with this recognition. The achievement of all of these students speaks to the science research skills they have developed here at Smithtown East. Thank you to Maria Zeitlin, our research teacher extraordinaire, for always encouraging and pushing these students to reach their potential.”

The student’s responses needed to address specific examples of what makes our genomes unique and, additionally, how medical advances progress due to understanding the impacts of genomes on our lives. Over 950 essays were submitted from over 40 countries and nearly 30 U.S. states.

The ThINK Discovery Program will also be awarded a $1000 genetics materials grant.


Pictured from left to right: Maria Zeitlin (East Research Coordinator), Gabriel Finger (Hon Mention), Dylan Shen (Hon Mention), Jennifer Zhong (1stPlace), Dr. Stephanie O'Brien, (Science Director) 

science students and staff posing for picture