2021 Austern Writing Competition

The H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition is intended to encourage law students interested in the areas of law affecting FDA-regulated industries: food, drugs, medical devices, biologics, dietary supplements, cosmetics, veterinary, cannabis, or tobacco and nicotine products.

Winners are awarded: $750 for first place, $500 for second, and $250 for third, and a complimentary one-year FDLI membership. Top papers will be considered for publication in the Food and Drug Law Journal.

Students currently enrolled in a JD program at any of the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools and 2020-2021 academic year graduates are eligible to participate. A committee comprised of FDLI members who are practicing attorneys and law professors will judge the papers over the summer, and winners will be announced in the fall. Top papers will receive a monetary prize, FDLI membership, and will be considered for publication in the Food and Drug Law Journal.

The period for submissions closed June 11, 2021.


  • Paper topics are limited to FDA and regulated agencies’ law and regulation.
  • Papers should provide an in-depth analysis of a current legal issue concerning food, drugs, animal drugs, biologics, cosmetics, diagnostics, dietary supplements, medical devices, veterinary devices, cannabis, or tobacco. FDLI welcomes the submission of papers prepared for course work, but entrants must pay attention to competition details and edit such papers accordingly.
  • Students must register for submission through the online competition portal; all papers must be submitted within the portal.
  • Students will submit an abstract.
  • No author identifying information may be included in the body of the text. The author’s name should only be shared when registering.
  • Papers may not exceed 100 pages (double spaced, one-inch margins).
  • Papers must be unpublished.

Judging Considerations

  • Thoroughness and depth of legal analysis
  • Originality and difficulty of topic
  • Evaluation of judicial precedents, statutes, and regulations
  • Quality of thesis/argument
  • Quality of legal research
  • Writing style
  • Conciseness; quality will be valued over quantity
  • Form and quality of citations
  • Conformity with requirements of competition

2020 Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition:

Darpan Patel | Read Interview
University of North Carolina School of Law

First Place: Clinical Trial Data Reporting: Breaking Free of a Prisoner’s Dilemma 

Lauren Wustenberg | Read Interview
Vermont Law School

Second Place: Interpreting the “Same Level of Public Health Protection” in Produce Safety Rule Variances

Daniel Aaron | Read Interview
Harvard Law School

Third Place: Tobacco Reborn: The Rise of E-Cigarettes and Regulatory Approaches

2019 Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition:

  • First Place: A Penny for Your Clots? Examining Tax Incentives for Whole Blood Donation under FDA Guidelines, Kees Thompson, Harvard Law School
  • Second Place: Make Smoking Gross Again: Chevron, Deference, and Regulating America’s Favorite Addictive Chemical, Heather Pearson, University of Notre Dame Law School
  • Third Place: Formal Dispute Resolution and the Food and Drug Administration, Marlan Golden, Harvard Law School

2018 Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition:

  • First Place: Left to Their Own Devices: How the Dangers of Power Morcellators Went Undetected by FDA For Two Decades, Jenya Godina, Harvard Law School
  • Second Place: Would Meat By Any Other Means Taste As Sweet, Taylor Mayhall, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Third Place: The Phenomenon of Financial Toxicity: Healthcare’s Insatiable Disease, Tyler Marquez, California Western School of Law

2017 Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition:

  • First Place: Is the Incorporation of the United States Pharmacopeia into the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act an Unconstitutional Delegation of Legislative Power?, Anne Stark, Harvard Law School
  • Second Place: Changing Our Minds: Reforming the FDA Medical Device Reclassification Process, Spenser F. Powell, The University of Tennessee College of Law
  • Third Place: Toward a Regulatory Framework for Edible Marijuana: Best Practices from an Analysis of State-Level Retail Marijuana Markets, 2014 – 2016, Jake Glicker, UCLA School of Law

About H. Thomas Austern

Thomas Austern, a practitioner of food and drug law with Covington & Burling for more than 50 years, was known in the field as the “Dean of the Food and Drug Bar.” He played a critical role in the drafting and negotiation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act among many other contributions to the field. Austern was a strong supporter of FDLI, serving on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Food Drug Cosmetic Law Journal from its inception until his death in 1984.