2021 Maurice R. Hilleman Essay Contest

Submissions for the 2021 Maurice R. Hilleman essay contest are now closed. Please check the calendar for important dates:

  • April 8, 2021 – Announcement of writing prompt 
  • June 4, 2021 – Final day to submit essays
  • Summer, 2021 – Essay judging
  • September 7-17, 2021 – Notification of student winners
  • September 20-30, 2021 – Notification of teacher winners
  • October 29, 2021 – Celebratory event and public announcement of winners
  • November 1-5, 2021 – Publication of winning essays



Students in grades 6 to 12, who live in the United States, District of Columbia, or U.S. Territories and are enrolled in a public, private, cyber, religious or charter school or who attend a home school pro­gram in the United States can participate. (Judging will take into consideration author’s age.)


Learn about Dr. Hilleman, and write a 500- to 600-word essay that answers the question, “How do Dr. Hilleman’s accomplishments demonstrate the importance of creativity in science?” Essay should be written in English using complete sentences and appropriate grammar. One entry per person. See “Official Rules”  at HillemanFilm.com for complete details. 

3 Winners will each receive:

  • $1,000 cash prize
  • Winner certificate and VEC prize bag
  • Recognition at a virtual award event on Friday, October 29, 2021.

Event will be hosted by Dr. Paul Offit — VEC director, vaccine inventor, and Hilleman biographer — and will feature the world premiere of a short film about creativity in science, student readings of winning essays, and keynote address by a special surprise guest!


Completed entries were due by June 4, 2021, or postmarked by June 4, if mailed. 


Teacher named in winning students’ entries will receive:

  • Invitation to the virtual celebration event for themselves and their current students
  • A signed copy of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, written by Paul A. Offit, MD.
  • A 1-year, complimentary membership to the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), compliments of NABT

See the winning essays from previous years:  

2020 winning essays 

2019 winning essays