The Lasker Foundation congratulates the winners of the 2015 Lasker Essay Contest. Participants were asked to consider the most important fundamental mystery in biology today that, if unlocked by basic research, would yield the greatest dividends for human health. 


First Place 

David Hill, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

David Hill is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was born in Akron, Ohio, and raised in suburban Cleveland. David earned his BS in biology at Kent State University. During his doctoral training at The Case Western Reserve University Lerner College of Medicine, David studied the role of extracellular matrix in host-microbe interactions of the intestinal surface. As a component of this research, David contributed to the development of a novel anti-inflammatory carbohydrate polymer based on structures naturally occurring in human milk. David now studies the molecular mechanisms that guide microbial colonization of the neonatal intestine. He lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with his lovely wife Michelle and their adorable and energetic son David. 
Essay: Mutual understanding: uncovering the mechanistic basis of the host-symbiont relationship in human health

 

Second Place

Joseph Rathkey, Case Western Reserve University

Joseph Rathkey was born in Seoul, Korea, and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He attended Seattle Pacific University, where he earned a BS in physiology while conducting research in human energetics under Cara Wall-Scheffler. In 2013 Joseph joined the MSTP program at Case Western Reserve University and is currently working towards an MD and a PhD in immunology in the laboratory of Derek Abbott. His interests also include teaching and working with the urban underprivileged. In his spare time he enjoys the outdoors through running, backpacking, hiking, and mountain biking. 
Essay: In silico modeling as an ideal platform for future biological research and discovery

 

Third Place

Stephanie Ng, Yale University

Stephanie Ng grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated magna cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She returned to Houston for medical school at Baylor College of Medicine, where she became interested in the intersection of mental health and public policy. She is currently a psychiatry resident at Yale University, with interests in health services research, public policy, and child and adolescent psychiatry. 
Essay: Depression and the final frontier

Omar Toubat, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

Omar Toubat is a second-year medical student at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Raised in Walnut, California, Omar graduated as valedictorian and an International Baccalaureate diploma recipient from Walnut High School. He subsequently attended the University of Southern California as a member of the Baccalaureate/MD program, where he majored in biological sciences. Prior to medical school, he spent a year conducting basic science research on cardiovascular developmental biology.
Essay: Mastering the genetic reprogramming of cells

 

We also asked our 2014 essay contest winner, Peter Soh, to share his thoughts about how this award has affected his professional development and his views on communicating medical and science issues with the public. 

Read More About Lasker Essay Contest