AN extraordinary essay on the fascinating things that humans are capable of doing won the judges' hearts in a recent contest. 'There is no thing, no element, no landscape, no painting, no structure and no creature more wondrous than a human being . . . It is when I read of a scientist who had succeeded in changing the genes of a foetus in order to give the baby blue eyes instead of brown that I am struck with disbelief.' So flows the essay that won 18-year-old Julie Gope Mirpuri the 1994-95 Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition for local students organised by the Education Department. Julie took not only the first prize in Class A (16 to 18 years old) among 17 entries, but also the highest award - the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong Award. 'Every human being is wonderful! I'm often amazed at how man can do everything and anything,' explained Julie about her choice of the title, 'What instils in you a sense of wonder?' From describing how mankind built structures on the moon to their attempt to write the smallest word using the smallest material - the atom - the St Mary's Canossian College Form Seven graduate concludes in her 1,600-word essay: 'The most wondrous thing is what I am capable of.' But in between paragraphs, she sprinkles humour by mentioning 'amazing people'. That includes her 'nutty sister who tells me the weirdest things sometimes' and the TV actor who shows 'the audience how to make 10 different styles of eggs'. Now a first-year medical student at the University of Hong Kong, India-born Julie says: 'I love writing about things that inspire others, that make them think seriously and smile.' Reading helps her writing, she says. 'I read a lot, especially newspaper editorials. And although I'm studying medicine, I try to update myself on the arts and everything.' St Mary's scored triple success in Class A this year, with first and second runner-ups also clinched by seventh-formers Marianne Cheng Man-hay and Jyoti Sharma, who happened to write on the same title. Marianne describes her awe over the absorbing beauty of the Colorado desert, an impression that sprang from a family visit to the Grand Canyon some years ago. Jyoti pens the mystery about life. 'I'm a Hindu. In our culture, the universe came out of the mouth of God. I've always wondered how life began.' St Mary's and Diocesan Girls' School swept 16 out of the 22 prizes and commendations from all four classes (from below 11 to 18 years old). Winners were awarded book coupons ranging from $700 to $1,800. Julie, as the grand award winner, won also a trip to Bangkok with accommodation and pocket money of $500 donated by the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong. The 144 essays were vetted before being sent to London to compete with 6,260 essays from 55 Commonwealth countries and territories.