Students prepare for NYC Brain Bee

This is a great time of year for the Dana Alliance: Brain Awareness Week is just around the corner and our partners are filling us in on the many ways they are participating. In house we are gearing up for our own signature annual Brain Awareness Week celebration (and one of my favorite events), the NYC Regional Brain Bee, to be held March 1 at NYU’s Helen and Martin Kimmel Center.

The Alliance has organized a Brain Bee for high school students in the New York City area since 2002, and year after year the competition gets tougher—last year’s participants were so good that we literally ran out of questions and called a tie for first place. To up the challenge for this year we have added questions drawn from a new publication and, thanks to a generous group of neuroscience graduate students at Columbia University, were able to organize an intensive one-day study session for our Bee contestants.

The 30 high school students who were willing to rise early on a Saturday in mid-February and make their way to Columbia’s medical campus were treated to a series of presentations designed to prep them for the competition. Twelve Columbia neuroscience students prepared lectures on the senses, memory, neurological disorders, computer modeling of the brain, imaging techniques, and more to fill the eight-hour study session. The competitors were so impressively prepared—at times stumping the graduate students with very informed questions—that we nearly ran out of time to cover all of the material.

A mini-Bee concluded the day, giving the students a taste of how next week’s event will go, and giving us organizers a preview of the stiff competition to come. With a record 61 students registered for this year’s Bee, our judge, Alliance member Michael E. Goldberg, M.D. (who judged for us last year), has his work cut out for him.

The ultimate goal of the NYC Regional Brain Bee, beyond qualifying our winner for the National Brain Bee in late March, is to inspire the next generation of neuroscientists. Many of the students who attend each year have received little exposure to neuroscience through their high school’s science curriculum—our Bee serves as their primary introduction to the world of the brain. Indeed we have at least one piece of anecdotal evidence to support the notion that participants may become inspired to further pursue neuroscience: one of the Columbia graduate students who helped organize the study session is herself a former Bee competitor.

Check back here for post-Bee coverage. The Washington, D.C. Brain Bee took place on Tuesday. The winner of that competition will see the New York winner at the National Brain Bee.

–Sarah King

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