2021 Maurice R. Hilleman Essay Contest

2021 Writing prompt: How do Dr. Hilleman’s accomplishments demonstrate the importance of creativity in science? 

Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman was a virologist who developed more than half of the vaccines that young children receive today. His work, credited with saving 8 million lives every year, was cutting edge, often using technologies with no history of use in people. His unmatched success often required creating solutions to previously unresolved issues. To celebrate Dr. Hilleman’s legacy, the Vaccine Makers Project of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is holding an essay contest to provide students in grades 6 to 12 an opportunity to learn about Dr. Hilleman and how his accomplishments demonstrate the importance of creativity in science. 


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. Download a flyer to share information about the contest. 

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 must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, June 4, 2021, or postmarked by June 4, if mailed. Submissions that are incomplete or not received by this time will not be considered.


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