The 2016 Chicago Brain Bee
The 2016 Chicago Brain Bee, held at the University of Illinos at Chicago College of Nursing, was attended by 37 high school students from 7 high schools in Illinois and Indiana. The day’s events included a written and oral competition testing future neuroscientists’ knowledge of the central and peripheral nervous systems, tours of UIC’s labs, presentations by local neuroscientists, and panel discussions by UIC undergraduate and graduate students about the neuroscience experience at UIC.
The 2016 Brain Bee started with a presentation by Shubhik DebBurman, PhD, of Lake Forest College. Dr. DebBurman described neuroscience as an “inter-disciplinary science,” one that encompasses a whole wide range of scientific research possibilities, from neurogenetics to neuroimmunology to robotics and so on. He also explained the diversity and breadth of neuroscience research and teaching occurring in the Chicagoland area. One can experience this “diversity and breadth” of neuroscience at the very well-attended Society for Neuroscience Chicago Chapter annual meeting held annually in Chicago.
After Dr. Shubhik’s presentation, the students completed the neuroscience written exam, where the top ten students would compete in the neuroscience oral competition in the afternoon.
After the written exam, the students participated in UIC lab tours, where they experienced neuroscience research and teaching at its best! The students were broken up into three groups. They visited the lab of Anne Fink, PhD, where she studies the neuroscience sleep and cardiovascular system. They also visited the lab of Jeffrey Loeb, MD, PhD, where a neuroscience graduate student, Sarah Schram, gave a tour of the work they are conducting on the neuroscience of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and epilepsy. And lastly, the students visited the Neuroanatomy Lab of James Unnerstall, PhD. There, via instruction of Anatomy and Cell Biology graduate students, the high school students were able to observe fixed human brain specimens. The high school students, after weeks of studying neuroscience in preparation for the Chicago Brain Bee, were able to physically experience neuroscience by looking at real human brains!
After lunch, the high students interacted with undergraduate and graduate neuroscience students via the Graduate/Undergraduate Neuroscience Panel Discussion. They answered questions about the neuroscience experience. The high school students were then treated to two presentations by local neuroscientists. David Carley, PhD, a sleep researcher, presented on the neuroscience of sleep and importance of sleep to the brain. Following Dr. Carley was a presentation by Amy Herrold, PhD, who talked about the effects of concussions and alcohol on the brain.
Then came the oral exam of the Chicago Brain Bee. Ten high school students competed in answering neuroscience questions. Many of the high school students lasted many rounds! As questions became harder, the oral competition whittled down three students: Zarin Tabassum of Indiana Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Humanities; Cisco Vlahakas of Northside College Prep; and Vidya Babu of Illinois Math and Science Academy. After many rounds of oral questions Cisco Vlahakas won first place, Zarin Tabassum won second, and Vidya Babu finished 3rd.
Lastly, as a parting gift made possible by a grant from the American Association of Anatomists, the students left with specimens of fixed sheep brains so that they can continue exploring neuroscience at home or in the classroom.
The 2016 Chicago Brain Bee was designed not only to test the neuroscience knowledge of local high school students, but to provide an immersive experience of neuroscience to these students. The Chicago Brain Bee encourages high school students to become young neuroscientist. The Chicago Brain Bee would not have been possible without the generous support of UIC’s Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience (LIN), UIC’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN),American Association of Anatomists (AAA), and Chicago Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (CSfN).
Thank you for all the sponsors, the high school students, and their dedicated chaperones for making the 2016 Chicago Brain Bee a great success! See you next year for the 2017 Chicago Brain Bee!
Chicago Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (CSfN)