Written by Dr. Fuki Hisama for the ASHG blog

The American Society of Human Genetics holds an annual DNA Day Essay Contest. This year they received submissions from students in 45 U.S. states, and 24 non-U.S. countries.

This year’s DNA Day Essay Contest winner, high school junior Sophia Chen, wrote her essay on an ethical dilemma in human genetics: whether a father with Huntington’s disease should reveal his genetic diagnosis to his adult daughter.

Devin Parry, Sophia Chen, Fuki Hisama (courtesy Dr. Hisama)
Devin Parry, Sophia Chen, Fuki Hisama (courtesy Dr. Hisama)

My lab and colleagues at the University of Washington were all impressed with Sophia’s essay on the challenges of Huntington’s disease (HD), and we invited her and her science teacher, Dr. Devin Parry, to visit our lab to learn more and gain exposure to genetics research. We were thrilled to have them.

They attended a working clinical case conference, joined in a discussion of current topics in human genetics, toured several labs to see some of cutting-edge research going on here, and met many geneticists and genetic counselors, including two ASHG presidents: Mary-Claire King, PhD, 2012 President; and Peter Byers, MD, 2005 President.

Tom Bird, MD, a leading neurogeneticist and expert on HD, presented Sophia with a signed copy of his book on Huntington disease entitled “Can You Help Me?”, published this year.

As one of the ASHG members who volunteer to judge the DNA Day essay contest, I was especially pleased to meet one of the winners of this year’s contest. Sophia has also participated in a NASA project on genes in space.

The future of genetics is bright, because of young people like Sophia, and her teacher, who are passionate about science.